THE REVIVALISTS HIT THE BIG TIME

A few years ago, The Revivalists got the chance to open a show for the Radiators, 
a group that since 1978 had became one of the most popular and enduring bands to ever emerge from New Orleans. As another New Orleans band member hoping to keep a band together for the long run, Revivalists bassist George Gekas had a specific question for Radiators guitarist/singer Dave Malone. “I remember I was talking to Mr. Malone — Dave — and I asked, ‘How have you guys done it, been able to stay together this long?'” Gekas recalls in a recent phone interview. “‘He goes, ‘If I have any word of advice, I’d say get your own hotel rooms.’ That’s always stuck with us.”

Seven-plus years down the road, the seven members of the Revivalists can take satisfaction in knowing they were eventually able to follow Malone’s advice.

“When [we] started on the road, if we knew somebody [in the town], we would all crash on their floors, or we would meet somebody [at a show] and we’d try and stay there, or we’d get a motel room and all seven of us would stay in it with air mattresses,” Gekas says. “Now we’re at the point where everybody can get their own hotel room.”

The ability to pay for separate hotel rooms says a lot about the growth The Revivalists have seen in their career since forming in New Orleans in 2007. The heavy tour schedule the group has maintained since around 2008 (when their self-titled debut EP dropped) has paid off. The band tours nationwide, and the growth of its audience is especially apparent in the Southeast, where crowds have really picked up over the past year.

“All of a sudden, like this last tour in particular, most of the places in the Southeast, we seem to be doing better than we’ve ever done,” Gekas says. “I think it’s a combination of us constantly touring and word of mouth … I remember years ago, there would be like maybe 20 or 30 or 50 people and they’d be up front, and now they’re in front of quadruple the number of people. They’re still able to get up front there. We’ve definitely grown exponentially in the past couple of years.”

The band — Gekas, David Shaw (vocals), Ed Williams (pedal steel guitar), Zack Feinberg (guitar). Rob Ingraham (saxophone), Andrew Campanelli (drums) and Michael Girardot (keyboards/trumpet) — is now positioned for even bigger things, after being largely a do-it-yourself endeavor for most of its history. Last year, the group signed with Wind-Up Records, the label that’s home to Filter and Five For Fighting, and has released hit albums by Creed and Seether. This puts The Revivalists on a significantly bigger platform moving forward.

“We wanted to sign with a label to play with the big boys, to jump into the deep side of the pool, so to speak,” Gekas says.

What’s also helping the group is the musical growth that has occurred over the course of three releases — the self-titled EP, 2010’s full-length Vital Signs and the current album, City of Sound, which was re-released last March on Wind-Up with a second disc of live tracks.

City of Sound, produced by the team of Ben Ellman (of the band Galactic) and Mikael “Count” Eldridge, reveals The Revivalists sharpening their songwriting, broadening their music stylistically and adding a variety of textures to music. Like it is for many bands from New Orleans, strong elements of funk and soul run through the tracks on City of Sound and are especially pronounced on “Upright,” whose measured pulse and dark overtones create a pleasant tension. But The Revivalists are first and foremost a rock band, which means songs like “Navigate Below” and “Criminal” have some snap, crackle and pop to go with their grooves.

The Revivalists are well into recording a new album, with Ellman and Eldridge once again producing.

“We probably had 30 [song] ideas that we were fishing around with [initially],” Gekas says. “Some were completely done, and some were literally a jam.”

Starting with around 20 tunes, the band winnowed that number down to 14, but Gekas says the band is considering returning to the studio to cut a few more tracks. “I’m just realizing it now — this is a process we’re going to have for the rest of our careers.”

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