When Zack Feinberg and Dave Shaw first met back in 2007, everything just sort of fell into place.
“They started a conversation about jamming together and trying to form a band,” explains George Gekas, bassist for The Revivalists. “At the same time, Zack was also jamming with our drummer Andrew Campanelli after meeting through Tipitina’s music workshops. When I found out they needed a bass player, I was on board. Then Rob Ingraham (saxophone), Ed Williams (pedal steel guitar), and Mike Girardot (keyboardist and trumpeter) joined the band.”
The seven-piece New Orleans-based soulful rock band have since made a name for themselves with their poignant songwriting and captivating live performances. Not to mention, their recent album, Men Amongst Mountains, has received critical acclaim.
Last month, The Revivalists played at Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival in San Francisco, which Gekas says was “an absolute dream come true.”
In a recent interview with the bassist, he shared how the band’s name was chosen, how New Orleans has influenced their music, and what their collective experience at Outside Lands was like.
What aspects of New Orleans do you feel can be heard in the music?
George Gekas: Living in New Orleans is so different than any other city because there’s music all around. It’s also the only American city that has its own art form that was birthed here in jazz. So, just by hanging out with musicians and going out and seeing different people play all over town, it definitely comes into your playing. You have the opportunity every night of the week to go out and see amazing bands play. It has a way of seeping into your bones and the bloodline of your playing.
Where did the band’s name stem from?
It’s funny you mention the name of the band. I really don’t think there could be any other name than The Revivalists. The name was actually thought of because they needed a name for a gig and I believe the current name being used before was a amalgamation of the last names of the individual members who played before. It always has been and always will be The Revivalists.
If you were to describe your sound to someone who had never listened to The Revivalists, what would you say?
I guess in a traditional sense we are a rock band. But having a pedal steel and a saxophone definitely puts us into like a different frame. It was never something that was forced upon us as a band, it just kind of happened naturally and has become an integral part of our sound. We are a soulful rock band that can dip into a funkier vibe, harder rock vibe, folky vibe, or an almost electronica vibe. It all depends on the mood we’re going for and the particular song we’re playing.
What’s your guys’ creative process like?
Well, with seven members in our band, any way you can think of how a song was formed it’s definitely happened. Whether it’s an individual bringing in a full song or someone coming up with lyrics or ideas, everything has been brought to the table. Having said that, we’ve also had moments where we’re jamming on something and that part gets saved for a later song.
The band’s greatest struggle? Greatest triumph so far?
I think the greatest struggle we had coming up was to get all the right pieces together and I mean that in a business sense. We were a touring band for years, doing everything on our own without any real professional help. This is struggle for a lot of bands — trying to get the proper team in place. And for our particular band, we needed to get the right booking agent to bring people together and put butts in seats. Those first three years we were really dogging it and playing gigs that we’re fortunate enough we don’t have to take now. As for the greatest triumph? I’d say it’s that we’ve been able to stay intact as a band of seven individuals with seven difference personalities. It can be daunting and a lot of people don’t understand how we’ve done it and been able to maintain that.
First professional booking?
I guess when we got to play the New Orleans Jazz Fest for the first time in 2010. We were on such a huge stage and the whole ordeal was way bigger than anything we’d done or anticipated at the time. We’d played a ton of gigs before that for different amounts of money and such but that was by far the first time we did what we consider a high-profile gig. It’s something we are proud about.
Can you share the most adventurous, life-changing moments you guys have been a part of?
A couple years ago, we had the opportunity to spend a few days in India, and I think collectively most of the guys would agree it’s been the most adventurous experience. We were able to see how that country and culture exists. We had great guides and a really phenomenal time. It make you very fortunate for what you have and at the same time you feel really blessed. On top of that, you meet a bunch of people who live in circumstances that aren’t the same as yours and realize that they are happy with the simply joys of life. It was truly eye awakening.
If the band had a spirit animal, what would it be?
That is a great question because a lot of us have taken numerous tests on what our spirit animal is. And if you want to be truly indoctrinated into the Revivalists family, you have to have this particular test to find out what yours is. If we were to have a collective spirit animal, I would have to say that we are a chameleon because the way we can change styles and vibes so frequently in our music.
How was your experience at Outside Lands? Do you remember how the crowd connected with the set?
First off, I’d like to thank the people at Superfly for having us play. It was an amazing experience and something we’ve always wanted to do. And any opportunity to play in San Francisco is an absolute dream come true. We always try and make sure our crowd can be related to and that we can make a connection with them. We were lucky enough to play at a stage that allowed us reach people that hadn’t heard us before. We caught a lot of foot traffic from people going to and from different stages. It was nice. It started off as a handful of listeners and grew as the set went on.