Jamestown Revival played for the first time in Mobile in early 2014, days before the release of their debut album, Utah. The band is bigger now, making several appearances on late night shows, headlining their own tours with a crew, and traveling on a tour bus driven by a real driver.
The Southern Rambler talked with Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance of Jamestown Revival before their Feb. 18 show at Soul Kitchen.
TSR: You had some time to play in Mobile and catch a parade and decorate the stage with Mardi Gras beads. I heard you say that Mobile has changed since the last time you were here.
Jon: I can tell a difference in Mobile. New restaurants are popping up and it feels like people care more. People caring on the ground level brings change.
TSR: The last time we saw you, you had a prison bus decked out as a log cabin. Now you have a big red tour bus. Things have taken off.
Zach: The red rocket tour bus is nice, but we don’t own it. We don’t own any of our touring vehicles any more. We learned some hard lessons.
Jon: We have a driver now and that is life-changing.
Zach: We don’t have to worry about who is going to drive after the show and how far to drive. We got here at seven this morning and it is great to wake up in the city you are playing in because you have time to explore and get a feel for it. Before, we were scrambling to make it by soundcheck and hopefully get a meal. Now we poke around and experience the history.
Jon: If we were in a van, we would have rolled in at load-in and then it is nonstop. Today, I stopped by the post office and went for a jog through downtown and to the water.
Zach: We got beaded up at a Mardi Gras parade and Jon got a killer hat. We thrive off of having fun and immersing ourselves where we are. We get to meet people all over the country.
Jon: As our career advances and evolves, we are always re-prioritizing wherever we are. We are musicians but also people, and music isn’t the only thing in our lives. I am into woodworking, remodeling my house and building furniture.
Zach: Tomorrow we are going into the woods and camping at a lake on the Georgia/South Carolina border.
TSR: You are pulling up in a tour bus to camp?
Jon: I know how that is going to look, but we need it. This is our seventh show in a row and haven’t had a day off. We are going to sit around the campfire and grill burgers, drink beer and re-charge our batteries. We have all been better about doing what we need to do to keep our spirits high.
TSR: How was filming in the desert for the “Love is a Burden” video?
Zach: We had to shoot early in the morning and late in the afternoon because the middle of the day was so damn hot.
Jon: We were born and raised in Texas. We know what hot is. That shit was hot. We couldn’t go outside during the day because it was like a hot hair dryer blowing in your face. It was 115 degrees. I Amazon-Primed a blacklight flashlight and we blacklighted scorpions. It looked like a glow-in-the-dark figurine under the blacklight and we put one in the video. It was playing music and being in Boy Scouts.
TSR: Zach, there is a picture of you standing next to a Lady Gaga poster. Who discovered you look like a tall Lady Gaga?
Zach: I credit Johnny Fritz. We were on tour with him and walking through Chicago when he spotted the poster. He is intimidatingly funny.
Jon: That is our most engaged-with photo.
Zach: Being able to laugh and communicate is what gets us through.
Jon: And being considerate. The more we are considerate with each other, the happier everyone is. When people stop being considerate is when it goes south. We are together all of the time — ten of us on the bus. Six band members, three crew and a driver. Everyone has their own little bunk and we are stacked in threes and we are sardines. It would be funny if there was glass on one side and people could see into our ant mound.
TSR: What has changed for you with the second album and higher expectations?
Jon: The game changes but the rules stay the same. We have to do our best, but our fans dictate what we are able to do and how fast we move to the next level. Once the creative work is done, the rest is up to them. It is easy to lose perspective and lose track. There were some points the last few years that felt a little like a runaway train, but this year is more controlled and deliberate.
This band started out with the two of us writing songs in a garage in Los Angeles. And now we are with Republic, the biggest label in the world, and we have a tour bus and a crew and a manager and a booking agent and a publicist. In some ways it makes it easier but it also makes our heads spin. We can take out other musicians and grow the sound we hear in our heads, the way we have envisioned it for so long. But now a lot of people depend on our music for their jobs. I take that responsibility very seriously. Before, if we made a bad decision it just messed up two people.
Zach: It can be overwhelming at times, but the shows are still the moments of “I don’t want to be anywhere else.”
Jon: Our crew is a well-oiled machine, and I am proud of our team and us and what we have built together. We can keep doing this and trudging ahead. There were plenty of times we felt stuck in the mud and spinning our wheels, but I have tried to maintain a graciousness and thankfulness for what we have. We are going to have over 500 people tonight in Mobile and we haven’t been here in years. We are so thankful. Thank you for creating a pocket of energy for us. Getting a little spark going makes a difference. It starts with a few people in each market and the support of a radio station like 92Zew and grows with roots and branches.
Zach: I don’t think we ever expected to have a connection and kinship with Mobile, Alabama, but this will be one of the cities that will be a destination for us that we get excited about.