“99 Red Balloons” plays from the Hangout stage and there is a pirate costume in the corner as four members of The Revivalists: Andrew Campanelli (drums); Michael Giradot (keyboard and trumpet); Dave Shaw (lead vocals); and Zack Feinberg (guitar) settle into the small greenroom for an interview. Dave and Zack rhyme along —“99 dead baboons,” “99 round cocoons,” “99 mortal wounds.”
Rain beats down on the roof and wind shakes the blue tarp that covered a stage full of gear for the seven musicians. It is uncertain if, when, or where they will play their set for the 92 Zew Reach the Beach show. As they talk with Lynn Oldshue and Michelle Stancil from The Southern Rambler about changes, shaker toss, early influences, and the new album, the show is cancelled, changed to an acoustic set inside, cancelled, and then back on again on the main stage while there is a break in the rain.
Dave: I feel like I should put the pirate suit on for this interview.
The Southern Rambler: You have new management, a record, label and much bigger shows across the country since we talked with you two years ago at the Hangout Festival. How have things changed?
Zack: This hasn’t been a quick, severe change. There has been gradual growth of the band and business. It has not been a month-by-month grind and the next month is a private jet to Tokyo. It has been slow and steady. There have some big jumps and milestones. Winning the Hangout contest was a big one. Signing on to a booking agency enabled us to tour and grind it out. We are still grinding it out. We played a frat party last night and we are working on four hours of sleep to play this radio show tonight. We are still working hard and we are still young so we can do it.
Does having a label and management take off the pressure?
Michael: It shifts the pressure. We were advised to do as much as we could ourselves until we couldn’t do it anymore. We were splitting up duties and it still got to be too much work. Now we have a booking agent, management, publicity, a tour manager, and a sound guy. They are here to help us out, but we are still responsible and have to take care of them too.
Dave: We have more people strongly suggesting the way we should do things. Sometimes they are right and sometimes they are wrong.
Zack:.We have to trust people to get their jobs done. I don’t want to be concerned about the production advance for a show that is in three weeks that I don’t even know is on the schedule and taking up my brain space. We are all very involved in the mixing process and in control of the album. Songwriting and creation are ours.
The Southern Rambler: Did the new people in the franchise affect songwriting?
Dave: They picked the person who mixed the album. He was a great choice.
Andrew: They wanted us to record other songs after we finished. We did that too.
Zack: The record would have looked different without that, but the content is still 100 percent ours. We are working with a big commercial entity now and they want this to be as good as it can be for their investment.
Michael: They told us what sounds good and to do more of that. Feedback like that can be helpful. We will find out if people like it.
TSR: What is the title of the album?
Dave: We can’t say it publicly yet, but it is from a song on the record during a time that we were ramping up.
The Revivalist’s tour manager Dave Melerine enters the room.
Voices: That’s it. We have to call it. Dave put on the pirate costume and do a sad pirate picture. There are people with Rev’s T-Shirts inside the restaurant. We could do a little cous-cous thing. We could do a capella “Africa.’ “I blessed the rains down in Africa.” I am going to finish my nachos and then start packing up the gear.
Dave: To finish what I was saying. It has to do with being an underdog. I have always felt like I was an underdog. We were a very do-it-yourself band for a long time and we still are in many ways. They are a snapshot of who we were from the recent past and the almost present.
Andrew: We wrote all of the songs in a period of things changing and we were starting to grow in the industry. We were feeling small in a giant world. That is what many of the songs are about. They are all us at that time. It feels like our perceptions are years behind where we are. We are ready to get this out and have a current perception.
Dave: We recorded a few older songs. Most of the songs we have been playing live.
Zack: We played “The King of What” live one time a few years ago in Pensacola. It was great in the moment but there was a disagreement because some wanted to rock it out and the producer wanted it to be acoustic.
Michael: Some songs are better developed in the studio and some are better developed live. That was one of the songs that needed to go into the studio and find its place.
TSR: I saw you at Callaghan’s and it was good to hear your stories and the history behind the songs. That is something we usually don’t get at a Revivalist’s show.
Dave: I love that about intimate shows. We are starting to do more of that in our live shows and break it down. We are starting to feel more comfortable telling the stories. If you can rock with the best of them, you also have to hit them in the chest.
Zack: You have to cuddle afterwards.
Dave: The best bands are able to do both well.
Crew and fans enter
Voices: You can come do the show from the lobby of our hotel down the street. All of the people are traveling, so we need to do something here. Should we do full band acoustic or straight up acoustic? The radar says this is the last band of rain. This is it. It clears up at 6 p.m. for a few hours. I thought we just called it and put out a blast letting people know. I need to delete the post? It should clear up here for a few hours.
Dave: I love the intimate shows at Callaghan’s and the ability to have conversations.
TSR: The road is longer and the gigs are farther apart. You aren’t just traveling the Gulf Coast. Does that give you whiplash?
Dave: It isn’t easy. It screws your sleep schedule up. You wake up at 8 a.m. after you went to bed at 4 a.m.. I can’t sleep past 8 because it feels like 11 to me.
Zack: I would like to quote Jack Black: “The road is a Be-a-itch my friend but it is the only road I know.”
Zack: Someone needs to make a call about this show.
TSR: Who is in charge here?
Zack: Nobody. We just have the trappings of democracy.
Dave: That should be our new album title
Voices: Our gear is getting soaked. I am going to start packing up the gear. Post the cancellation post back up? You aren’t going to wait until it clears up? The show is supposed to start in less than an hour and we haven’t run sound check. Let’s do an acoustic set inside.
Dave: This is a good interview right here. Actually, just hanging out like this are the best interviews. It is more off the cuff.
TSR: You seem to have little games that keep it fresh on stage like throwing around a shaker. You played it at the Saenger and Michael was the one who dropped it.
Zack: We like to have a little game of shaker catch every now and then.
Andrew: Mike, I do remember you dropping it.
Michael: Don’t start piling on me man. You don’t remember shit. I also like to jump off of things. It is fun to be in the air.
Zack: Michael has to jump off of something at the end of “Fireflies.”
TSR: Do you ever fall?
Michael: I have gotten better at it so I don’t fall as much anymore. When I first started jumping off of things I wouldn’t take into account that some things fall down when you jump off of them. They are stable when you are standing on them, but the minute you jump off and get some distance, it will fall over.
Dave: Also, make sure you know how high the stage is before you jump down into the crowd.
TSR: I heard about this. You jumped off the stage and couldn’t get back up.
Dave: I could get up. It just took me two times. The stage was up to my nose and I wasn’t thinking. The first one wasn’t a real try, let’s be clear about that. It was a slight error on my part. The second try, BOOM! I was up. There was a moment I thought I was going to look like a nerd walking around to get back on stage.
TSR: What does it feel like getting down with the crowd?
Dave: It is fun and the people love it. It is blurring the lines and making sure our crowd is having a good time. I like to get down with them.
Michelle: Why is the Hamilton, Ohio, show important to you? (Refers to David Shaw’s Big River Get Down on June 20)
Dave: We are doing the show in my hometown with Maggie Keorner, The Heard, The Main Squeeze, Wild Adriatic, and Elementree Livity Project. It will bring a lot of people to Hamilton who never knew the place existed. The model I am using is a festival in Fredericton, Canada. It is a town of 75,000 people and didn’t have much going on and now there is a two-weekend festival that has been great for the economy and more shops opened downtown. When cool things started happening, it made everyone believe in the city. Hamilton has a bad stigma. Anything cool like this will help the city and I hope it will help the economy.
TSR: Did your music begin in Hamilton?
Dave: Music started for me in Hamilton. I started playing guitar when I was 12 years old. A little Nirvana, “Smoke on the Water,” and “Free Falling.” What was your first song Zack?
Zack: My dad showed me the riff to “Bad to the Bone” and the Allman Brothers’ “You Don’t Love Me.” One of the first songs I remember learning was REM’s “Everybody Hurts” and learning the word “arpeggio.”
Dave: A kid named Mike Gray taught me some Green Day “When I Come Around.” The first time I heard that come out of an amp, WHOA! That was it. It sounded so sweet. You know what I am talking about, Zack?
Zack: I do. You feel it.
I was in second grade when their album Dookie came out. I was a basket case. I remember singing that shit on the balance beam in gym class in second grade. We were driving the other day and played “Basket Case” and got such a rush of nostalgia.
Voices: The weather is clearing up. The stage is still wet. They don’t have squeegees and we haven’t run sound. They are making a decision now. Let’s do an acousty meet and greet. You could play on the stage at your original time and the weather will be clear.
The tarp is pulled, water is swept off the stage, the sound is checked and an hour later, the Revivalists take the stage in a light rain. Sandals, flip flops, top-siders, yellow rain boots, red-painted toenails and black-and-white polka dot pumps splash in the puddles to “Stand Up” as reflections bounce, jump, and sway. A couple kisses for a selfie as the band plays “Knew You” from the new album.
“Are you getting rained on? Does it even matter?” asks Shaw as he pushes the mass of curls out of his eyes. “Thank you for being here. We are small, but we are mighty.” He kneels into the crowd. “I want you to come with me. I want you to come with me. Do you hear what I am saying?”
The night ends with an encore and Shaw walks back on stage in the pirate suit. “When I find a pirate suit back stage, what else am I going to do but put it on?”