Stumbling into Success
By Ryan Maloney
New Haven’s own Stella Blues recently hosted The Revivalists, a band that’s been on our radar. That Sunday night I was one of many lucky patrons surprised by their room-shaking performance. This energetic seven piece band is fronted by David Shaw, with Zach Feinberg on guitar, Ed Williams on the pedal steel guitar, George Gekas on the bass, Andrew Campanelli on the drums, Rob Ingraham on saxophone, and last but not least Michael Girardot on the keys and trumpet.
The Revivalists story of forming into a band was a long string of serendipitous coincidences. The odyssey started when guitarist Zach Feinberg was riding his bike down the street and happened to hear future lead singer David Shaw singing and playing his guitar on his front porch. Struck with the strong sound of Shaw’s voice, Zach felt the compulsion to stop there and invite him to jam with their band. If that isn’t fate, when asked how the rest of band formed they all agreed with Campanelli’s description.
“We never wanted for a musician,” he says. “It just happened. We got a saxophone player, because he was incredible at the saxophone. Nothing was forced. It just happened.”
After spending five minutes with them it was easy to see that the chemistry and bond this group of personalities shared was not something that could be manufactured.
The Revivalists’s self-titled EP was an instant success among the local New Orleans music scene and was CDBaby.com’s Editor’s Pick for Jam Band. This honor subsequently led to them collaborating with Grammy award winning producer Chris Finney to create their first full-length album Vital Signs. As Williams simply put it, “He taught us how to record an album. Which is what we needed.” Finney also had a delicate way of honing in their unique sound, and working together without forcing his experience on them. With the inevitable success of Vital Signs in 2011, The Revivalists were named Best Emerging Artist in Gambit Magazine’s Big Easy Awards.
Their most recent album release City of Sound was produced by another industry heavy hitter, Galactic’s Ben Ellman. I asked the band members if Ellman inspired them to be true to the funky, brassy, and energetic sound that is New Orleans. Feinberg replied, “The opposite is actually true… he didn’t say that we had to be or emulate Galactic’s funk. He knew we were a song-orientated rock band and not a funk jam band. He had a vision for us.” That vision was executed exceptionally, rewarded with a nomination for Best Rock Act in the aforementioned Big Easy Awards.
Taking their success in the studio and translating it to the road went extraordinarily well. After touring with Gov’t Mule, Gekas cheekily reminisces the experience. “It was always a dream of mine to work with Warren Haynes,” said Gekas. “He is such a sweetheart.”
Their live show is as energetic, funky, and creative as I have ever experienced. The heavy combination of drum and bass reaches in and takes full control of the listener’s body and forces loss of all inhibition. Their pedal steel and lead guitarist can shred with the great ones. The gritty sound of the saxophone and trumpet that gives The Revivalists a taste of that brassy style found only on the hidden corners of deep New Orleans culture, but the ultra- energetic front man has enough soul to fill Madison Square Garden.
I went to Stella Blues to conduct an interview with a hot new band and immediately converted to their fandom. Not only do I recommend picking up their album, but also not letting the opportunity pass you by if you have a chance to catch The Revivalists live.
I will send you off with the words from the band meant for the ears of the Groove Magazine reader:
“Come see us whenever we are back around here, and you always better get the whole clam pizza.”