The Revivalists have built something of a second home in Pensacola. With previous shows at DeLuna Fest and Bamboo Willie’s on Pensacola Beach, the New Orleans favorites have proven they can carry a weekend’s worth of material at Vinyl Music Hall during the holiday season. The IN recently spoke to drummer Andrew Campanelli about what it takes to succeed in such a crowded New Orleans music scene and what to expect from the soulful six-piece on their two-night Pensacola run.
IN: Describe your sound to someone who’s never heard you before.
Campanelli: Honest songwriting with bluesy, southern influenced rock arrangements. We’ve got horns and pedal steel guitar going, as well.
IN: Who are some of the band’s biggest influences musically?
Campanelli: Of course you’ve got all the classic rock touchstones like the Allman Brothers, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles; but we listen to music from across the board. Blues, reggae, even hip-hop. One of our favorite songs to do is Dr. Dre and Eminem’s “Forgot About Dre.”
IN: Having Warren Haynes (Allman Brothers, Gov’t Mule) sitting in on that song on his New York home turf is pretty damn impressive, I must say.
Campanelli: That all stems from the four shows we did with Gov’t Mule in California. During the third of that run, Warren invited some of us to sit in with the band. He has a standing invite with us anytime he’s interested, and he hopped on board with us on that Brooklyn show. It was a ton of fun.
IN: What’s it like being part of the music community of New Orleans, especially considering you’re all transplants?
Campanelli: It’s not something that happened immediately. It was tough trying to get in front of the right people without any roots starting out. Early on, we started working with the Howlin’ Wolf. They tied us into Rebirth Brass Band. Eventually, we found ourselves working with Galactic. Their sax player, Ben Ellman, produced our last record. Once we started partnering with them, we knew it was on. In a way, they became our older brother band. New Orleans in general is special. I recently had a couple weeks off for the first time in a while. I probably saw more great music in that two weeks here in the city than I had the entire year.
IN: With so much music going, how do you separate yourself from other New Orleans bands?
Campanelli: One of the things that’s separated us from the beginning is the fact that we’re not far from New Orleans. There are a lot of things that you get when you grow up in New Orleans that we missed. Being different isn’t something we try to do. We’re just writing and playing. We’ve tried to cop the New Orleans feel in a new and fresh way, but it’s tough to do. It’s much more difficult to differentiate yourself as, say, a brass or funk band in New Orleans than it is as a rock band.
IN: Unlike a lot of New Orleans bands, your songwriting and lyrics are top-notch. What’s the band’s songwriting process?
Campanelli: They’re written in three ways. Sometimes it starts as an improv jam and we’ll add lyrics later. Other times, members write songs at home and we tweak them together. The song may change, but the guts and framework will stick. Our process runs the gamut from fully individual to an entirely group effort.
IN: Any pre-show rituals?
Campanelli: We like to relax before the show. Post-show we do a thing called the “warmest, cheapest” where we just go to the bar and ask for the warmest, cheapest tequila.
IN: Is preparation any different for a two day run like the one in Pensacola coming up?
Campanelli: I’ll let you know. This is the first time we’ve done a venue this large two nights in a row. We put on a different show every night, regardless of where we are. That’s partly for our audience but partly a survival mechanism for us. You never want things to get stale. We’re really glad that Pensacola allows us to do two nights in a row. The town has always given us a lot of support.
Photo: Revivalists Official