The Revivalists

What you should know about the band behind ‘Wish I Knew You’

NH Weekend Editor
August 01. 2018 12:55PM
The Revivalists, an eight-man band with a New Orleans-inspired energy, is all about “creating a wall of sound,” said its pedal steel-guitar player, Ed Williams. 
If you go...
WHO: The Revivalists

WHEN: 8 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom, 169 Ocean Blvd., Hampton


INFO:; 929-4100

The Revivalists had put in the required time and energy. Ten years in, and the New Orleans’-inspired band, fueled by pedal steel, sax and trumpet — and the grit and grooves to match — had released their third album, 2015’s “Men Amongst Mountains.”

They were counting the miles on another round of tour dates when their wistful, foot-tapping single “Wish I Knew You” began building momentum.

By 2017, the song with its relatable sense of longing for earlier times and first chances, was parked at the top of Billboard’s alternative music charts, and just about everywhere else.

“I remember the first time I heard it on a commercial,” says Ed Williams, pedal steel guitarist for the group. “It was pretty funny. I was in a hotel and I was brushing my teeth. I had the TV on and I heard (the commercial) come on. I was like, ‘I know this song ... What is this?’ I went over and I was like, ‘Oh, wait .. this is us!’”

It was a pleasantly disorienting moment for Williams.

“It was a Blue Moon (Brewing Co. beer) commercial,” Williams says with a laugh. “It just caught me unexpectedly. I was just brushing my teeth after a long night, and I didn’t really expect to hear it.”

Though Williams grew up in New York City, he, like six of his band mates, decided to go to college in New Orleans, where the city’s rich Southern sounds soon took hold.

“Half of us went to Tulane and half of us went to Loyola, and we were all in college bands,” he says. “I loved it so much I stayed, and it’s a good thing I did.”

It’s a bit surreal for Williams to look back at the last three years, since 2015’s “Men Amongst Mountains” album drew steadily increasing fanfare over two years.

“You know the life of a musician is really kind of a roller coaster. Sometimes it’s kind of hard to see the horizon when you’re going through all the ups and downs. When you’re a musician touring … even a week can feel like years at times. You’re rushing around all over the place,” he says. “But since the release of the last album and (the single) ‘Wish I knew You,’ we’ve definitely been seeing bigger crowds, new fans, and we’ve been trying to keep the energy up as much as we can.”

The Revivalists’ official bio puts the album’s debut at No. 2 on the Billboard Alternative Albums chart, with the break-out single “Wish I Knew You” spending more than 40 weeks on the Billboard Adult Alternative chart and eventually claiming the No. 1 spot for several weeks. The tune broke the Billboard chart record for most single-week spins at Alternative Radio, and crossed into the Top 15 at adult pop radio, spending nine in the Billboard Hot 100, according to the bio.

“Every once in a while we have to stop and kind of appreciate where we are,” Williams adds. “It’s hard sometimes when every day you’re just going, going, going. But we’re in a great spot now. The past three years have been a whirlwind. It’s been a lot of fun, and we’re just happy to be here really.”

The Revivalists revel in New Orleans traditions, with a horn-driven, jam sound that’s refreshing in an industry of digitally-created and enhanced music. And that big, ol’-time band sound requires a big roster.

“We had seven (musicians), but we actually just added a percussionist (PJ Howard), so we’re eight on stage. By the end of this interview … Do you want to join a band. Do you want to be No. 9? In 10 minutes, we might add another,” Williams jokes.

All that instrumentation gives the Revivalists an rollicking energy. It’s like a Bourbon Street party that is too jazzed up to stand quietly in place; it builds up steam and then makes a break through cracked windows and open doors to tempt sidewalk revelers.

“Really, we just want everyone to have a good time. That’s our main concern. Whether it’s 10 or 10,000 people, we always want to put on a great show,” he says.

“New Orleans isn’t where we were born and raised, but this is where we cut our teeth.”

He calls the Revivalists a group of happy transplants with varying musical backgrounds and influences.

“I liked gospel growing up. Some people even liked hard, hard rock,” he says. “But (we) were all about making a wall of sound or a wave of sound.

“The way the band came together was like this: ‘Are you really good at your instrument? Are you a friend of mine? Can I get along with you?’

“It’s very organic how we built everything,” Williams says. “Every person that got added can really play. Everyone in the band can add their flavor. We … get into a room, start playing, and look for what sounds cool.”

The band prides itself on not generally using pre-recorded elements and digital sound effects in the studio or on the stage. Band mates prefer to bounce around ideas and sounds until it starts to gel.

“We have a lot of weapons. So … if we have some sort of idea, (chances are) one of us is going to able to make that sound,” says Williams.

Band mates chose the name Revivalists in part to pay homage to their adopted home in the days after 2005’s devastating Hurricane Katrina.

“It’s really about a revival of the music we grew up on and a revival of the city we love,” says Williams.

Aside from Williams, the band includes David Shaw (lead vocals/guitar), Zack Feinberg (guitar), Andrew Campanelli (drums), George Gekas (bass), Rob Ingraham (saxophone), Michael Girardot (keyboard and trumpet) and PJ Howard (percussionist). Prior to 2015’s “Men Amongst Mountains,” the band put out the albums “City of Sound” and “Vital Signs.”

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