Arts

The Revivalists talk sound, charity and more ahead of show at The Sylvee

The Revivalists, an eight-piece band from New Orleans, founded in 2007, play The Sylvee on March 11. 

The Revivalists, an eight-piece band from New Orleans, founded in 2007, play The Sylvee on March 11. 

Image By: John Feinburg

When it comes down to it, creating music should really be about having fun while doing it, and producing something you are passionate about — not just something you need to write to fill a quota. The Revivalists manage to follow that passion and create music they love — and share for audiences to love as well. 

The Revivalists have been creating since 2007. To this day, they released five albums, with re-creations of their songs, most recently in Muscle Shoals. The band has embarked on its Into the Stars tour and will be playing in Madison on March 11 at The Sylvee.

Before the concert, I was able to speak with the band's saxophonist Rob Ingraham and learn more about who they are as a band, their music and their passion. 

Coming off a busy 2019, what influenced you guys to make the decision to tour again?

“I would say that obviously part of it is a job, as we are a live band and with that comes touring. With this time, we all just really have the drive to get together and do it again. We love touring to bring our music to other places, and play it as it should sound live.”

The Revivalists have gone on many tours before and played at festivals such as The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 2016. I wondered what was different about playing in a tour as compared to a festival?

“It’s always cool to go to a big-name spot, like Radio City Music Hall, but everywhere is great. If it’s a place we don’t know as well, there are always surprises. Festivals are fun in the way that we can see bands that we enjoy, and hang with people on the road, and with people we don’t see a lot. But, we are also one cog in a very big machine, which is different from touring shows. Tours are our thing, our world and our choice, so we have the freedom and ability to do what we want. Typically, we are able to go a little over time-wise, unlike in festivals, and with that comes more freedom of what we play, and interacting with the audience. It’s always cool to go to a big-name spot, radio city music hall. Everywhere is great, there are big surprises.”

What was different about the “Into the Stars Tour” and do shows differ every night? 

“The Into the Stars tour is allowing us to truly grow and experiment with songs we have already created and the new mixes reimagined. We just wrote a new EP that will likely be performed and every night we choose a different setlist to play to mix it up and just play what we are feeling that night. We also aren’t afraid to mix up our setlist — it leaves room for spontaneity. We pride ourselves in being a band that can change it up every night, kind of like an old school jam band in how we are able to put on our live show.” 

Since the band’s formation in 2007, they have had over a decade to create the sound they are making today. I asked Ingraham how they cultivated their songs over the years, and what inspires them to create remakes of older songs they have created. 

“I’d say we cultivated our sound over experience and just spent so much time together. In the early days, we would throw stuff at the wall, just thinking, 'Let's try everything.' But more recently, everyone has grown into their niche to contribute. To write songs, we are excited to write about them and excited to create them. We are remaking in part because there are just so many other ways to play the songs, as well as it is just getting together and exploring as a band again. We don’t use as much technology, so it is more so just making music together.”

Since every tour and night is different, I wondered what the band was hoping to get out of this specific tour, and their favorite part of each tour. 

“I would say just for about every tour, we just enjoy getting into a room with a bunch of friends and friendly faces. Tours are always exciting because we always want to provide our audiences with a new experience every night, so if people want to see us more than once, they are getting a new show. It is also exciting because around touring time, we are fortunate enough to be in a spot where we can give back and we often visit places that we discover we want to give back to." 

The Revivalists have been giving back to communities, health and environmental causes for years with the founding of the Rev Causes fund. Rev Causes is currently focusing on donations to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season Recovery Fund, Everytown for Gun Safety, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Songs For Kids and Upturn Arts.

The Songs For Kids Foundation focuses on giving kids with illnesses, injuries and special needs opportunities to express themselves with music and Upturn Arts focuses on teaching children to explore and create confidence through dance, music and the arts.  

With The Revivalists supporting such causes and giving back, I asked, What inspired them to give back and create the Rev Causes fund?

“It’s something that happens I believe a lot in the entertainment industry — you reach a point where you have a platform and money to come in and giving it to causes is just something we felt was a good way to use it. Certain places that we have visited in the past inspired us to donate in that area, such as in the hospitals as well. We are passionate about the causes we promote and hope to inspire others to donate and help out their communities too.”

Rob Ingraham has also stated before about the causes that, "Rev Causes is kind of like our music: It comes from a lot of different places and covers a lot of ground, but ultimately it's all about what we believe in. We're proud to be supporting these causes and grateful for this opportunity to spread love."

Wanting to know more about the creative process, I asked, What inspires you most when writing? 

“Music comes from any source you can imagine, some people may write something on acoustic and we just go from there. Our aim is to just tell the truth through our music, in what we see and through what we write.” 

The Revivalists have visited Madison before, but Ingraham says they have not had a chance to explore the city — which is something they hope to do this time. They like learning about the cities they travel to and just spreading their music where they can. I look forward to hearing them, as they are such an inspiration in their music and their causes. 

After speaking to Rob Ingraham, I have a new appreciation for the music and people behind The Revivalists and learned more about what inspires them, and ultimately how they inspire others. 

The Revivalists play at The Sylvee in Madison on March 11 at 8 p.m. 

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