Scars and All
An Interview with David Shaw of The Revivalists
Words by Audra Tracy
Photo by Travis Shinn
I’m sitting on a curb outside the Wonder Bar in Asbury Park, conducting a casual interview with David Shaw, when he spots an elephant tattoo on my ankle. Excited, he removes his leather jacket and starts to unbutton his long-sleeved shirt. “I’m not getting naked here,” he says, “but I have to show you this”.
Now a few layers lighter, Shaw pulls up his t-shirt sleeve to expose a fairly fresh, pretty gnarly pink scar. “I went to Africa and worked on this documentary about poaching elephants, and I got branded by a Samburu warrior. It fucking hurt like a motherfucker”, he says with a cringe. “I’m going to get a couple elephants around that. If you ever see me in the future, ask to see my arm. It’s gonna happen”.
When he’s not stripping for music journalists, Shaw is the frontman for The Revivalists, a seven-piece with a swagger straight out of New Orleans. Over the summer the band (Shaw (vocals), Zack Feinberg (guitar), Andrew Campanelli (drums), Ed Williams (pedal steel guitar), George Gekas (bass), Rob Ingraham (saxophone), and Michael Girardot (keyboards & trumpet) released Men Amongst Mountains, their third full-length album. This time around the boys opted for a single room-recording process at Bogalusa, Louisiana’s Studio in the Country, giving the record that ‘live show’ feel.
“Most of the skeletons and some of the muscles and organs of it are us playing in a room together”, Shaw says of the album. “The vocal take on “Fade Away” – that’s the scratch vocal. That’s the second or third vocal take I ever did on the song. As a whole, just knowing that this was one vocal take from start to finish – not a single punch in or punch out – that was special to me”.
Like any respectable artist from the bustling jam scene, Shaw and his band-mates are comfortable with showing their ‘scars’ for the sake of authenticity. To them, making music is not all about reaching perfection.
“To me, if it’s as real as you can possibly make it, it’s going to mean more to you”, he explains. “If you are doing this every single day, at some point, you can get burned out. So you have to do everything in your power to keep it interesting , make it real, make sure you’re not just completely tearing every little piece apart and trying to put it back together into some fucked up Frankenstein”.
Even if those tiny flaws are set in wax, the band has plenty of opportunity to tweak their new material, as well as explore some brand new territory, on the road. For Halloween this year, The Revivalists pushed their own musical boundaries when they put on a Prince-themed show at the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C.
“We’re doing five Prince songs, and it really opened our musical world up a lot, especially in terms of harmonies”, Shaw admits. “We’re looking at a lot of our songs now and kind of seeing where we can stack some of these three-part harmonies, which really blend nicely. It’s cool, it’s helping us out as artists”.
Both in and out of the studio, The Revivalists continue to show real growth as a band. In fact, Shaw says they’ve even been recording every single live show “for basically the past two years” so they can track the evolution of all those seat-of-their-pants improvisational jams.
So are there plans in the future to officially release the shows for fans to relive again and again?
“We’re very close”, he teases.
Catch The Revivalists on tour now! See all dates here….
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