From New Orleans to Albany: An Interview with The Revivalists Guitarist Zack Feinberg

For the past seven years, Guitarist Zack Feinberg has been on a seemingly endless tour with New Orleans rock group The Revivalists.

Currently touring to promote their 2015 album Men Amongst Mountains, the group made a stop at the Hollow Bar and Kitchen in Albany, NY on November 5. Feinberg, along with pedal steel guitarist Ed Williams and drummer Andrew Campanelli, took a few minutes of his pre-show time to speak with NYSMusic about the band’s origins including the “famous bike story,” early tours with The Rebirth Brass Band, their Prince-inspired Halloween show and more.

Erin Clary: How did you all come together? I understand none of you are actually originally from New Orleans.

Zack Feinberg: Yes, I’m actually from New York. A bunch of us went to college in New Orleans; six out of seven of us. Everyone but Dave, our lead singer, went to college in New Orleans. The famous “bike story” is that Dave had just moved to New Orleans and he was singing on his front porch. I was riding my bike and stopped because he sounded so good. He was looking for people to play with, had just moved to the city. I had known Andrew, our drummer, from Tipitina’s, a club in New Orleans. They have these weekly clinics and we had been going there kind of jamming with each other. He knew George, our bass player, from college. He knew Rob from college. We knew Mike from college and playing in bands in New Orleans. Ed we knew from bands but he also went to school down there.

EC: So because you all lived in New Orleans but you all happen to be from different areas, does that influence your sound? Because it’s clear it’s not a strictly New Orleans sound.

ZF: Yeah. I think we’re all musicians that have a different range of influences. We love New Orleans. We love New Orleans music. We like a lot of different music. I think a lot of musicians in New Orleans also are into different styles.

EC: I’ve heard that the Rebirth Brass Band took you guys under their wing for a time. Can you talk about how that has shaped your influence along the way?

ZF: They were generous enough to allow us to open for them when we first started to tour. It was really because our manager at the time, Stu Schayot, he is the general manager for a pub in New Orleans call The Howlin’ Wolf. He manages them as well. So he kind of set that up. But they throw a great show and they get the crowd moving the whole time.

EC: Yeah – like you guys!

ZF: Yeah!

EC: I’ve been listening to you guys for a few years. I first heard you at Mountain Jam a few years ago. You played a few sets.

ZF: Yeah! That was awesome. That inside set was so awesome.

EC: This was the first time I heard you. My friend and I were like, “Who are these guys?” But I listen to you a lot and the lyrics include struggle and love, of course. How do you come up with these lyrics? Is there one person who generally writes, or do you all take turns?

ZF: Dave writes a lot of them, as the singer. If there’s a song that’s stemming out of an instrumental idea where everyone’s jamming on, he will tend to be the one to do it. I’d say he writes probably 70 percent of our lyrics. Andrew, our drummer, writes lyrics. I write lyrics. It’s pretty collaborative. A person could write an entire song on their own or write a lot of the song on their own.

EC: Are they from your own life experiences? When I’m listening it often feels like a movie scene in my head. I can see the girl, the guy, the struggle…

ZF: I think personal experience definitely offers a big part of it but it doesn’t necessarily have to be.

EC: There’s an audible passion for the music. It is evident that this is your love. Did you grow up surrounded by music? Were your parents musicians?

ZF: They’re not musicians but my family really likes music a lot. My older brother is a musician; he’s a guitar player. My dad plays guitar.

EC: You just released an album this summer, “Men Amongst Mountains.” Can you talk about the process in creating it? And what is the theme?

Ed Williams: It’s literally a man walking into a mountain.

Andrew Campanelli: I always think of it that our songs were written a lot when we were on the road in those years that we spent touring after we made City of Sound, a record that we made while we were getting used to living in New Orleans. And then we went on the road and that song itself was written while we were on the road in the Colorado mountains. The one thing that ties all the songs together is the years that they were in. We’ve been going out into this world and realizing it’s a big place, and we’re just men.

EC: Ok, so the process then?

ZF: It was made over three sessions in 2014. We did a week in January 2014, at a studio in the country which is a studio in Bogaloosa, Louisiana. It was kind of like a cabin in the woods situation. From there, we added two or three songs onto the record and did overdubs on two different sessions in New Orleans. The process was very much like get everyone together playing in a room and track it. Then do our overdubs.

EC: I counted this tour you have 40 shows…

ZF: Yeah, we’re doing about 150 a year, so it’s really a never-ending tour.

EC: Well I would call that “extensive” then. So what are some of the highlights?

ZF: Definitely Halloween.

EC: I mean…you guys dressed as Prince. You nailed it.

ZF: I made an appointment at a barber shop and everything. We had a blast; that was amazing. It was a sold out show at the 930 Club. It was a great milestone and we really prepared a lot with all the Prince material. Red Rocks was another highlight. Outside Lands was definitely a highlight. Kaaboo was cool. We got to see No Doubt at Kaaboo! Brews and Blues Festival in Telluride.

EC: So now you’re here in Albany, called “Smalbany” by some. Does playing in a small city and small venue offer any opportunities?

ZF: It’s its own thing. It’s cool to do shows where you have less expectations all day because in a way you’re looser and it’s a different vibe to the set. So it’s really fun as an audience member to see shows like that and as a musician. And you know what, its’ fucking packed up there! We played here, but it wasn’t called The Hollow. We played here a few years ago, and sat in this very basement. So this is a huge improvement.

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