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Revivalist - Interview

  by John Clarkson

published: 13 / 1 / 2002

Revivalist - Interview


'Revivalist' are a new and an as yet undiscovered power pop trio from New York, who list Britpop ; American minimalist rock and classical and jazz music amongst their influences. The group, which con

'Revivalist' are a new and an as yet undiscovered power pop trio from New York, who list Britpop ; American minimalist rock and classical and jazz music amongst their influences. The group, which consists of ScottSchneider, the band's songwriter and leader, on vocals and guitars ; Dan Swartz on bass, and Michael Hoffman on drums and percussion, recorded their debut compact disc, a five track EP, last year at Pete Weiss's Zippah Studios in Boston. Currently without a record deal, the band have been using the EP, which is simply called 'Revivalist' and has a limited edition of 500, as a demo to pass around record companies and have also been selling copies of it over the internet. Revivalist was formed out of the remnants of another five piece New York group, 'Super Sixteen', in which Schneider and Hoffman were both members.When Super Sixteen split up in early 1998 after three and a half years together, the two musicians decided to continue working with each other. After starting rehearsals with Swartz, another New Yorker, who they had met when Super Sixteen had played a support date with his group 'Narcosis' , which had also recently disbanded, the trio began Revivalist at the end of that year. "Super Sixteen were similar to Revivalist, but the songs were not all mine." Schneider reflects in an interview with Pennyblackmusic. " There were other songwriters in the band and we all tried to be a little bit more collaborative, which was both good and bad. While the music was similar, I like to think that Revivalist's stuff is simpler and also purer and tighter. As a trio as supposed to a five person band, we are also a little more compact." Schneider and Hoffman have widely different tastes and influences from one another, and Schneider feels that it is this that has given the group much of their structure and an edge. "Michael's big love has always been the minimalistic side of American indie rock" he says. "He has always been a die hard fan of groups like 'Pavement', while with me-and this is perhaps the dynamic-I started being influenced a few years ago by British bands like 'Blur', 'Suede', 'Oasis', 'Radiohead' and 'Supergrass', who are all kind of super melodic and epic in their sound. More recently I've come back to America and started listening to bands like 'Mercury Rev' and 'The Flaming Lips', who on their new albums inparticular again also sound big and epic." Hoffman is a jazz buff also, and a fan of Miles Davis, has been able to incorporate some jazz elements too into his drum patterns and the band's music. Schneider meanwhile grew up in a household where classical music was played a lot, and this also has had a direct influence on the group. "My father listened to a lot of Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Profokiev" he explains "I think I got much of my appreciation of melody, more than I would sometimes realise, from those guys." Hoffman also plays drums in another New York group "The Wobblies' and had already worked at Zippah with Pete Weiss, who, as well as co-owning the studio, is also its in-house producer. After some months of rehearsing together, Revivalist approached Weiss, asking if he would be interested in working with them also. When Weiss, after hearing a tape of some of Schneider's songs, agreed, the group booked a recording date and travelled up to Boston. 'Revivalist' was recorded quickly in just eighteen hours with final mixing taking place a few days later and it features guest appearances from Randy Rex, another former member of Super Sixteen, on additional guitar, and Erinam Bowman, Schneider's sister-in-law, on keyboards and viola. The EP wasn jointly co-produced by both Schneider and Pete Weiss. For Schneider, it was his second stint at production. When he and Hoffman had still been in Super Sixteen, the group had recorded a demo with the New York producer Kramer, who is best known for his work with 'Galaxie 500'. It had, however, proved both an unhappy and a disappointing experience. "That recording was a bit of a mess to be honest" Schneider says candidly."All five band members sat down with Kramer and everybody was trying to have their say. I realised one thing then, and that is you have to go into the studio with some planning. I was able to do that when co-producing at Zippah. I went in there with a plan and we got on quickly and it went well." With Schneider doing much of the pre-production work and ensuring that the band was tightly rehearsed before it went into the studio, Weiss, as well as helping to further expand the group's ideas, also took sole charge of the mixing of the EP, after the band had finished its recording. "Pete has a really great ear, so when he did the basic mix, it was really good. We came back in and we talked about it afterwards and we tweaked it around a bit, but on that he was able to bring his own sense of autonomy to the project and to also combine our vision of the group with his own vision of the band." The five firmly crafted songs on 'Revivalist' catchily combine and blend together both Schneider and Hoffman's differing influences. Each tune has a simple, but strong and grandiose sound. Schneider's lyrics meanwhile cover a broad range of topics and ideas. The heavily layered opening track 'Only a Day' wavers between slower, mellow melody and heavy, swirling, semi-distorted power pop, and takes its lyrics from a most unusual source. Schneider, who works in computers designing software and internet web sites, once "worked for a company that sent me to one of these bullshit training seminars about how to negotiate. They had headed up these case studies and one of the case studies was about this guy named Thomas Adams who worked for some company for which he had to order some sort of supply for a restaurant, and who had to do some negotiating. I literally when I wrote that song read off the case study they had given me, and changed only the chorus to make it sound better. It is not really, therefore, about anything except this guy who is trying to buy supplies for his company, but it was a good song to write when I was frustrated with my job." The second track 'Gemini', which has a thundering and grinding sound, meanwhile, is " a fictitious narrative about a soldier who rises from the rank of corporal, and saves the day. I had been thinking a lot about World War One and whenever I go into a studio, I try to work to an actual sound and I always tell the producer or the person that I am working with what I want the song to sound like. In this case I was imagining one of those big and clunky World War One first tanks appearing on the battlefield, so that song was built around that." The third song 'Stereo Down'is more humorous, and, soaring and crackling with exuberant energy, is simply "about my wife telling me to turn the stereo down". 'Star Faithful' ,the penultimate track, is, however,softer and slower-paced and, on grimmer subject matter, is about the murder of film starlet Starr Faithful who was "washed up on the shores of Long Island in the nineteen thirties, and who was involved with some mobster." The last number 'Arizona', a churning, rumbling rocker, meanwhile, is "about someone I knew once who liked to drink a lot." Revivalist, like so many other acts, are having trouble finding a record deal, but Schneider, while continuing to search for a record contract, is delighted to have found, through the internet and by passing and selling the EP out amongst his family and friends, a small but appreciative audience already for his music. "When I came out of university and formed Super Sixteen all I wanted to do was get a big record contract and be a big rock star" he says "As I get a little older and play more I just want my music to be heard a little bit. People listen to it and say that it's good, and while there has been little real movement so far from record companies, I have had a lot of feedback from folk who listen to it when they are jogging to work, or when they are sitting at their office desks. I feel really good about that." With over thirty other songs written, there are various options for the band's future. Schneider is hoping to return to Boston in the spring to record some more material with Weiss. He has also been working with Dan Schwartz's brother, Willie, who works for Atlantic Records, on mixing some new songs, which they will be using to pass around record companies soon. While continuing to use the internet to promote his songs, he is also thinking about starting his own label especially to release Revivalist's music. Undoubtedly Revivalist are a band that we will be hearing plenty more from soon. Revivalist have their own web site. For MP3 downloads of both 'Only a Day'and 'Gemini', please check out www.revivalist.com

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Revivalist - Interview

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Revivalist (2001)
New York power pop trio 'Revivalist' have chosen to put out their self-titled debut CD as an internet release only, while they search for a record deal. The CD, a 5 track EP, is limited to 500 copies

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