During the past 16 years, the Revivalists has become a kind of under-the-radar musical force, a group that fuses songwriting prowess and dynamic performances into an exciting, genre-blending Americana mix.
Fronted by Hamilton, Ohio, native David Shaw, the brassy octet formed in 2007 in New Orleans, where Shaw, 40, and guitarist Zack Feinberg had both moved. Within a week, it had a gig at Tipitina’s. Its first EP was released the following year.
Since then, the Revivalists has released five studio albums, including this year’s “Pour It Out Into the Night,” and scored a Top 10 on Billboard’s Alternative chart with 2018′s “Take Good Care.” It’s also had a trio of No. 1 Adult Alternative Airplay singles with “Wish I Knew,” “All My Friends” and “Kid” and opened a couple of shows on the Rolling Stones No Filter Tour during 2019 and 2021.
“Pour It Out…,” released in June, features a dozen songs and was produced by Grammy Award winner Rich Costey, whose voluminous credits range from Fiona Apple to Muse and Death Cab For Cutie, and points in between. It’s put Shaw and company back on the road, where they like being best, although he’s in New Orleans on a rare off day when we catch up to him on Zoom. The band performs Sunday, Aug. 6 at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica.
You’re two months from “Pour It Out Into the Night’s” release. What was your mission or goal for the album?
Shaw: It’s a time stamp of where we are, who we are, where we’ve been and where we’re going — in that moment. It’s all of that put into the art. This one was interesting because we had the pandemic slapped right in the middle of it. We got yanked off the road in 2020 and now we’re stuck at home, forced to confront ourselves ‘cause when you’re just going and going and going things build up but you never have to face them. So (the pandemic) made me slow down and face some of these I was running from.
And how was that?
Shaw: Honestly, for me, it was good to get off the road and slow down a little bit. And it was a very creative time for me. I had time to sit with my thoughts and had time to go out to my studio for hours upon end and just create. There were some dark times, definitely; some of these songs reflect that. But there were some joyful times as well. I came to realize that was what I needed to do, so I leaned fully into the music.
Just kind of poured it out into the night, eh?
Shaw: That kind of speaks a bit to the album title, yeah. I was not feeling so good at a certain time; the only thing that I could do was go out to my studio. Sometimes I’d wake up at three, four in the morning with this existential dread feeling. So I’d go out to the studio and I’d just sing, and that was the only thing that would make me feel better. (The title) was a lyric that popped up during one of those nights; I was literally pouring it out into the night and I sang (those words) to those chords and that’s how the song started. It definitely was an interesting time.
Where did those darker emotions come from?
Shaw: I’ve been sober for 15 years, and I was sliding back some of the fences that I’d put up for myself to make sure I stayed good. When you have a little time to sit with these thoughts and this stuff you start thinking, “Maybe I could…” It was a tough time for me in a lot of ways. Addiction is a funny little thing, and it can present itself in many different forms and it’s very insidious. So I had to be really, really careful during that time, and I’m grateful that I had the music and my friends to hang onto and push me through.
You made a (self-titled) solo album during the interim, too. Did that make much of an impact on “Pour It Out…?”
Shaw: Oh man, that was something I’d been working on for a couple of years before the pandemic and “Pour It Out…” that was in the books and already ready to go; it just so happened I released it during a pandemic, which has its limitations. But it was something I knew I was always gonna do, and I think I’ll do more of it. It’s just fun to work in a different kind of way. I think I grew a lot in the process. I think I came back to the band with a new perspective on my art, the band, how I want to do the solo thing in tandem with the band. So it was a good thing. I had a lot of fun doing it and I love the songs we put on the album.
What were the surprises on this album for you?
Shaw: I feel like “Pour It Out Into the Night,” that tune, just sonically sounds very different than some of the things we’ve done. Sure, it’s got an acoustic ear to it, but during the pandemic, I was playing around with this guitalele; it’s a guitar but it’s also a ukulele, basically. I was playing along with this tape echo and heavy reverb, just, like, a new sound for me. It shows up in “Kid,” it shows up in “Pour It Out Into the Night,” it’ll probably show up in records into the future.
You worked with a new producer, Rich Costey, this time. He’s got a pretty formidable track record, with some big albums to his credit. What impact did he make on yours?
Shaw: Y’know, he understood that we knew what we wanted to do and what we wanted to sound like, and he wasn’t trying to change that. Sometimes when you work with big producers these guys have their thing that they do. But he was very much trying to make us sound like us. He didn’t want to make us sound like him. That was very important to us.
The Revivalists has been together for 16 years now. Is the band drawing on different sources or reference points than it did at the beginning?
Shaw: That’s interesting. I think it’s a thing for all musicians; you find a vibe you like and you say, “OK, let’s chase this vibe through our filter,” basically. That can be good and it can yield some really special things, and it’s fun. You have a bit of a road map — ‘cause with eight people it’s really, really tough to get everybody on the same page. But if everybody has a vibe they’re shooting for, then it’s a little easier. We definitely got really, really good at knowing the sound that we kind of create. We understand who we are, especially through the process of making our albums.
You’re from south Ohio, but does playing anywhere in the state feel like home to you?
Shaw: Yeah, it does. I spent so many formative years of my life in Ohio, and about six or seven years in Columbus. I spent some time in Cleveland, and, yeah, I love that city. I love visiting the Rock Hall when I’m there. Always a good time, so, yeah, it definitely feels like a homecoming of sorts.
Do you ever walk through the Rock Hall and let yourself think, “Maybe one day…?”
Shaw: (laughs) It’s kind of crazy; we’re not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but they did have us in an exhibit. They had a pair of my pants up there in the contemporary collection. It was up next to Harry Styles and Beyonce; I was like, ‘What…?!’ That was crazy. So we’re in there, but obviously not IN the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame yet. That would be sweet.
The Revivalists and Band of Horses perform at 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 6, at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica, 2014 Sycamore St., Cleveland. Tickets — $21 to $90 — are available at axs.com. The two bands will also livestream their Sept. 14 show from Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado at 10 p.m. Tickets via veeps.com.