Fast forward to 2016: The Meters’ original drummer and funk icon Zigaboo (Joseph Modeliste) opened for Campanelli’s band, The Revivalists, and approved of their soulful rock performance. “If The Meters’ drummer says he likes the way that we sound, that’s good enough for me,” says Campanelli .
The Revivalists are all adopted sons of NOLA—none of them were born there—but the city is very much a part of their sound. Rolling Stone praised their live show in March, and their latest album, Men Amongst Mountains, debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Alternative Chart.
Campanelli (above, far right) is the band’s drummer, and we spoke with him ahead of the group’s performance at The Vogue on September 9.
The Revivalists are having a hell of a year: Wish I Knew You just hit No. 2 on the Mediabase Triple A and BDSRadio Charts, the band performed on the Today show, and your album, Men Amongst Mountains, has already racked up over 5 million streams on Spotify. What’s been your favorite part of 2016 so far?
This is the first year we’ve had success with a song on the radio. Hopefully we make it up one more on the Triple A Charts, but it’s cool to see people at the shows really know the words. We also played a show where Zigaboo’s band opened for us in San Francisco, and getting to meet, hang out, and talk to him about the brotherhood of being in a band was very interesting.
Lead singer David Shaw said the title Men Amongst Mountains came from a time when the band started to find itself on festival bills with its idols and in front of huge crowds. Who are some of your idols, and why do you look up to them?
Oh man, that’s a big list. When we first started touring, we played some shows in Louisiana with Snarky Puppy, and those guys have always inspired me. They value themselves on playing all different kinds of stuff, but they are always themselves inside their music. In terms of that conversation about the album—that’s when we were doing a lot of shows with Gov’t Mule. We’re all big fans of [singer and guitarist] Warren Haynes; he’s a great songwriter, musician, and just a great guy.
What are some of the important things you’ve learned with all the success you’ve been experiencing?
We always look at the records differently. When we’re writing a song, we say, “Okay, this is how the song should go.” But if somebody does something else that’s cool, we might keep it for the live version. As we started to make records more, we got better at that, and realized that’s a different art. Refining the songwriting and thinking about the duality of the song and the live show as we’re writing.
Why is it important to understand that duality?
Many of us had not been playing shows before we started the band. Getting to understand what feeds a live audience and how to feed off a live audience sort of has changed the dynamic of what we do when we’re writing the songs. It’s changed progressively over time as we’ve gotten more used to seeing what moves an audience. We’ll be writing something and say, “That’s cool, I recognize that that’s going to be something that will move people. People will like that live, but maybe it’s not going to concisely translate the song’s message on the studio record.”
You’ve toured across the country, but said many of your favorite career highlights are from New Orleans. Although none of you are originally from the city, how has it shaped the band?
Musicians in New Orleans entertain. It’s a live-music city, and we started off touring with Rebirth and they roll in and they play. They don’t set up for four hours and worry about monitors. They play in the street. We spend time sound-checking because we’re a different band, but that spirit of live music informs our live show. Those are the bands we used to go see, and the reason most of us moved to New Orleans. It gets in your blood—that feeling, that music from New Orleans. You just hear it everywhere. It’s in the street, it’s on the corners, and it’s in clubs. In a great way, you can’t escape it if you live there.
Why do you think it’s important that New Orleans preserve its music culture by actively teaching it to new generations?
Not to get too cliché, but jazz is an American musical art form, and it started in New Orleans. The reason it started is because it was a major port of the Caribbean, and people were coming from Cuba and Haiti. All those people mixing is why we got the music and this collaborative thing. Traditions were coming in from Africa and the Caribbean, and it was the only place at the time in America where slaves could freely practice their religion in their music once a week in Congo Square. The whole history of it is sort of this furthering and passing down of this tradition of self-expression.
So the city’s music is sort of a living, breathing artifact?
Totally. It’s funny because people look at jazz and the music of New Orleans as this historical thing, but it’s an ever-evolving and changing thing. It came from Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong, through Professor Longhair and Fats Domino, and into Allen Toussaint and The Meters. It’s this thing that when passed down, it’s a spirit that infuses the next generation of creativity. It’s not this static history that used to be. It’s not in a time capsule.
On the band’s website, you say your fans are really great to you guys and help you all get through tough times and keep sight of the big picture. What is the big picture?
It’s like we were just saying about New Orleans; it’s continuing that self-expression: writing songs, having fun, and going out and connecting with people. We have a pretty dedicated group of fans that organized themselves into a Facebook group, and they do Secret Santas and all these great things. They make their own merch and sell it to each other and they give the money to charity. It’s really fun to see that community have this connection with us—it’s humbling. So I think making that as big as it can be is the big picture.
Concert at The Vogue on September 9. Doors open at 8 p.m. and music starts at 9 p.m. Buy tickets here.