Contrary to the name, their songs aren’t about Zombie Romany – A review of the music of Gypsy Revival

The following article and interview is being published in issue number three of Line Zero. You should consider getting a subscription. Its a pretty bitchin’ publication.

As I stated in my previous review it’s only every once in a great while that I fall in love with the music of a particular band and wonder why the rest of the world isn’t already humming along with me. The bands I feel this way about are few and far between. And it usually happens completely by accident. This review highlights just one such occasion. Last summer my mother, a family friend, and myself all piled into the car and drove to Indiana Beach for her company picnic. Roller coasters, water slides, a free meal; I was in. But by the end of the day after spending several hours under the sun, and getting thrown around by roller coasters I was tired, starting to get a little sore, and ready to call it a day. As the sun started to fade beneath the landscape we ducked into one of the bars for a bite to eat before making the long trip back home. As I reached for my wallet to show proof of ID before being served a drink I began to hear the stirrings of music that makes me think of cross country journeys and missing the person you love. The name of the band on stage was Gypsy Revival, and the more I watched them play; the more I was tapping my toes, the more I felt the urge to get up and dance and clap my hands. The sheer talent of these musicians and their charismatic stage presence was flat-out contagious. While they performed several flawless covers; it was their performance of their own material that sold me so completely. Anybody can listen to Gypsy Revival’s music and find something to like, something to relate to; it’s not hard to resist the urge to sing along. The EP that I bought that night is quickly working it’s way into being the most played album in my collection. The lyrics, and even the tune of the music in their songs makes me think of optimism, their songs remind me of hope. That even if you’re down on your luck and the deck is stacked against you there are still good things to come. I had a blast, I had more drinks that night than I’ve ever had any time I’ve visited a bar just so I could stay put and listen to them playing longer. Though I don’t remember a whole lot after the first few rounds of drinks, their music stuck with me. And what turned into a quick meal before the road turned into being the last four people in the amusement park after they closed. Davey Allen, Gypsy Revival’s front-man was kind enough to take time out of his full day of being awesome to answer a few questions for me:

ELDON KR: How ’bout you talk about yourself and your band mates for a little bit.

DAVEY: Well I (Davey) was born into a Tennessean family. True southerners with a love for moonshine mountain music and sense to wash it down with the sweet gospel music of Sunday hymns.

Mike Sanson (drummer) is originally from Perth, Australia but immigrated to the United States at a very young age. Very little of his Aussie accent remains and he considers himself a life-long resident of these great United States of America.

Jesse Langebartels’ (guitar) first taste of music came from his father’s guitar playing. Jesse was able to manufacture these sounds into playing of his own. Later, he truly cut his teeth on honky – tonk and blues music, channeling such greats as Albert King, Duane Allman, and Allen Collins.

EKR: How did the band form, and how long have you dudes been rocking Indiana?

DA: Mike and I have been playing together for more than a decade. We were introduced to Jesse through a mutual friend/musician. Jesse recruited me to play bass with a band he was helping along, Rodney James Band. That venture soon died out but the wheels that would later start Gypsy Revival were put into motion. Jesse briefly joined Mike and I’s band, Davey and the Chorus Caravan. When our bass player moved to Memphis we collectively decided that a fresh start was needed, and thus Gypsy Revival was born. Since then we have been playing around the Midwest, going on three years now. We’ve played in such cities as Cincinnati, St. Louis, Kansas City, Lexington, Chicago, Nashville, and of course Indianapolis.

EKR: What does the band do when you guys aren’t rocking out? Are there day jobs? Daring daylight bank heists? Destruction of small villages?

DA: We all work as aid workers for the UN Envoy to the Midwest.

EKR: How many shows do you do in a week?

DA: We play anywhere from 2 to 5 shows in a week. We’d prefer seven.

EKR: How does the creative process for your music start, and where does it go from there?

DA: Our creative process mainly comes from whiskey and left-handed cigarettes. But listening to certain music puts me in the mood to write. Artists such as John Prine, Cole Porter, Tom Waits, Townes Van Zant, and Robert Allen Zimmerman are particularly inspiring. I think changing your environment really helps. Whether it is moving the piano to the other side of the room or writing in a notebook at a bar till the wee hours of the morning, changing your perspective is a must.

EKR: Where do you find inspiration for your music? Do you get random ideas for verses in the shower? Are the songs based on events in your life, or do you throw a bunch of word magnets in to a hat and fling it at the fridge?

DA: Mainly I find inspiration from what I see on a day-to-day basis. I try to take very specific people and events and then make their edges blurry enough so that they’re accessible to the listener. The best songs, the songs that are timeless, were once very time-specific.

EKR: Does the band have a bat cave or a fortress of solitude or a magic basement, or is it just wherever you guys can crack a window to let the smoke out?

DA: We have a rarely used lake cottage that produces our best work. Water is calming and inspirational.

EKR: What would you say the theme is in most of your songs?

DA: The human condition. Our music is at its best when it is spontaneous. Much like our music, life is unpredictable and you never know what cards you’ll be dealt. So folks deal with this instability with numerous outlets, which make up the majority of our songs’ “themes”. Whether it’s love won and lost, or a wine-o suppressing his life’s faux pas writing about the human experience is very rewarding. You can create or recount history with a simple pen stroke. (Or keystroke .. my best writing is done with an old-time typewriter)

EKR: How did you get the name Gypsy Revival?

DA: I’ve always been fascinated by the “gypsy” lifestyle. The reference doesn’t encompass all gypsies (gypsy as an ethnicity), but specifically the nomadic gypsies. I’m interested in cultures that continually move from location to location. Whether by choice or necessity due to persecution or lack of resources, the family on the road gives a new idea to “home”. We’re trying to channel that open-road mentality in our music. The world is our oyster.

EKR: Are there any talks for a record deal or are you guys going the independent route?

DA: We like independence. The current state of the established record company is in decline. The mass produced and distributed compact disc is singing its swan song. Most of the online resources a signed band has we also have. Aside from capital and more industry connections we have many opportunities your typical signed band does.

EKR: What’s the hardest part in what you guys do? Is is the creative process, the traveling, booking shows, etc?
DA: Jesse books the majority of our shows so he’d probably say, “booking the shows.” But for myself it is the challenge of being different. There are literally thousands of bands that are trying to do something similar to what we’re doing and setting yourself apart can be difficult. In the age of the sound-byte you have 30 seconds (sometimes less) to either win someone over or turn him or her away. So it makes it hard to be memorable to someone, especially when it is so saturated. Truly, I think we do an OK job but I can never let myself fully believe that for fear we might start to the same routine over and over.

EKR: What advice do you have to offer for groups of creative individuals who want to start playing music in smokey amusement park bars?

DA: For that specifically it helps to fuck the bartender. But in general there’s always a balance between artistic wants and basic business needs. A good question to ask is, “is what we’re doing making someone money?” While no one wants to compromise their artistic values, if you want continued opportunities you have to at least “peek into the front office,” so to speak. It doesn’t matter how good you are, if you’re not putting money in the pockets of club owners right down to the bar staff don’t expect to come back. And on the other hand if you suck as a band and aren’t original don’t expect anyone (beyond your girlfriends and mothers) to come to your shows. A balance.

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