If you were to ask most casual listeners, The Revivalists arrived seemingly out of nowhere with their 2016 smash hit, “Wish I Knew You”. The single off the band’s 2015 album, Men Amongst Mountains, took pop radio by storm, eventually earning a Platinum certification from the RIAA and vaulting The Revivalists toward mainstream stardom. However, the New Orleans-based octet had already been grinding for a decade before “Wish I Knew You” hit the airwaves.
As frontman David Shaw explains to Live For Live Music about this common paradox of perception, “That’s kind of the nature of it. All the core fans that you’ve built up over the years, they all know the truth, you know? But to the mainstream media and all the friends… I mean, I get it. People have lives. It’s not everyone’s thing to follow a band around, especially a band that no one really knows about. So it’s definitely wild when it happens. There’s a saying that’s like, ’10 years to be an overnight success.’ And it took us exactly ten years.”
Since capturing lightning in a bottle with “Wish I Knew You”, The Revivalists have cemented themselves as one of the most in-demand bands on the road, selling out ever-larger venues around the country. In October, they announced their 2020 Into The Stars Tour, their most ambitious outing so far. Along with the announcement of the tour, The Revivalists revealed their plans for Rev Causes, a new umbrella fund that will donate $1 from every ticket sold on the tour to causes close their hearts. The charitable initiative is something that’s been on the band’s to-do list for years. Now that they’ve risen to this point, they can finally put the plan into action.
“I think we’re in a place now where it’s just like, [we] kind of do what we want,” Shaw reflects. “Now, we’re able to start doing some more philanthropic things, which is really cool.”
Below, you can read our full interview with David Shaw, which touches on the mission of Rev Causes, The Revivalists’ triumphs and heartbreaks in 2019, and more. [Note: Transcript edited for length and clarity].
Live For Live Music: Just glancing down the list of things you’ve done this year, you’ve got big, sold-out shows at places like Red Rocks, slots at some of the biggest festivals in the country, recorded a single at Muscle Shoals. You even snuck in an opening gig down in Jacksonville for this little up-and-coming band from England that’s trying to get their name out there in the States…
David Shaw: Oh God [laughs]. That was wild. That was just wild.
Live For Live Music: Can you tell me about that experience, opening for The Rolling Stones?
David Shaw: Oh, man. It was a “pinch me” moment, you know? All day, it was kind of like, “Are we really doing this? Is this happening?” And then, we get there, we’re sitting in the box—I guess they made one of the boxes, box seats, like our green room—and they’re sound checking, they’re rehearsing “Wild Horses”. And that’s kind of when it hit me. I was just like, “Oh my God. Wow… this is… wow. There they are. They’re doing the thing… Holy crap.”
So that was a true treat. And I’ve heard, you know, you kind of hear some stories about how [The Rolling Stones’] fans can be a little less than cordial sometimes toward their openers, and they were great [laughs]. They were great for us. You never know how that’s going to go. Sometimes they can just be like, “What the hell! We just want to see our band, here!”
Live For Live Music: Where are Mick and Keith?! Let’s get the show on the road…
David Shaw: Exactly. But we didn’t get any of that. We got, they were happy to see us and happy to hear us play. They gave us no problem. It was cool.
— The Revivalists (@therevivalists) October 25, 2019
L4LM: Lollapalooza was another big show this past summer that generated a lot of buzz, albeit for more somber reasons. In the wake of several mass shootings in the space of a couple of days in early August—including particularly devastating attacks in Dayton, OH and El Paso, TX—The Revivalists played for tens of thousands of people at the Chicago festival. During the set, you performed a particularly poignant rendition of “Shoot You Down“, the anti-gun violence protest song off Take Good Care. Can you tell us a little about what was going through your mind that day?
DS: Ooof… Yeah. It was… I mean, we can’t have something like this become commonplace, you know? And it just felt like, it was one of those things where it was happening so much, and we had this show coming up… I can’t remember which one it was—and that’s almost even the weirder thing, when you can’t even remember which shooting it was. That’s when you really know you’ve got a problem. And also, it’s one of those things where the more it happens, the more desensitized people become. That’s even the greater problem, you know? Because being desensitized to mass shootings and death, in general, is not good. It’s just bad.
We just wanted to use our voice, especially at that show, because there’s 30,000 kids there. That was just the perfect place to get the message out there, threefold. We decided to just go with the movement, you know? Use the color of the [movement] (orange). And we put that up there [on the stage screens], “End Gun Violence.” We did the song, and it was just one of those moments at a show where you can feel, like… it was real, man. This is no joke. This is everybody. At a festival, it’s kind of hard. Sometimes, those kinds of songs don’t really connect in the way that they’re supposed to connect because everyone’s there to just have a good time and, honestly, get away from that kind of a thing. They want to kind of leave their heavy lives. So you come on stage and you do this thing and it’s super heavy. But … no one was shying away from that moment. Everybody really came together.
And it was kind of like… We all kind of needed it, honestly. You could feel it, man. I got choked up during one part, during the “We just want to live,” you can hear a little bit of a crack in my voice. Here’s this moment where we’re potentially changing lives, right now. And that’s what it is. That’s everything to me, and that’s what I think music has the ability to do. That’s why I always say, if somebody hears this song and they’re thinking about doing something, or if they’re just a huge proponent for the NRA, maybe this kind of thing can change their tune a little bit and [they’ll] come back on the other side of the fence. I shouldn’t even say “other side of the fence,” because it shouldn’t be an “us versus them” kind of thing. It really just needs to be, “How can we come together to be sensible about this issue in America?” We wanted to create that moment at Lollapalooza, and I’m so happy we did.
The Revivalists – “Shoot You Down” – Lollapalooza 2019
[Video: The Revivalists]
L4LM: Absolutely. We have to stop this trend of needless violence. Protest songs like this can help draw attention to that very important task.
DS: Exactly. I can even sometimes feel myself going, “Ugh, I don’t want to deal with this today.” But you know what? You got to. Because, like, guess who also didn’t want to deal it? The people who got shot. … We’ve got to do what we can do to just push that needle in the right direction to where these things aren’t commonplace. I mean, there’s always going to be murder and killing in the world. That’s a part of this beautiful, ugly, crazy, fucked up, amazing world. That’s just what it is. But if we can not have it happen so much, and just do what we can do, then I’m about that.
L4LM: Now, with the band’s new Rev Causes fund, you’re ramping up your efforts to use your platform to effect positive change by donating $1 from every ticket sold on your 2020 Into The Stars tour to various charitable organizations. The tour is one of your largest ever, so this initiative stands to make a big difference in a short amount of time.
DS: Yeah, looking forward to it. I mean, we just put it on sale, and the damn thing’s nearly halfway sold out already. So, it’s like, I think we’ve already raised damn near $20,000 that we’re going to be donating to these various funds.
L4LM: The causes you’ve chosen to start with all feel very timely and are all clearly related, both to each other and to the band. You’ve got anti-gun violence (Everytown For Gun Safety Support Fund), disaster relief (Center for Disaster Philanthropy), mental illness (National Alliance on Mental Illness), and arts education for kids in New Orleans (Upturn Arts) and children with disabilities nationwide (Songs for Kids Foundation). Education and mental illness are both important factors contributing to our nation’s issue with gun violence. Everytown was onsite at that Lollapalooza set doing an anti-gun violence activation, and you had previously worked with them on a special 7″ vinyl release of “Shoot You Down” to benefit their efforts. It’s all connected. How did the band decide on these particular organizations as the initial beneficiaries of Rev Causes?
DS: We had been kicking around this idea for a while. We knew, at some point, we were going to do something like this. For a long time, we weren’t really in the financial position to [do it and] be able to still run the band as a business, still be able to pay for our bills and pay for our children and all that stuff. Now, we’ve gotten to the point where we’re able to do that, so we got together, got a few emails going, and said, “Hey, everybody, what are some of the things that you’re passionate about? What would you like to see this band donate funds toward, to just help these causes?” A few people put their [suggestions] in, and we just narrowed the focus to, like, “Well here, these three things are about mental health, these three or four are about disaster relief…”
Some of them were just no-brainers to us, like the Songs for Kids Foundation. We had been working with [founder/president] Josh [Rifkind] for a while already. We’ve done various things for [that] foundation. We love Josh, and we love the work that he does. We just think it’s amazing, and we see the smiles on these kids’ faces. We just did something with them in Atlanta. We had a show, and then we came by the next day and we played with some of the kids. They had learned one of our songs, which was just so cool. They learned “Wish I Knew You”, and it was just so cool to be able to see how proud they were [to be] singing the song that they had learned, in front of us. … And they weren’t nervous, or that wasn’t coming across. They were just happy.
Upturn Arts, also, was an organization that I’ve done some work with in the past. They’re one of the smaller organizations in New Orleans. We also do work with Roots of Music, but we felt like Upturn Arts [is] also a great organization but they’re not as big and they don’t have the name recognition. I’ve always been the person who kind of roots for the underdog. And that’s not to say that there’s not some underdogs at Roots of Music, but we wanted to really give [Upturn Arts] a good push because they’re doing really good work. They have these summer camps that they hold, and they bring in these artists, and the kids are just so happy to see what’s going on.
So yeah, this is a long time coming, and we’re just getting started. I know it’s going to grow in the future. [For now], we’re basically splitting the money evenly for these [organizations]. I don’ know if we’re going to add to the list every year or if we’re going to donate to these causes for a bit, because then it makes the donation per company smaller. It’s new to us, too. But I just think it’s good to do, and they’re all very happy that we’re coming along to help out. Because they’re doing their part, you know?
L4LM: That may be my favorite part about the whole Rev Causes thing—the sincere care and concern behind all of it. You picked causes that are genuinely close to your hearts and you’re approaching it with a clear vision of how you can help them with their missions. It’s not just a charity for the sake of having a charity.
DS: Yeah, absolutely. That’s what we want. That’s what we’re about. That’s the message we want to push forward. Positivity and love.