There’s an urge to achieve instant success in any endeavor you commit yourself to. Many people lack the patience to stick out the middling years before finally joining the upper tier of their field, but The Revivalists are living proof that spending a long time on the runway just ensures that when they do finally take flight, they’ll fly right. Andrew Campanelli, the band’s drummer and Falls Church native, shared some of the lessons learned in the incubator during an interview with News-Press before the group takes the stage at Wolf Trap this Sunday.
A 2005 George Mason High School graduate, Campanelli is a self-taught drummer who got a taste for New Orleans’ style of music while working at the State Theatre. His affinity for that sound pushed him to attend Loyola University and take an introductory class about the city’s music where he fatefully met guitarist Zack Feinberg. Feinberg and lead singer David Shaw became acquainted in 2007, beginning The Revivalists’ long journey to fame soon after.
“There were a bunch of kids in middle school and early high school in that class. Zack and I were the only college guys,” Campanelli said with a chuckle, before adding, “But hey, it worked out.”
The band grew in size and sophistication over the years. Pedal steel guitarist Ed Williams and bassist George Gekas joined the group along with saxophonist Rob Ingraham and trumpet player Michael Giradot, helping round out the core seven artists. And with each new EP and album released, The Revivalists came into their own while also finding a place for each member of the band to leave their impression on a given melody. Their latest single, “All My Friends,” embodies the next step in that evolution.
Of course, this didn’t happen overnight. Their comprehensive craft was forged over the better part of a decade while touring with other New Orleans bands, which Campanelli credits for keeping the group strong. Since The Revivalists lacked a true mainstream hit early in their lifespan, they didn’t have to confront the alluring whims of business ventures while they were still figuring themselves out. Instead, their later success was built on a foundation of respect for the process and for one another, contributing to their refined, yet diverse brand of music.
“We weren’t a developed band at that point. We took 10 years to learn how to make records and ramp it up each time, and we also took those same 10 years to learn how to play shows and move a room with the energy we created,” Campanelli continued. “To develop our identity, we didn’t have a lot pressure to decide what we were. We really got to explore what we wanted to do as songwriters and got to hone that craft as a group and individually because we didn’t have this pressure to follow-up a hit.”
After eight years in the lab and on the road fine-tuning their sound, The Revivalists did finally break through with their hit “Wish I Knew You,” which topped the U.S. Alternative Rock charts in 2015 (and can still be heard on DC101.1). The single brought them widespread acclaim, but it didn’t change the dynamic of their art or performances. They had gained a loyal following during their years trekking cross-country, so when more casual listeners did start attending shows, they became immersed in a fan culture that knew every harmony and cheered each song in the setlist. It’s why Campanelli cites that time in the “the minors” (my designation, not his) as supremely valuable to the group’s sustainability.
With the tour set to roll through Wolf Trap this Sunday, Campanelli is feeling nostalgic. He may even take up some light reading — he mentioned the occasional shenanigans found in the News-Press’ Crime Report as one of his favorite parts of the paper.
The Revivalists will be playing at Wolf Trap (1551 Trap Rd., Vienna) this Sunday, Aug. 19. Tickets can be purchased at wolftrap.org.