The key word to keep in mind when it comes to the New Orleans band The Revivalists is “big.”
They’re a big ensemble: seven players on nine different instruments.
The music they play is big, bursting with a powerful horn section, rippling Hammond organ and piano,and a deep-in-the-pocket rhythm section. The whole thing is topped off by the openhearted testifying of big-voiced singer David Shaw, who rivals any modern soul singer you’d care to name. It’s as if a late ’60s Stax-Volt soul revue ran smack into a funky roots-rock band and fused their sounds.
And in the last two years, “big” is also a term that can apply to their success.
On the strength of a huge hit single, “Wish I Knew You,” the past two year have been huge for The Revivalists. The song hit the Top 10 on four different Billboard charts, including Rock and Adult Alternative; it’s been streamed 22 million times on Spotify; and the band has appeared on “Ellen,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “Today,” and “Conan.”
The Revivalists have also been on the road more or less nonstop, playing the New Orleans Jazz Fest, Bonnaroo, and the Telluride Music Festival, along with headlining their own shows. So despite all the ink, sales, and progress, keyboardist and trumpet player Michael Girardot says it’s been hard to take in while the band’s been on the road.
“There are certain moments when we see it,” Girardot says. “We’ll come back to a place that we haven’t been since last year, and we’re at a bigger venue and there’s twice as many people. So there are these moments where you can look back and think things have really changed from where we were 10 years ago. But day-to-day, you really don’t notice. We’re just working so hard on playing good shows.”
A good show is what Greenville fans are in for when The Revivalists play at the Greenville Zoo on Aug. 25 as the final band of the 2017 Zoo Tunes series, which raises money for the Greenville Zoo Foundation’s work in the areas of animal care, conservation, and education. And if you’re familiar with the tracks on the band’s most recent album, “Men Amongst Mountains,” you might be a bit surprised by what you hear when they’re onstage.
“With our band, the songs on the record we do for the record, and the songs for the stage we do for the stage,” Girardot says. “They’re two different genres, the studio and live performance. For instance, if you look at ‘Wish I Knew You,’ which on the radio edit is just over three minutes long, the live version is like seven minutes long. We add sections, hit the chorus again, and add audience participation, but that’s part of what we do. We want to make sure that the song is best for the record when we record it, but when we perform it it’s best for the live show.”
Girardot still admits to a bit of surprise that “Wish I Knew You” was the breakout song from “Men Amongst Mountains,” pointing out that even their record label went with another song, “Keep Going,” as the first single.
“It’s hard for us to see it with a fresh set of eyes,” he says. “Sometimes it takes someone who has a better perspective than someone who’s been working on the songs for a year. We didn’t realize it was going to be a big hit. We all have our favorite songs on the album, and even with all of our label’s expertise, and they’re great, it’s really hard to predict what’s going to click with people.”
The PNC Bank Zoo Tunes Concert Series presents The Revivalists
Friday, Aug. 25, 7 p.m.