Dustbowl RevivalDustbowl Revival changes its sound
By Naughty Mickie

The Los Angeles octet, Dustbowl Revival, has made its name by focusing primarily on folk, jazz and other Dixieland and Depression era sounds. Last June it surprised its faithful following by releasing a self-title album with a good chunk of funk, soul and rock grooves, giving it a more modern update.

The effort is produced by Ted Hutt (Flogging Molly founding member and producer for Dropkick Murphys, The Bouncing Souls, Old Crow Medicine Show). And Dustbowl Revival is on tour in support of the work with the current lineup of founder, vocalist, guitarist Zach Lupetin, mandolinist Daniel Mark, fiddler Connor Vance, Liz Beebe on vocals and ukulele, Matt Rubin on trumpet, Ulf Bjorlin on trombone, James Klopfleisch on bass and drummer Joshlyn Heffernan.

We talked with Lupetin about the origin of his project, how it has evolved and what is in store for its future.

Lupeting moved to California from Chicago after graduating from the University of Michigan in 2007.

“I didn’t know anybody, put up a Craigslist ad, got really lucky with folks wanting to connect and write folk songs and different types of roots music that I wanted to explore,” Lupetin said.

The band grew from there, starting with an assortment of around 20 different musicians before it eventually solidified into the current core eight. It was basically a collective of people at the beginning, which was fun for shows, but impractical for touring.

"It was a group of people who meet up occasionally. A band is like a family, you have to really be careful who you pick and it becomes the people you spend the most time with, more than your wife,” Lupetin said.

Next we discusses the change in Dustbowl Revival's direction.

“Every band and every songwriter evolves in some form. As you grow older you get a little older and wiser and you music becomes a little more lived in and you get to know your instrumentation more,” Lupetin said. "We started much more of the old-time, folk, swing, jazz and blues, paying homage to the ‘30s and ‘40s and different eras of music and as we started finding our own voice and writing our own songs that had our own sensibility, that really chrystalized over the last few albums, especially the new self-titled album that has this funk/folk thing which is really fun and kind of different.”

“I think that comes from knowing what kind of music you want to hear now. A lot of the stuff that we really like from artists that are doing really well out in the world right now, but also artists from the past, I think is this soulfulness and emotional honesty. Bands that can write songs that they’re not pretending, it’s real and authentic. Sometimes when you want to create the sound of a different era you are pretending, you’re not Benny Goodman in the ‘30s,” continued Lupetin.

“It’s just songs. Songs have a life of their own. They bubble to the surface. A lot of times I’ll write songs in a style of something I’m listening to at the time.”

The approach to writing the band's material has also changed.

“Part of the evolution is giving the whole band the chance to be part of the writing process instead of having it be more my project with the band as my orchestra," Lupetin said. "That’s been a hard, interesting experiment because it takes longer, there’s a lot of ideas flying around, sometimes we don’t agree, whereas being a benevolent dictator was an easier thing to do. It was, ‘Here’s how the song goes, let’s go,’ but that has a limited scope of the music you’re going to write when it’s just you coming up with a lot of the ideas. I tried to realize my limitations as much as I can. I’m definitely less musically educated than a lot of guys in the band who have masters degrees in theory and composition.

“I can write songs with a lot of feeling and a lot of story, which I think a lot of people can overthink. I see myself more as a writer first. I went to school for fiction and playwriting. I wanted to be a novelist, I didn’t necessarily want to be a songwriter. But that was channeled into songwriting probably since high school as a way to immediately be able to tell a story and perform it for an audience instead of being alone in your room and no one’s ever going to hear your stuff. The performative aspect of music is super powerful and intriguing to me and that’s what I’ve always been drawn to.”

Lupetin would love to write a musical involving the band. He’s a fan of “West Side Story,” “Chicago” and similar musicals and has worked in theater for a long time writing plays and songs, such as for a Greek tragedy musical.

Winter is restful for Dustbowl Revival, when they play mainly weekends, as opposed to spring and summer when they are always on the road.

“The one unique thing about Dustbowl through the years is that our fan base is multi-generational. It’s one of the only groups that I know where it’s not weird to bring your mom to the show or your grandma saw us and she’s bringing the grandkids because she thinks they’re going to like it. It’s rock and roll enough for the young kids and it’s traditional and rootsy enough for the older folks who love music from their era,” Lupetin said.

For some talented musicianship with links to the past, as well as the future of sound, check out Dustbowl Revival at www.dustbowlrevival.com/ 

Return to DaBelly

© 2018   DaBelly Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.