Back in the mid-nineties there was something of a flourish of Ska/Reggae bands in California. Some just saw it as a passing fad but now some 15 years on there is still a very close knit and energetic scene there with many bands out regularly plying their trade. The Revivers are just one of those bands and their dedication to “reviving” the sounds of early Jamaican Reggae from the late 60’s and early 70’s has not gone un-noted. They have supported some of Reggaes true legends like Michael Rose, The Mighty Diamonds and Ska pioneer Eric “Monty” Morris as well as with fellow “revivalists” Hepcat, and The Aggrolites. Due to their authentic sound they have also supplied backing for the likes of The Wailing Souls, Ras Michael and most recently Pat Kelly. They are now about to release a single through Reggae Club 69 and with all this in mind I took a chance to catch up with them and find out more…
You formed in 2009, how did you all meet?
-We have all known each other for years before forming The Revivers. Tom (organ), Mike (lead guitar), Tony (vocals), and I (Mano, rhythm guitar) all met in High School when we formed The Debonaires in 1995. Tony stopped playing with Debonaires a few years later, but we stayed in touch, and eventually he and Brent (drums) became good friends and wanted to start a new band. Brent had been a fan of the Debonaires for years; he is the youngest in the group, and helped form The Revivers. We had a few line-up changes, but asked Mark (Bass) from the Skeletones to play bass for us, and that sealed the deal. We had all been a part of the Southern Ca. Ska/Reggae scene since 95 and have played in various bands, so we formed the Revivers as more of a fun side project at first for the love of the music.
There appears to be quite a vibrant Ska/Reggae scene in California why do you think that is?
I think when it first started to make waves in the early/mid-nineties; it was a trend with younger fans just like anything else, Punk, Rockabilly, etc. It was something new and different for the younger audience, and a lot of the original Ska/Reggae legends were still alive and touring as well, like Desmond Dekker, Laurel Aitken, The Skatalites, and Justin Hinds to name a few. This spawned a huge influx of traditional style bands, particularly in Southern California, which was solidified and promoted heavily through Luis Correa at Steady Beat Records.He would record bands, put out compilations, and promote shows regularly, which really gave the scene some uniformity and consistency. Everyone would dress their sharpest, the music was great, and all around, the Ska/Reggae scene was unifying people from different racial and economic lines. Ska and Reggae fans tend to develop such a deep love of the music and feel such a connection to it that they become lifelong fans, which is why I think the scene continues to survive today. Many of the bands and fans from the nineties heyday are still around today.
Despite having been together for three years now you have only brought out one 10” E.P and now this new single for Reggae Club 69, ‘Reggae Fever’ b/w ‘Medical Operation’ any plans to go in the studio and record more for an album?
Our plan for the near future, after we play some gigs to promote the new 7" release, is to focus on writing original material for our first full length release. We plan on making it like an LP, with the A side being originals and the B side being covers of boss Reggae tunes.
Boss Reggae or as it’s sometimes known ‘Skinhead Reggae’, do you find being labelled a Skinhead Reggae band causes you any problems? Here in Europe I feel there is still a stigma attached to the skinhead name.
-There is definitely still a stigma that comes along with the term skinhead here in the States as well. Within the Ska/reggae scene it is understood and accepted that original skinhead culture has nothing to do with racism, however I constantly have to explain that to people who have no idea. We don’t necessarily go around boasting that we play Skinhead Reggae, but like Bob Marley said, “Who feels it, knows it”.
Your shows contain many authentic renditions of classic hits and obscure rarities, have you tried to model yourselves on any particular group?
-It’s interesting because a lot of our favourite groups were really the same combinations of musicians who had different studio names for different producers The Dynamites, GG All Stars, Harry J All Stars, Mudie’s All Stars, The Crystalites, The Upsetters are some of our favorite groups. I’d say we definitely try to go for the Jamaican style sound of Skinhead Reggae vs. the UK bands, but we like many of those groups too. In fact, referring back to the California Ska/Reggae scene, it's actually very similar to how it was in 60's Jamaica as far as how a lot of the musicians have played in various groups together with different names. If you were to trace the musicians and bands from today back to the early 90's you'd see it's almost like a family tree, and all of the musicians have a strong connection and friendships with each other just like a family.
You have been the backing band for the likes of The Wailing Souls and Ras Michael did you have to change your sound at all for these acts?
-Yes we had to adapt to each groups different styles, which can be challenging and rewarding at the same time. As I mentioned, we have all played in several groups in the past, Mike, Tom and I have backed up other artists as well, such as Ken Boothe, Dennis Alcapone, Derrick Morgan, Stranger Cole, The Maytones, The Cables, and Prince Buster, so we were a little more accustomed to learning material and being patient and accommodating while working with these artists, who can be quite particular about their backing bands and how their music is performed. The Revivers most recently backed up Pat Kelly on Sep 17 in San Francisco, which we were selected for specifically because that is the style of Skinhead Reggae that we usually play. So we didn’t have to change up our style much for that gig, except for a few Rocksteady tunes, which we love as well.
So far your career has definitely seen you more as a live band than a recording band with many gigs across the United States any plans to visit Europe or The Far East?
One of our main goals as a band is to tour Europe. We've heard great things about the scene out there, and are familiar with a lot of the bands that come from there. We've had the opportunity to go in the past, but couldn't because of people's family/career responsibilities. It’s been hard to coordinate enough time off at the same time to make a worthwhile tour possible so far, but we haven't given up yet! We're trying to make it possible summer 2012.