The Revelations Are Not Your Daddy's Soul Group--But They Could Be If They Wanted To [Video Premiere + Interview]
The Revelations ain’t your daddy’s funk/soul/blues band (for one thing, they've served as backing band for the Wu Tang Clan!) On second thought, though, the Brooklyn-based, four-man ensemble could very well could be right at home chillin’ in your dad’s record collection. And that’s a good thing. A great thing really, that something released in the present day could hark back to a time when music was more honest and multilayered and not just the same old song about pulling up at the same old club and popping rosé in the VIP while doing the same old two step.
Comprising former Rocafella Records signee Rell, guitarist Wes Mingus, Ben Zwerin on bass and Gintas Janusonis on drums, The Revelations pride themselves in capturing that timeless sound that so many of their influences like Al Green and The Bar-Kays were able to capture. On the verge of releasing their third full-length project entitled The Cost Of Living (due out April 29th), The Revelations are eager--antsy, even--to share their craftsmanship with the world.
After some initial preliminaries at a café in Lincoln Center Theater Rell, Wes and Revelations producer Bob Perry wasted no time in delving into the circumstances that created the group and more importantly, that fresh/vintage combination that is so hard to balance.
Watch their new video (World Premiere!) below and then scroll down to accept more of The Revelations into your life.
OKP: So why are we here? What are we discussing? Let the players know one time.
WES MINGUS: I’m Wes Mingus, guitar player.
RELL: What’s up music world! I’m Rell.
WM: We’re here because we got a new album, got a new single… We got a lot of things in the pipeline. We got a new record deal, publicists… Everything is coming together at the right time. The name of the new album is The Cost Of Living. It’s coming out on Decision Records and being distributed though Sony and it’ll be released on April 29th. We just released a single, “Why When The Love Is Gone.” It’s an updated cover of an old Isley Brothers song that was released on Motown way back.
OKP: Wow. That is a lot. How has the response been to the single?
WM: It’s getting some traction. NPR supported it so we’re already getting some love on it and just trying to keep it moving.
OKP: Good. Let’s take it back a bit. What was the situation like when you guys initially met?
WM: We all formed about 5 or 6 years ago. The original incarnation was The Revelations featuring Tre Williams, which was a singer we were working with who sang on all our earlier stuff. We always maintained a freedom and flexibility to take on other projects so Tre Williams is now doing the full Tre Williams solo project. We have Rell singing now. Rell has been down with the team since day one writing and recording and doing backgrounds. He had a feature on our first album called “The Bleeding Edge” where he sings “It’s Too Late,” sort of reworking the Carole King classic. He writes for a lot of other people as well… he can tell you more about himself.
OKP: Ok. Rell, how’d you hook up with these guys?
RELL: I came on board during their first project as a writer. So we all met very early on to what you're hearing now. They were together first but I came in a little after.
OKP: How’d the introduction happen though, specifically?
BOB PERRY: I was producing the record and I reached out to him as a writer because I had worked with Rell on some sessions in the past so I knew that he had the right sort of vibe that I was looking for. We’d been out of touch for a minute but I tracked him down and we got him out to the studio. Right away things started coming out fast. I think we knocked out to songs the first day and then within a couple weeks he had written like eight songs.
RELL: But it wasn’t a real process that’s the thing. You know it’s hard to answer your question that way because one after another everything started to flow and vibe and once we started we were all on the same page musically or at least in the same realm. Things just started to happen after that. Pretty much every idea that we tried we ended up running with or putting off to the side to run with later. Nothing got scrapped so it was a good vibe. That was the thing from my standpoint; that was what got me moving.
OKP: What do you attribute that synergy to?
RELL: Just being in a room full of professionals who know their craft and who are punctual and humble and dedicated. All the right elements to make great music were pretty much there.
BOB: It wasn’t ever like an ego thing where Tre might say, “I’m not cool with anyone else writing for me.” He was comfortable with working with other people’s material in the same way Rell was comfortable writing for somebody else and being able to put himself in [Tre’s] headspace to write a song that would fit their vocal style.
RELL: I just try to put myself in someone else’s shoes. With Tre it was no different but it was special because it was live music and that was pretty much my first time being in touch with that.
OKP: I can imagine, coming from Rocafella Records.
RELL: Exactly. Everything at Rocafella was tracks and you had your standard singles and things like that. I really get to play around with the live band.
OKP: Did it take some time to adjust?
RELL: A bit but it came kind of natural once I got a feel for who Tre was. And it was refreshing to be in an environment where I wasn’t completely responsible for everything. All these other masters of their particular lane or craft are in their with me.
BOB: Soul music in the classic sense is more than song or the singer or the musicians. It’s the combination of everybody being in the same room at the same time and playing that song down. It’s like you get this thing that’s bigger than any one person. There’s an energy you get from being a unit that you don’t get when it's just a guy singing over a beat.
OKP: Very true. So what were some of parts of the unit this go-round?
WES: We recorded the new album down in Memphis last summer at the legendary Royal Studios, which is the home of Willie Mitchell, and Hi Records. All that old Al Green, Syl Johnson stuff was recorded there. Willie’s son, Boo Mitchell, is now running the studio because Willie is no longer with us. Boo co produced the album and did a lot of the engineering and getting the sound right and working the magic from the ages on there for us. We hooked up with some real legendary Memphis session guys down there like Bobby Manuel who is a legendary Stax session guitar player. We had Lester Snell who worked with Isaac Hayes. And we had the sound of soul organ Charles Hodges who played on every Al Green song you ever heard. He is the sound of the soul organ as far as I’m concerned.
OKP: So trying to be original in these times can be a bit frustrating, no? You guys get frustrated ever?
WES: I mean, whenever you’re doing something original, man, sure; it’s a lot of bumps but that’s a part of it. We’re trying to stay true to our vision and we know that it’s hard being original and doing something different but eventually you make your own lane and then it’s all you and then people get compared to you. But yeah it’s been a long road.
OKP: Is it worth all the trouble? Do you feel like people understand the music and are latching on to it?
WES: Well, yeah we had a good foothold in the Southern soul market because our stuff is so rooted in the classic soul there that it was kind of a no brainer for those people and they really latched on to us and showed us so much love. Which is huge compliment for us, you know, to be able to take the music of our influences back to the source. To be able to have that type of love and respect from the people who were instrumental in creating the genre. To be accepted so wholeheartedly from them really gave us the inspiration to be like, “Ok we’re gonna take our knocks but we’ve got a winning concept here so eventually it’s going to get over if we just keep persevering.”
OKP: So here’s a question I had as soon as I heard the name of your band: Is the name meant to be kind of a throwback to the days when bands had names like The Temptations, The Bar-Kays and The Manhattans or is it just a nod to the new stuff you guys are trying?
RELL: That’s a good question. I never thought about that one really.
WES: Well, it was sort of intentional. We get two questions. One of them is, “Is this an old soul thing or is this gospel?” [Laughs] It’s The Revelations not Revelations the book in the bible. Fair question but...yeah, that was sort of intentional. We wanted a name that captured the vibe of what we have. It harkens back to that classic soul but it’s also a revelation, it's something new. That’s something we’ve always been very conscious of. Our sound is rooted in that classic soul thing but we don’t want to be a throwback, we want to be current, we want to be now. We want to be about the future. We’re just trying to bring something new to something that’s been around forever and I think that’s what the name conveys.