Revere celebrate their differences
Lead singer Stephen Ellis talks about the Kentish Town band’s second album- and how it almost never happened
Scotch eggs are good, but they’re better when they are shared, so, as I sit in the Bull and Last pub to chat with Stephen Ellis, lead singer of Kentish Town-based band Revere, I am pleased that he politely offers half of his snack.
I’m here to talk to him about what the band have been up to since their first album, Hey Salim!, was released.
It seems that Ellis has a lot to tell me. Right now the band are: “Pretty much waist-deep into the second album.”
It will be a change from the gradually building klezmer- influenced sound of Hey Salim! as the seven-piece have been influenced by their differences this time.
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“I think a big part of the shift in the band is that when we started out you tend to look for people with the same influences as you.
“At the start you quickly write music that sounds very similar to all the stuff that you all like together. For us that was a long time ago. The interesting thing now is that people have really started to pull in very different directions and so all of a sudden we have started writing stuff which has put a lot of us out of our comfort zone.”
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It hasn’t been easy though for the band, made up of Ellis alongside players of violin, cello, keys and trumpet, and the traditional guitars, bass and drums.
“There was a point after that first album came out where it got very, very fraught. It felt like we had to have a serious look at it about whether it was going to continue working,” says Ellis.
“The last song we recorded for that album was called We Won’t Be Here Tomorrow, quite prophetically perhaps, but it also had a real urgency to it that none of the other material had. It was all about seizing the day.”
The song enjoyed airtime on some of the big radio stations, catapulting the band into the next phase of their journey to put their music out there.
So, despite feeling like they were drifting apart, the band decided to continue. And recent success has proved that to be a wise decision. Since the first album was released they have been on a UK tour supporting Malian musician Toumani Diabate, who has worked with artists such as Bjork. It was a bit of a dream come true for Ellis.
“When I was 13 one of my friend’s parents had taken me aside and given me an Ali Farke Toure CD and I was obsessed with it.
“Toumani has done a lot with Ali Farke Toure. We went on tour with him – suddenly we went from doing small venues of 40 people to playing in front of about 2,000 people. It was brilliant. It just suddenly felt like this really magical experience. The energy around him was really positive.”
The group wrote songs with Diabate and even recorded a version of Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart with him. “It was incredible” says Ellis.
Now the group are preparing for the summer, where they will feature at festivals like Field Day in the East End and across the country (including Womad). They also get to reap the reward of winning a Channel 5 contest to have a video recorded.
Even with their successes, it seems a band, like a family, has to work hard to stay together.
But Ellis takes comfort in that: “When we’re colliding on stuff and not necessarily seeing eye-to-eye that’s where the interesting thing is. Those musical collisions are producing stuff which, for people who are not involved in the storm, produces music which sounds good. The emotional side gives something to the music.”
Revere will perform at the Field Day festival, Victoria Park, Bow, on June 2. Visit www.fielddayfestivals.com. For more dates and to hear the music, visit http://revereonline.co.uk.