The Dustbowl Revival is just waiting to be discovered. Voted “Best Live Band in LA” by The LA Weekly, they live up to their title, presenting energetic sets, filled with nothing but a boot-stompin’ good time. They aren’t your typical bluegrass band, though, mixing together sounds from various genres, including soul, swing, Americana, mariachi, folk and blues.
The band is led by Zach Lupetin, an extremely charismatic frontman who sings, and plays the harmonica, guitar and kazoo for the group. And yes, he can put on a mean performance while wearing a lampshade on his head. In its current iteration, The Dustbowl Revival features eight members, but also special additions from time to time. We chatted with Lupetin when he was winding down from the band’s European tour, and gearing up for an upcoming tour across the Midwest.
Modern Vinyl: To start out, how did The Dustbowl Revival turn into its current iteration today?
Zach Lupetin: I moved to LA from Chicago (via college in Michigan) hoping to be a writer in film and theatre. I always was in bands as an obsessive hobby and I put up an ad on Craigslist; got really lucky that some cool people responded and we were off to the races. I wanted to combine genres like folk and blues with swing and New Orleans vibrations and found that they fit even better in person than in my crazed mind. We have evolved the sound a bit — went from more of a collective of 20 people to a solid eight piece unit — and for the last three or four years have been playing festivals and attempting to not kill each other. We have fun.
MV: Why did you decide to form a band with an eclectic mix of Americana/folksy/blues influences?
ZL: I write songs that maybe reflect my schizophrenic love of many kinds of music; I love Wilco just as much as I love Louis Armstrong and Al Green so I think with our unique instrumentation — brass section and string section especially — we can cover a lot of interesting ground. I was never into the idea of playing one thing.
MV: You finished up your first full European tour not too long ago. What was that like? What were some of the highlights of touring Europe?
ZL: Everyone in our country should get over to Europe, if they can swing it, and just see how other folks live. We went to Holland and Norway last year and loved it; such a warm response for American music, and we had a good time this year too. We are a bit of a special novelty to them. It’s very expensive to travel that far, as you can imagine, with eight of us so there was some stress there, but it’s worth it to meet new listeners and fellow bands you would never get to see. TonderFest in Denmark really opened our eyes to the insane talent of groups from far-off regions: islands above Scotland, remote polar regions of Norway, and they treat artists with a level of respect there that often doesn’t happen in our profit-driven society here in the states. Also driving on the wrong side of the road in London is terrifying. Next time, we hire a driver. Also, the shrimp in Trondheim Norway are the best but the salted cod…
MV: Speaking of touring…it always seems like the band is out on the road somewhere. Over the summer you did a lot of folk festivals on the festival circuit, as opposed to a more traditional routing. What was the deciding factor for that?
ZL: When putting together tours, especially in the summer months, our lovely agent usually tries to find the best festivals in certain regions that will give us a shot and connect those weekend dates with clubs, concert series, performing arts centers or private parties and so on. We tend to try and keep driving — we typically rent two minivans — to less than five hours a day. Festivals allow us to meet a lot of new fans who, God willing, will help fill Cleveland or Pittsburgh on a Tuesday when we come back around.
MV: One of your most audience-engaging songs (“Lampshade On”) comes from 2015’s “With A Lampshade On.” Is it common for fans to come out to the show with their own lampshades, or do you provide them for the fans to dance with?
ZL: Our “Lampshade On” song started as kind of a nonsensical joke, kind of like the Beatles “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” but has accidentally become our whacky anthem of sorts. It’s about letting loose and forgetting the bullshit of life. And yes, people have started bringing their own lampshades which is awesome.
MV: You’ve been teasing some new music lately, between “Got Over” and “Busted.” What’s in the works for new music for the band?
ZL: We have been working on new music for some time, and will occasionally tease some on our YouTube page. “End of The World,” which we shot in China, and “Got Over,” which we shot in Denmark, both look pretty cool. We are starting to do a little moodier, soulful stuff and the first big single coming out October 14th is “Busted,” which will also have a limited edition gold 7″ vinyl!
MV: When we first chatted, you mentioned releasing a new 45 in October. What was your thought process behind that?
ZL: Vinyl is the most essential way to listen to music, but it’s also a cool thing to bring home from a show to say you really cared about what you just heard. Signature Sounds, the label helping us put this out, was receptive to the idea of a 7″ as the bridge before the full album is done by the spring of next year. We are super excited to be recording with Ted Hutt who won the Grammy doing Old Crow Medicine Show’s last few records. I hope it gives folks a taste of our new sounds and makes them look forward to more.
For more information on the band, including their next batch of tour dates, stay tuned to their Facebook page. Pre-orders for their 7″, “Busted,” can be found here. The 7″ will ship around October 14th, and is pressed on gold vinyl with a custom pocket jacket.