Photo by Rob Walker
Bands – really good bands – spend years searching for a way to develop that rare, magical form of communication that allows individual members to feed off one another during a performance without ever having to speak a word.
Dickey Betts, one of the founding members of The Allman Brothers Band, once compared it to an orchestra being able to perform an entire concerto – blindfolded, and in the dark.
“When it finally clicks – IF it ever clicks – there’s nothing else like it. The band becomes one and everything else just fades away.”
For the members of Midnight Revel, a Hattiesburg-based band of soulful, southern rock wunderkinds, it took three years of live gigs and some shuffling around of the original lineup, but when it happened, it was unmistakable.
Tyler Tisdale, the band’s 27-year-old lead singer, guitarist, and co-founder, said the moment finally came last December when all five members of the band went into the recording studio together down in New Orleans.
“We went in as five separate artists and came out as one cohesive unit,” he said. “I remember looking around and thinking to myself, ‘Damn. This is going to be good’ and I think we made something really special.”
The result of those recording sessions can be heard on the band’s first full-length album, Desperate Times & Blind Eyes, scheduled to drop Jan. 1 via iTunes and other digital outlets.
Produced by New Orleans musician Scott Sibley and recorded at John-Michael Early’s Downman Sounds studio, the album features 11 genre-bending original songs that span from southern rock to soul and everything in between.
Two of the tracks – “The Love” and “Keep Your Strut” are available now online and are already receiving critical praise.
Tisdale, who grew up in Petal, met co-founder (and drummer) Daniel Firth in 2014 – first through mutual friends and later at an ‘open mic’ night, where they ended up jamming together for most of the evening.
Firth, an Oak Grove native, grew up playing drums in an acoustic setting at church, but didn’t get behind a full kit until he and Tisdale met.
Shelby Kemp, whose family is from the Louin community in Jasper County, entered the scene in 2016 with mad guitar skills, but no place to call home.
“I literally didn’t have any place to live,” he said. “Tyler had an extra room and he let me crash with him.”
It was during this period that the two songwriters began collaborating on the tracks that would ultimately find their way onto the new album.
Bassist Zac Blackwell, who grew up in Oak Grove and now is a special education teacher in Petal, began playing with the band last year. Dell Smith, who grew up in Meridian, but has family ties to Laurel (where he now lives), joined the group on keyboards just before they went into the studio.
All five members have played in other bands prior to joining forces on this project, but Blackwell said there’s no question that what they have found together is unique.
“Each one of us has a ‘special sauce’ that makes playing music with one another so easy – and enjoyable,” he said. “The fact it works so well is part of what makes it so special, even though it may be difficult to describe our style of music.”
“We work really hard and we’re passionate about what we do,” said Tisdale, “and I think that shows when we perform.”
“And we’re also critical of ourselves,” echoed Smith. “We genuinely want to improve as individual artists – and as a group – and we’re not going to be satisfied being just another rock ‘n’ roll band.”
Growing up in South Mississippi, the influence of traditional southern rock music can be heard in their music, but it doesn’t prevent them from flexing their own creative muscles.
“Our music is much bigger than any of us as individuals,” said Kemp. “But at the heart of things, we’re just a bunch of southern rockers and hippies making sweet music and releasing it into the world.”
Kenny Paul Mann, owner of Slowboat Brewing Company in Laurel, was an early supporter of the band.
“The music they make is spontaneous and honest and I respect each one of them as musicians so damn much,” said Mann. “The music they make together is incredible and I can’t wait to see what happens.”
Midnight Revel's album release party is planned for New Year's Eve at Slowboat Brewing Co. in Laurel. Click here for more information.