Try to describe the sound of a guitar with words. It’s hard, isn't it? That’s because music isn’t tangible. It can make you feel. It will allow you to travel to a time and place that exists in your own mind- or in someone else’s life.
These emotions and experiences are usually what we use to describe what we hear; how music relates to us on a personal level is the closest we can come to calling it our own.
When you hear a band like Midnight Revel play, you’re hearing much more than just the sum of five great musicians. You’re hearing chemistry- nearly imperceptible communication- and the experiences of these men.
It’s this chemistry that musicians have sought for as long as we can remember, without ever knowing exactly what it was or where to find it. And while all of us have life experiences we wish we didn’t, the music wouldn’t be the same without them.
While the sum is greater than the whole of its parts, it needs the parts.
Nobody knows that better than Midnight Revel frontman Tyler Tisdale.
“We are a band. It’s about the music that I create with these particular guys that makes Midnight Revel what it is. If anybody left the group, it becomes a different band with a different vibe. We come from different backgrounds and different styles of music. We do have some similarities along the way but as far as I’m concerned everybody brings their own unique style to this thing. In my opinion, my most-important job in this band is to make sure all of that gets highlighted.”
Simply said, Tisdale and the rest of the guys in the band fully understand that it takes every one of them to make the music many have come to love and respect.
The band wasn’t always the same. In earlier days it included people like vocalist/guitarist Jamie Jordan (Burns and Jane) and bassist Zack Blackwell. And although these changes had an effect, sometimes a band gets it right.
The additions of Laurel’s Dell Smith on keyboard and Hattiesburg’s Scott Chism on bass are perfect examples of a good shift in dynamic. Coming from two entirely different backgrounds, Dell is a classically-trained musician with a doctoral candidacy in music from the University of North Texas and Scott regularly performs as part of acoustic-based Scott Chism and the Better Half as well as in the comedic hip-hop duo Massive J and Battlecat.
A quick listen to Revel’s District Sound Wave performance will show you these two men are right where they belong.
Dell had been in the band for two weeks before they asked him to play on their latest album, “Desperate Times and Blind Eyes”.
“(I was) holding on for dear life,” he said with a chuckle. The band had sent him every scratch recording they had and only rehearsed together once.
“He made the album I think,” said Tisdale.
Indeed, Dell’s presence seemed to pay off. Not only was the record voted Album of the Year at the 2019Best of the Pine Belt Award Show, but seven of those songs will be featured on the worldwide release of the wildly popular video game series, “Borderlands (3)”.
Combined, the members of Midnight Revel are a part of a multitude of musical projects. This- and what dynamics/chemistry can do to a band- is probably best showcased with members Shelby Kemp (Guitar/Vocals) and Daniel Firth who’s known to “play the drums, man”.
Together with Kenny Paul Mann of Slowboat Brewing Co., they make up another group know as Royal Horses. Distinct from Midnight Revel’s hyped up rock ‘n’ roll tunes, the Horses have a roots style that’s akin to rockabilly.
Two-thirds of a band in a different genre exists within Midnight Revel, yet their styles remain separate. Daniel calls Shelby a “writing machine” and when asked about the process Kemp says, “the song knows where it’s going to go”.
When a song is started by one person and given over to other people, a beautiful thing happens- it becomes theirs, too. A piece of every artist involved, four chords, and good chemistry can create a masterpiece. Just ask Nirvana.
Often, it’s not knowledge that drives good music, it’s the shared experiences of a band and even their audience. And it’s, for this reason, we can’t put a finger on the sound of Shelby Kemp’s guitar. It’s the sound of a memory, a feeling. It’s in the style of the man playing it coupled with the people around him. The sum of the whole- and a style of their own.
When Stevens isn’t performing with his band, Shagnolia, he can be found producing the District Sound Wave podcast with his partner in crime, “Electric” Thomas Pittman. Listen to the episode featuring Midnight Revel on Spotify and at:district.libsyn.com