Interview: Get to Know STL Band Old Souls Revival
About four years ago, Neil C. Luke, frontman of local group Old Souls Revival, came across Pete Somerville during an open mic night at the Stagger Inn in Edwardsville, IL. Under the name Pete Moss and The North Side, Somerville recruited Luke, Jeremy Reidy—a jazz-trained drummer from SIUE—and jazz bassist Chris Meschede to form his group. The team of SIUE students began playing out as a bar band, but the four-hour cover gigs only lasted so long.
Luke came to the guys with original songs he had written back in Pinckneyville, IL. Seven years later, with the help from his talented friends, the songs came to life, forming the skeleton of Old Souls Revival. When Meschede started to become unavailable, the band brought on Dustin Rademacher and decided that indeed they were going to be an original band, playing money gigs on the side.
In 2013, the band recorded their first album, “Common Ground,” out of Bird Cloud Recording in Edwardsville, IL (run by former member of So Many Dynamos, Ryan Wasoba). Reidy describes their early sound as “a more chill country sound with inspirations from the Wood Brothers.” It wasn’t until after the release of “Common Ground” that the group began feeding on the electric energy from their live performance and morphing their acoustic undertones into a louder rock ‘n’ roll feel. Having played a generous amount of live shows in the two years leading up to their most recent record, “I Will Let You In,” the Old Souls found themselves inspired by this newfound style while recording out of Sawhorse Studios in Dutchtown, St. Louis—which Luke describes as “one of the best studios in St. Louis.”
“I would’ve never guessed that that’s what we went for,” says Luke about the new album, “We made a hard rock record, and I don’t really like hard rock, like I hate it.”
“I Will Let You In” was cut with engineer Dan Ficocelli, who actually became the band’s newest member, taking over for Rademacher after his move to Washington. As an observer of both Old Souls’ albums Ficocelli notes, “Overall, this album [“I Will Let You In”] seems to be in more of a straight-ahead rock vein than compared to the indie rock vibe I get from ‘Common Ground.’” Explaining that he has “lived with them most intimately on the sonic level,” Ficocelli says, “I took up the role on bass after Dustin left and it has been an honor to convey his, and now my own, visions.”
As lead songwriter of the group, Luke says in the past he found himself writing a lot on the theme of loss—having lost his dad to depression and suicide, his best friend to cystic fibrosis, and both of his grandparents before age 21. In comparison to the new album, Luke says of the title track, “I Will Let You In,” that it works as the theme in two ways.
“Out of context it’s inviting, and once you see the packaging it looks like an envelope, but if you finish the lyric—‘I will let you in, but that’s all I’m offering’—I feel like that says I’ve come to this place. There’s acceptance happening,” he says, launching into the idea that with acceptance comes skepticism.
Other songs on the album include “Move,” a favorite of Luke’s: “I think it’s just everything that I’m trying to achieve with my songwriting, which is to include a little bit of philosophy, but not be didactic.”
Another song, “Broadway Connection,” addresses the nepotism in the St. Louis music scene. “It’s about coming to terms with the fact that I just got to play the game because I only hate it when I’m not involved. I’ll tear RFT a new one until they publish my [stuff] and then they’re the greatest,” Luke explains.
“Have You Seen The Moon Tonight” is a song reflective of their old style, described by Luke as “the most committed that I’ll ever get to a genre. It’s straight up me ripping off everything I learned from Dylan.” And of course the anthem of the soon-to-release record, “Those Old Souls,” embodies the spirit behind what these four musicians stand for.
“It’s pretty much our mission statement,” says Luke. “Robert Johnson wasn’t trying to be like anyone, so I feel like if I dress like him and try to play like him, I’m failing in more ways. I’m just going to be myself and that’s what “Those Old Souls” is all about,” he explains.
Other than the sonic difference between the two albums, the presentation and delivery of “I Will Let You In” is also being developed differently than “Common Ground.” “The tangible aspect of the album itself is actually something we’re putting a lot of time into,” explains Luke, “The packaging was just as much of an art as the songs.”
The band worked with Gregory Davis and Aaron Nandor to come up with a marketing campaign developed around the idea of “a four-year-old’s birthday party” combined with signature rock ‘n’ roll images (booze, cigarettes, etc.). “Money isn’t being made off of albums,” Luke says, “I think that you’re selling yourself short by just going ‘OK, here’s our album,’—there’s so much more to it.”
The Old Souls hope to bring home the theme during their CD release show at Jefferson Ballroom on Jan. 29. “We chose a ballroom because we didn’t want a venue setting, we wanted it to be an event. It goes along with the whole theme of our record, it appears as an invitation, it’s all one giant concept,” Luke explains. The Jefferson Ballroom is located at 2017 Chouteau Ave. (the same building as PW Pizza and Vin De Set.) The Wilderness and Brother Lee and the Leather Jackals (both St. Louis-based rock groups) will open the show. Doors are at 8pm, entrance is $10 which includes one free drink!
As far as the future of Old Souls Revival, Luke says “After the CD release show, we plan on hitting the surrounding markets various weekends throughout each month and basically we’re gonna see if this pig can fly.” He also mentions his excitement for other local acts and events, such as 4th City Rag and River Kittens’ album release shows, Lo-Fi Cherokee and the growth of his own project, STL Here & Now, as part of a residency at Livery Co. on Tuesday nights.