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Presented by Foggy Notions

Revival Season

The Workman's Cellar

Aug. 23, 2024

8 p.m.

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Revival Season

Tickets on general sale Friday 5th July at 10:00.

Foreseen by oracles and foretold by angels, the coming together of rapper Brandon “BEZ” (B Easy) Evans and beatmaker/producer Jonah Swilley was, by their own admission, a divine appointment. Both halves musically and spiritually forged in the twin flames of Georgia׳s Pentecostal churches and grassroots hip-hop scene, Revival Season tell straight-shooting tales of our golden age — chop, cops, badass bitches, self-snitches; drug-dealing and revolution — chronicling and critiquing the culture over baselines and beats that kick squarely in the teeth with a platform boot.
“3 out of 5 southern musicians started in the church it feels like, you know?” reflects Evans. “First time I did anything musical was in a church. We were an every Wednesday and Sunday type of family for a good minute.” Swilley, too — the child, grandchild and great-grandchild of ministers — pinpoints the rhythms of a church upbringing, in which he learnt to play the drums, as the beginnings of a musical life.
That their formative encounters with the Holy Spirit sometimes occurred under the very same church roofs and revival tent canvases was a fact initially lost on the duo; their collaboration founded on pure instinct. Having finished recording 2022’s Georgia Gothic with Mattiel Brown in their co-fronted rock’n’soul/garage outfit Mattiel, Swilley was looking for new collaborations, reaching out to friends who were making music. The pair already somewhat acquainted through the Georgia music scene, “B was the first person to hit me back with no questions asked.”
All four feet in with little hesitation, Revival Season unrolled beneath Evans and Swilley as if of its own accord: an instant rapport and creative chemistry — that unknowable, undefinable thing that flies between the most beautifully matched of songwriting duos — immediately giving rise to great music. “As we started building songs, it gathered up steam real quick”, muses Evans. ‘Everybody’ — hooky, wry, thrashed up and smoothed down and only the second track the pair had ever made together, set the ball rolling, its grainy, slow-mo garage guitar riff and acerbic observations — Every motherfucker want a badass bitch / Everybody got a fucking mixtape out — indicators of each creator’s role on the wider album to come. Taking cues from Dan the Automator & Prince Paul’s Handsome Boy Modelling School and Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique — records which “showed me you can incorporate rock’n’roll with rap and it not be like Linkin Park” — Swilley’s dynamic, ever-shifting production is the force that suspends Evans’ words in flight, sharp and precise as an arrow straight from the lips. Our dreams the only time that we escape...Got my heart on my sleeve and my guts on the stage Evans fires over the somewhere-between-dub-and-cumbia groove of ‘Propaganda’; Cube said fuck the police / That shit ain’t over / Cuz they still pull you over when they trying to hit the quota he spits over ‘Eyes Open’’s syrupy wooze: and on ‘Boomerang’, a song about public-persona politics and accountability, his enlightenment (The shit go way beyond dividers between the right and the left / Like when you look inside and realize it’s bigger than self) is held afloat by the eerie waves of an organ.
“We kinda worked backwards, reverse-engineered a lot of songs”, explains Swilley. Taking the approach of a remixer, he would be sent isolated vocals, written by Evans to music his counterpart would never hear, “...and I’d build a track around what he was doing vocally, kind of fill it out rhythmically, using his vocal as an instrument, seeing how I could accompany that musically and make it serve the vocal.”
Each element expertly balanced on the other, each creator an equal half of the whole, The Golden Age of Self-Snitching thrums with the fervent energy of creativity in perpetual motion, its sound constantly evolving — sometimes aerodynamic and slick (‘Last Dance’), sometimes jolting, glitchy and stuttering (‘The Path’), sometimes surprisingly jangly (a punk bass riff pops out of the slowly built ‘Look Out Below’ like a jack-in-the-box), and sometimes with a rattling, syncopated beat (‘Message in a Bottle’) — but never at a still. And if its trajectory is daring, coasting the hip-hop vehicle into unexpected bends (who could have predicted, for instance, the cribbing of Barry White lyrics for a squealy-guitarred song about opioid abuse?), it is never without the firm, intentional steer of a masterful hand on the wheel. They are always, as Evans puts it, “racing towards something, capturing the speed and having fun with it like a racecar driver would, not like a panicked freeway driver in between two semi-trucks” — an outlook nodded to by the NASCAR race suits the band don on The Golden Age...’s cover, and on stage. Having been captivated by Asif Kapadia’s 2010 film about the Brazilian motor-racing champion during the making of the album, Evans even at one point Speed[s] off like I’m Ayrton Senna (‘Golden Silverware’).
Much in the spirit of Swilley’s teenage bedroom beatmaking, The Golden Age.. was pieced together largely self-sufficiently, written both remotely and in person, and recorded between a temporary studio space in a health centre and an ad-hoc setup in Swilley’s dining room. A skeleton team of outside musicians contributed additional parts — with Jordan Manly [Mattiel] and Rupert Brown [Roy Ayres, Raf Rundell] on drums, Shaheed Goodie on guest MC vocals for the jagged, spiralling ‘Pump’, and Raf Rundell [The 2 Bears], with whom Revival Season had previously made the Outernational mixtape (“equal parts Prince Paul and King Tubby”) on hand as “vibe consultant”, bringing additional production to a handful of tracks.
Invigorating their listeners with a sound that never settles, the making of The Golden Age of Self-Snitching was also somewhat an act of self-revival for Revival Season: an exorcism of the disillusionment that comes with making music in the shadow of current mainstream hip-hop culture. “There’s these people that document what’s going on in hip-hop from the outside — they kinda pose as news, they dress the part and they talk the part, but beyond the surface it’s just people that are coming from outside the culture to profit off of pain” levels Evans.
“Everybody’s racing to do the most, to be the most, to show the most — The Golden Age of Self-Snitching is a commentary on that. Who’s gonna get the biggest prize for telling on themselves, exploiting themselves? People are fed into a machine that chews them and spits money out the other end — it’s destruction for profit.” What's a dollar for your dignity? he questions on ‘Chop’, ...Pushing they marketing dollars on drill / Sitting back watching your people get killed / Your portion ain’t barely providing a meal — and on ‘Love to See It’, a song which decries voyeuristic consumption of suffering, he laments: Y’all be on some trauma shit and acting like it’s trending news / Love to see a young n***a suffer it got a million views, following up with the warning: The revolution will not be under your notifications.
The cash-grabbing limb of the scene is one that the group actively resist, choosing instead to be bastions of the pioneering culture and sound which evolved around them in the mid-to-late nineties in the Southern States. “What I came up listening to turned out to be so pivotal” continues Evans. “I was in Georgia during the time of Dungeon Family coming up, and that turned out to be a big shifting point in hip-hop. We heard a lot of this stuff before the world, the way of thinking, the way of dress, the movement, the sound, we were there for it...Prior to that the South was really gated out, and as time has progressed it’s become more of a dominant sound, where almost everything in the genre comes from that time period and the sound and the attitude that was built there. All that stuff was on the back of really strong principles, on the back of the home-cooked, country-fied, soulful background that was added into the hip-hop formula from the South.”
“Dungeon Family, OutKast, CeeLo, Organized Noize”, concurs Swilley, “...they kind of allowed for us to exist. We feel comfortable to do what we do now because of people like that, and I think we’re just trying to carry that torch.” Evans counters: “We are the torch!”
And so it is that Revival Season are the curators, keepers, orators and progressors of their own history, embodying the canon and pushing its boundaries. Mic in hand on a stage (See this light keep coming out of my mouth, as Evans says on ‘Stars’), they are not so very different from the ministers who, delivering their message with fervour, first showed Jonah Swilley and Brandon Evans the way.

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