The Dustbowl Revival chases down the ten-year overnight success tag

The Dustbowl Revival (Photo courtesy of Talley Media)

It all started for Zach Lupetin with a Craigslist ad. No, this isn’t that kind of story.

But when the Chicago native placed that ad when he moved to Los Angeles more than a decade ago, he was starting a love affair of sorts, one that has all the twists and turns of a real love story as he brings the music of the band he formed from that ad, The Dustbowl Revival, to the masses.

That’s hard work.

“We’re sort of done it in the slow, hard way in terms of getting out on the road two hundred days a year, and it’s almost like you’re traveling salesmen, and you believe that you have this thing that you have to share with people,” said Lupetin, who brings the band to City Winery in NYC tonight. “The struggle has been having people really know about us on a larger scale, and they just don’t yet. That’s a humbling thing. But there are so many communities that have people who are really into good music. You just have to find them.”

The Dustbowl Revival delivers good music, none better than on their latest self-titled album. It’s the kind of record you don’t have to listen to ten times to get it; it hits all the right notes immediately, and no matter what version of rootsy American music you like, you’ll find something here. In fact, if you’re one of those folks just getting on board with the California-based band (like me), you’ll want to dig up their back catalog immediately, though Lupetin says with a laugh, “Some of the other ones weren’t as put together. We started slow.”

At least they’re picking up speed now, with the newest album the most representative of the eight-piece’s sound and character, mainly because the whole band was in on the whole process this time.

“The last few records were much more of my project, with the band backing my songs and my vision,” Lupetin said. “As we all committed to this, the band wanted to contribute more and weigh in with their influences and their rhythms and emotions, and that’s something that made this record much stronger.”

Now it’s time to get it out there, and while the instant reaction to the record is that it can’t help but bring the band to the next level, Lupetin is taking a wise approach in hoping for the best, but putting in the hard work to avoid the worst.

“I grew up in an artistic family in Chicago, and you hear this stuff all the time where people who put the time in busted their butt for ten years, and that’s when things started to happen for them,” he said. “It’s just sort of the way it is, like the (Malcolm Gladwell) 10,000 hour rule. And we’re still learning now. I feel like being ignorant when you’re young is actually a good thing. (Laughs) There isn’t anyone telling you, ‘Oh, this isn’t going to work out for you.’ When we first started, there was no concept of ‘Oh, we’re going to try and make this our lives.’ We wanted to make music and that’s it. It’s this impulse that’s deep inside you that you have to get out.”

And the music remains the catalyst for Lupetin and company (Joshlyn Heffernan, James Klopfleisch, Matt Rubin, Ulf Bjorlin, Liz Beebe, Daniel Mark, Connor Vance), a hybrid form that leads the listener not to a certain genre box, but to the, “Damn, this is good” category.

“My angle was to preserve this history that I loved so much in American folk music and sort of bring it to a more modern audience where it has a little bit more of a joyful feeling to it,” he said. “A lot of times, people think that music from the past is very stoic and it has to be historically authentic at all times where it’s not worth listening to, and I think Dustbowl never fit any genre or period in time. We have a horn section, a string section, and we put everything together into our own thing. It’s not for everyone, and we don’t really fit into any box, so it has been a little harder for us to find a foothold in certain worlds within music, but I’m proud of what we’ve done. It’s just a matter of keeping the line moving and getting people aware.”

So consider this a warning shot. Go out, see the band, listen to the new album, and realize that the best music may be happening right under your nose. In the meantime, Lupetin isn’t going to stop making that music.

“My fiancé is an actress in LA,” he said. “She’s waiting for the magic to happen, where we can go out and make the magic happen and that’s a blessed thing to be as an artist. As musicians, it is a hard life traveling that much, and we have eight people, so it’s a very challenging financial balance to make it work, but we’re blessed in the way that these communities that love roots music and jazz and blues, they want to be part of this preservation process of keeping this music going. But it’s up to us to keep it going and make it new.”

The Dustbowl Revival play City Winery in NYC tonight, June 30. For tickets, click here

For more information on Dustbowl Revival, click here

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