The Australian rock band REVIVE risking everything to relocate in the USA. Tony Cummings reports.
Over the years a tradition has grown up whereby Christian artists, having achieved a level of success in Australia, relocate to try and establish themselves on the American CCM scene. Sometimes they succeed (Newsboys, Rebecca St James), sometimes, after an album or two, they slip from view (Paul Colman Trio). So far the signs are good that Revive, originally from Sydney but now based in Atlanta, can make it in the crowded US scene. Their second album for Essential, 'Blink', is already getting added to US radio playlists.
The band's origins go back to 2004 when in a church in Sydney Dave Hanbury and Tyler Hall began playing together. Remembered Dave, "We were just bashing around on acoustic guitars. We weren't very good. I don't know how we got booked, but good friends of ours ran youth groups around the city and they'd book us to play for $50. We said, 'We get paid for this? Sweet.' And we would play a few covers and a few of our songs, sometimes twice. I don't know what it was like for you starting out, but we're like, '30-minute set? We have to play every song four times!' And it's so funny! We had a good time doing that, and surprisingly, we got booked more and more. We made a little record, like a five-track EP. We sold them all. It was 500 or 1,000; I can't remember. With that money, we wanted to make a full band record. Then when we got in the studio as a full band, we had so much fun, we were like, 'We should do this full band thing.' So we found Rich Thompson (bass) at our church. He's the kind of guy who was playing in 15 bands. He was playing in trios, rock bands, worship bands and wedding bands. He wanted to join and become a full member, instead of getting the $15 a night or whatever we were paying him . terrible! So we said, 'If you want to play with us, it has to be exclusive; and you have to say goodbye to the other bands.' And then we found Mike Tenkate on drums. He was young when he joined, maybe 18. He was playing in the worship band at church. We always knew he was a great drummer."
When Dave and Tyler had taken their first faltering steps they were calling themselves Me And Tyler. With a new band name obviously necessary the foursome began emailing their fans asking for name suggestions. Remembered Hanbury, "We got some pretty hilarious ones. People would email in and go, 'How about Vertical Horizon?' And we were like, 'That is a band.' How 'bout U3? These terrible names. And it was between Fighting Goliath and Revive." (As it turns out, Revive wasn't the most original of monikers - some fans may remember a Leeds-based modern worship aggregation called Revive who released albums through Authentic and ICC in 1998 and 2001 respectively.) In 2004 Sydney's Revive released the independent album 'Where I Belong' and two years later took a leap of faith and went full time.
By going full time tours began to reach outside of their home state and into wider Australia. As well as this they were able to co-lease an old studio as a part-office/part-recording facility. The guys were able to spend hours and hours each day writing and recording, crafting their own sound as a band. The results of their efforts were released in the 2006 album 'Trafalgar Street', named after the street the old studio was in. The album was picked up by radio and grabbed the attention of promoters across the country. One such promoter had just decided to bring Third Day out from America for a tour in Australia. He asked Revive to open the three shows for Third Day. At the soundcheck with the Atlanta-based Christian music stars Revive were "cheeky" enough to ask Third Day's frontman Mac Powell to watch their set and provide feedback. Powell was greatly impressed with what he saw and told the band, "If you ever come to America please let us know."
Dave told thirdday.com, "Before we moved, we did two trips to America as a band. The first was business, meeting with all the record execs in Nashville . that kind of stuff. At the end of the trip, we hung out with the Third Day guys more. We went home and we kind of gleaned from each other that we decided to work together. So we went home and we started writing songs and started sending them to Mac. We wrote about 50 songs and emailed them, and he would go, 'I like it; I don't like it; needs work.' Then when we had a whole bunch together, he said, 'OK, let's do songwriting. Why don't you boys come over to my place for a couple weeks?' We did that and halfway through the time together he said, 'Hey, we're doing a show tomorrow in Charlottesville, Virginia. Do you guys want to open for us?' And we were like 'OK.' We were pretty nervous. We jump on the bus, head to Charlottesville; and we do our very first show in the US in front of 4,000 people. I'm talking no café, no nothing. This is our first show. We are really nervous and little did we know. . We talked about working together with Third Day, but this show was an audition. They wanted to see how we got on in front of fans. We got on stage and I remember all the boys standing side stage with their arms folded and just watching us play. And I get out there, [and] I think as soon as they heard the Aussie accent and we said, 'Thanks for having us. Thanks for being so good to us because this is our first time playing in the US,' there was no going back from there. They loved it. We got off stage and we went home; and then we waited for about a month to hear back from Third Day. You know . would we be on their next tour? Would they be involved in our album? We got a call from Mac and he said, 'Let's do it. We'd love for you guys to move over here. Can you be here in 10 weeks?' And I was like, 'Yeah, no worries!' And then I hung up the phone and said, 'Wow. 10 weeks is not that long.'"
And so it came to pass that the band took the big risk and with their wives got on a plane for Atlanta. Dave Hanbury told Christian Retailing magazine, "I just committed this whole trip to the Lord. When we arrived in the Atlanta airport, we bumped into this lovely Christian lady who asked us were we going to be living in Atlanta." After hearing their story the woman found several band members fully furnished, rent-free apartments.
In the States Revive hit the studio almost immediately for what was to be their debut album on Essential Records. With Mac Powell producing, the album 'Chorus Of The Saints' picked up considerable radio play (in the UK Cross Rhythms are currently playing the track "Distant Memories". Said Dave, "We were more pleased with this album than we had anticipated. Mac brought our songs to a whole new level." Dave spoke about the title track of the album. "The beginning of 'Chorus Of The Saints' came from the Old Testament, and you read about the Israelites. You read that God delivered them from the Egyptians, parts the Red Sea in one of the most amazing miracles of all time and, three seconds later, while the Red Sea is still being moved around by God, they are saying, 'We want to go back to Egypt. Why are we in this desert? You've abandoned us, Lord.' As Christians, we look back and say, 'Those guys are so silly. They are so untrusting and foolish.' And the truth is, we aren't that different from them. And for our band, unfortunately, we are the same. We are human. And God has done amazing things in our lives. He's provided. Our prayer has always been, 'This is your band, Lord, and we'll move forward if you open the doors of opportunity.' Not once has he proven himself untrustworthy, so why should we stop trusting him?"
Revive earned a New Artist Of The Year nomination in the Gospel Music Association's 2010 Dove Awards. At the beginning of the year the band began working on their second record label release with two of the hottest producers on the current CCM scene, Jason Ingram (Brandon Heath, Tenth Avenue North) and Rusty Varenkamp (Bebo Norman, Rush Of Fools). The resulting album, 'Blink', due to be released in the UK through Integrity-Provident in June, shows influences from such acts as Coldplay and The Fray. The album is also the first time the band have worked with outside songwriters including Ingram, Ben Glover (Fireflight), Paul Moak (Matt Maher) and singer/songwriter Philip LaRue.
Said drummer Mike Tenkate, "As a band, you mature and work with different people in the hopes that everything gets pushed up a little. Jason and Rusty, with the experience and time they've had, really pushed us in terms of the songwriting and the musicianship on the album. They challenged us not only in terms of skill level, but also to work together better as a band." The band's unity was tested when in August 2009 guitarist Tyler Hall, never truly able to ease the discomfort from leaving his original homeland, decided to move back to Australia with his wife. Hanbury, Tenkate and bass player Rich Thompson continued working on 'Blink' - even before they found Hall's replacement - and slightly altered the band's musical core in the process. "We wanted more of a pop sound on this album," said Hanbury. "We're less interested in melting people's faces with guitar riffs. These new songs are based predominantly around melody, and that's dependent on strong songwriting. So we really worked ourselves on writing for the record. Then we complemented it with beautiful guitar parts."
In the midst of the sessions, Revive recruited guitarist AJ Cheek, whose previous band, Nevertheless, had just dissolved. Cheek added a warm, more subtle sound to 'Blink'. And he meshed quickly on a personal level with his three new band mates - refreshingly surprising, considering they'd spent their formative years on a completely different continent in a separate hemisphere. "It was one of those things where we walked in the room and introduced ourselves, and it was a little awkward at first, just like anytime meeting somebody new, but literally a half-hour later, we played some songs and we were out to lunch, hangin' out and goofin' off and already crackin' jokes," Cheek recalled. "It was crazy how easy it was to transition into playing with these guys."
The raucous opener "Almost Missed This Moment" presents the listener with a catchy chorus and punchy backbeat while the album concludes with the thoughtfully poignant "Welcome To Eternity". The overall concept of the album is living in the moment while keeping an eye on the finish line. Dave Hanbury recounted, "The theme kind of birthed from a discussion about how long we might be a band for. Are we gonna be a band for years and years? Realistically, you never know. So we thought, 'Well, we're gonna do this record. So let's make it about something that matters.' And it hit us! 'Chasing what matters is a great theme for the record: Your life is over in a blink. What are you gonna do with it?'"The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.