This "5 and Dime" interview was conducted in-person backstage at a New Jersey music club on a cold and blustery December 2009 evening in Asbury Park. The historic Stone Pony was hosting a benefit show to raise money for a local food bank. Headlining the show was The Reveling, and their drummer, Jay Weinberg, sat down with me to talk about his band.
Talk about the origins of The Reveling. Also, introduce your bandmates, and comment on what they add to the band's chemistry as well as their musical influences.
Jay: The Reveling started in 2007 with a different drummer. I joined the band in 2008 after the previous drummer decided to go to grad school. The band put out a Craig's List ad. I was looking for a band after my previous one, Chaosis, disbanded. All the members were going to different schools, and we couldn't do anything lucrative. I was looking for a band I could fit in with while I was going to school in Hoboken, New Jersey. I liked what I heard and I went to audition with them. I think I was actually one of the only drummers to actually learn the songs and show up when they set up the audition. Our lead singer and guitarist, Sean Morris, could give a better explanation of the significance of the band's name, but essentially some guy heard some of the songs online and thought they were sinful. He wrote Sean with a long list of why he thought the songs were awful. One was because he reveled too much about having a good time. Sean found a lot of meaning in that and the name stuck.
Dennis Murphy, our bass player, hops around quite a bit onstage. Over last summer, I learned that he was quite impressed with my ability to eat many chicken quesadillas while we were out on the road. Dennis is kind of the big Dad of the band. When I don't have my drums set up the way I want for a show, and I am bummed out because of it, Dennis gets me back on my feet. He's a good motivator.
Guitarist Dave Kramer and I connect on a metalhead level. We're both big fans of the band Slayer. Dave brings a skeleton of a song, and he adds things that you wouldn't normally think of doing in the traditional sense of writing a song, like strange harmonies or strange ways of organizing rhythm patterns. I can feed off of that. He's also the quiet mad scientist, always orchestrating stuff. His sister runs our street team, so his family rules.
Sean is where the whole thing starts. It was fun to learn the songs outside the band and then learn what his lyrics mean to him and how they apply to his life. It's pretty special how Sean gets all of the kinds of emotions out there into his songs. The way he writes a song structure, something basic that can be taken a bunch of different ways, is really cool. On the new material we're writing now, Sean brings a solid start of a song, with a good format, to the table. When the four of us come together, the real experimenting goes on as we throw salt and pepper into the song. Little moments of genius and inspiration come to us in the practice space. It's then that we actually have a completed song.
As far as getting along with people, this is the easiest band I've ever been in. I've been in bands with my best friends, and we were around each other too much. We suffocated each other. Last summer, The Reveling played 11 songs in 10 days, and that's crazy. The tension builds up. Yet with this band, it was easy. We all get along and we all do what we love every night when we're together. The Reveling is a good little four-guy family.
I think I bring, like Dave, a silent productive approach to our music. I can be observant, almost from the side, then I come in with a certain angle on how a song could go, or how a setlist could be built. A lot of songs can also start with the inspiration from the drumbeat. If I can phrase my drums differently around Sean's riffs than he would've thought of, that can lead to several different interpretations of that riff. I try to bring an unconventional approach to what some might think is a traditional arrangement. I try to keep it interesting and fresh. During our live set, I stand up a lot on my drums and try to get the crowd into it. I'm the quiet, yet energetic, guy in the band.
The answer to your question about musical influences would be the same for all of us: our influences come from our lives. We take our experiences and our lives and craft our music around that. It's given The Reveling a cool little style that we have a good grasp of. I think our biggest fans and even casual observers would see that our inspiration comes from more than just the bands we listen to. Comparison is inevitable, but I think that The Reveling's live show is unique. We've all grown up in a musical era where stage presence is a huge thing. Our live show is us having a lot of fun, expressing ourselves through the music we've written. The mood that's on the stage, and the energy, is just us connecting with each other and with our audience. The Reveling is not a band that's hard to digest. Our music is applicable to people's lives. The audience reception has generally been good. The Reveling live is nothing more than four guys having a lot of fun playing music that they like.
With my next question, I would have asked for a verbal description of your band but you've been way ahead of me with that. The online music retailer, CDBaby, labels the music of The Reveling as New York punk. Nobody likes to be labeled, but does that label fit The Reveling?
Yes, because we're a punk influenced band from the New York City area. I've never lived in New York City, but I'm only ten minutes away in Hoboken. There's a certain energy in "New York" bands that can't be found anywhere else. There's a vibe that just runs in the streets, and there's an attitude, that you can't escape from when you're from New York. We're all proud of where we're from and that shows in how we approach creating our art.
CDBaby though is talking about our current record, "3d Radio," which is our "summer" record. It's driving down the highway with the windows open. It's a fun, punk record. The record we're working on now, if you can categorize music into seasons, is our "winter" record. The material is getting more introspective. It's getting darker as we delve into ourselves more. We want to maintain the energetic drive that most people would associate with The Reveling. I hate labels, and putting things inside a confining box that you could never get out of. But yes, as of now, I would have to agree with the general consensus that The Reveling is a punk band from New York.
"3D Radio" was recorded in February and March of 2009. It didn't take long to make since it's only four songs. It was a fun process. We started writing it in late 2008, a few months after I joined the band. The bass and drums on "3D Radio" were recorded at my house in my little studio. The room has a big ceiling and drums sound good there. Our guitar player Dave engineered it. Guitars and vocals were recorded at Dave's apartment in New York City. Music fans wanting a physical copy can go through CDBaby or Amazon.com; fans wanting to download can go to iTunes. Collectively, I don't think we've discussed a favorite song to play live. For me, it's the first song off the record, our quote unquote single. "Breadline" is a fun song to play, it's fast, happy and angry all at once, and it gets out a lot of aggression. "Gift" is also a big favorite. When you record and release a song, it's just a snapshot. It does stop evolving there. A song never stops growing. As far as fan feedback, we're getting a lot of response to "A Recurrent Rescindment of Self."
Jay, you mentioned the "summer" record, and driving down the highway with the windows open. Your father, drummer Max Weinberg, is Bruce Springsteen's long- time drummer in the E Street Band. Given your musical heritage, does The Reveling have to preconceive its future music to avoid the "Jersey Shore" stigma?
When The Reveling is songwriting, it's not a cerebral process. It's more organic than that. We don't go in with a preconceived notion of what a song is going to be like. We don't limit ourselves; we have no restrictions on what we can or cannot do. If a song is heading in a "Jersey Shore" direction, we'd go with it. With the new record, like I mentioned earlier, we're taking leaps into different spaces of our minds. We leaping into places we haven't gone into on "3D Radio." Our writing process has no limits as far as what genre we want to investigate. It's more a reflection of where we are when we're writing the songs.
The old-school approach of building a band is pounding the road and hawking your CDs. The new-school approach is self-marketing your band, your website, and through social networking websites like MySpace and Facebook. What is The Reveling's approach?
Our approach is whatever four guys collectively feel comfortable doing. We take it organically. In my previous bands, I've been like the manager. That gets really stressful, being aggressive in hunting people down and booking shows with promoters who don't care about you. It's good to be emotionally invested in what you're creating, and we all are. But we take it at a very natural pace. We're grateful for the attention The Reveling has been getting recently. I feel we're starting to take form as a real unit. People are responding to that too. Our approach to building this band all starts with the music. That's what it comes down to each and every night. We take care of that first. If you have good music and push it just a little bit, the rest will take care of itself. Networking is always important and it always has been. Touring and playing shows gets the name of the band out there. I'm a full-time college student so touring is hard for me. We have to play the majority of our shows in the area we live in. When we have time apart from school and jobs, then we can travel. We want to go to that town or that city where we've never played before. That's the way to make connection so that hopefully you can go back there again. The Reveling has developed the foundation of a following in our own area. At the same time, you can't let your head wrap around the building process. If you get too invested in the work aspect of making music, you lose sight of why you do it for fun. Even though I'm the youngest guy and the newest guy in The Reveling, as far as the music is concerned, good ideas can come from anywhere. The influence a musician can have on a song does not increase with his age. Even though I'm eight years younger than the other guys in The Reveling, I feel like I'm one-fourth of the wheel. We're all equal parts and that's a good feeling. I'm sure there are bands out there that are less confident in their younger members.
You did some shows in Europe filling your father's seat behind the drums with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. That raised the bar for you as a musician. Did that automatically challenge your bandmates in The Reveling to set the bar higher? Also, your musical heritage and connections bring advantages that I'm sure The Reveling will take advantage of. Are there any disadvantages?
I don't know. I haven't given much thought to how that experience would affect the rest of the members of The Reveling. I learned more in a year then I ever thought was possible. It's hard for me to think of where I was before my E Street experience because I've learned so much from them. I'm grateful for that opportunity, and I've learned lifelong lessons that will have an effect on how I play with anybody else. My stint in the E Street Band has generated publicity for The Reveling and that's nice. But how it affected the rest of the members of The Reveling is a question that you might have to ask them. With the E Street Band, you're there backing one person's vision. If you don't dial in to that, you're not doing your job. I can apply that to The Reveling by focusing on the emotion of a song instead of overplaying and trying to show people how good a drummer I am.
Your question about disadvantages is a very interesting question Dave. I can't really think of any. My musical experiences throughout my entire life have been extremely positive. I've never had a bad experience as far as the music goes. My only bad experiences have been with people. I haven't turned my back or gone in a route perpendicular to musical advice I've gotten from my extended musical family outside The Reveling. I do sometimes have to weigh that advice and my own intuition. The worst-case scenario is that disregarding advice and using my intuition could lead me down a path to a mistake that I'll learn from.
My final question to this interview touches upon the legacy of Pantera's guitarist, the late great Dimebag Darrell. I don't know how you learned about his onstage murder, but as the child of a famous musician, was your father's security as he played venues all around Planet Earth ever a concern?
First of all, if you're a fan of heavy metal music, you can't escape Pantera's influence. Vinnie Paul has always been a big influence on me as a drummer. I never saw Pantera or Damageplan play live but friends who did told me what an awesome show I missed.
It's hard to get over a tragedy like that. If I ever plan in the club that Darrell was killed in, I'm sure I'll get the chills. I'm sure I thought about the safety of my extended musical family when Darrell's assassination happened. Yet, being there on their scale, they are separated from the crowd and there are precautions. Security was ramped up after that happened and the precautions taken let you feel safe. But it was definitely discerning at first. Rock and roll, by nature, always has a danger about it. You never know what's going to happen next.