Dig out your best flanno because it’s almost time for the Revival Tour to wind through the nation. Founded by Hot Water Music alumnus Chuck Ragan, the Revival is all about beaten up acoustic guitars and impromptu set lists as Ragan and his mates – Frank Turner, Tim Barry [Avail] and Ben Nichols [Lucero] – bring the jam to the state. In this week long series, BLUNT bailed up Frank Turner to find out what we are in for.
So, how did such an illustrious group of musicians get together?
It’s all down to Chuck really – he put the Revival tour together, conceptually, and then got people involved. The first time round, in 2008, Ben Tim and Chuck did the whole thing in the States, and I only did four shows, but we all got on well, and I’m flattered to have been included in the line-up for Australia.
Is this in any way similar to the three Bens tour (Kweller, Folds, Lee)?
Um, I don’t know, alas.
Is there any sense of competition to be the ‘best’ front guy on the night?
Absolutely not – that’s one of the great things about Revival generally, it’s pretty much an ego-free zone, it’s a collection of equals having fun making music. It’s very refreshing for that reason.
Does having a backing band that basically consists of other frontmen give the shows a different vibe?
The whole vibe is very collective, and you find yourself learning new songs pretty much every day as people throw new tunes or covers or whatever into the ring. Plus we have the amazing John Gaunt and Todd Beene playing with us all as well.
Does it change the nature of your songs?
Yes, both because of the instrumentation and the different styles that everyone plays in. But that just makes it more interesting. The overall feel, musically, is pretty raucous, pretty old school country.
Are there any ego clashes?
Not to date, although once I accidentally got into Ben’s bunk (on the first day that I met him!) on the bus when I was hammered, and he got in too. It wasn’t so much an ego clash as a personal-space clash…
Ideologically, do you think that the three points of view being put across are compatible?
I don’t see Revival as being an ideological project, aside from the general approach to making the music the star of the show and not having any ‘stars’. It’s quite purist on that level, and a lot of fun. It’s also very broadening, musically.
Has your idea of what punk rock changed over the years?
Sure, it’s evolved; I no longer think it’s going to change the world. But then I’m more comfortable with it as a result, I can just enjoy it for what it is – good music and a defiant outlook on the world.
How do you think that your views on punk sit alongside those of the people who are now redefining it, for better or for worse?
I don’t think it would be very punk of me to give a damn what other people think it is, how they choose to define it!
Do you still consider your musical output to be grounded in punk?
Yes, definitely. Partly because I learned how to play guitar and sing in that context and it carries through to what I do (I sing and play a lot harder than most folk singers). And in terms of ethos, approach to what I do and how I organise my life, punk rock, as exemplified by Black Flag, is still very central to how I see the world. I hope it always will be.
With your musical pedigree and the expectations of old time fans, do you ever worry about letting people down or feel the need to pander to fans?
I think the only honest audience for any creative person is them self. It’d be hugely dishonest of me to write anything to try and please someone else, be it fans, record labels, radio stations or girlfriends. I just try to write the best music I can. When it comes to a show, I consider myself an entertainer and it’s my job to make sure people enjoy the show, but I’m not going to prostitute myself to that end.
Is there a need for you to evolve and change artistically or is it just that getting older makes it harder to maintain an aggressive/energetic front?
I try not to overanalyze, actually. I just try to write what I think is the best music I can, and however it comes out, well, that’s how it comes out. I don’t want to over think it. I think people naturally change as they get older, I’d be worried if I didn’t, and that’s reflected in my music. But it’s not really a conscious decision.
As a frontman, which artists have you found most inspiring of late? Has this changed much from the artists who were inspiring when you were just starting out?
The older I get, the more I appreciate all aspects of Springsteen’s career, both as a singer, a songwriter, and a performer. Henry Rollins remains a bedrock for me, philosophically. And I’ve come to admire Loudon Wainwright III more and more in recent years.