The Dustbowl Revival (Caitlin and Zach, second and third from left) at SM Farmers Market
In Woody Allen’s most recent film foray, Midnight in Paris (2011), Owen Wilson’s character, Gil, is transported from the modern streets of Montmartre to jazz age Paris, submerged into the sights and sounds and magic of the era. My first experience seeing The Dustbowl Revival was not unlike this: from the moment I stepped into the speakeasy atmosphere of Downtown LA’s Villains Tavern, surrounded by the sweet, nostalgic sound of bandleader Zach Lupetin’s cacophony, I was transported to another time and place entirely. They played well into the wee hours, but their bluegrass-gypsy-blues-swing mix was stuck in my head long after I left the vicinity. I recently met with Zach and lead singer Caitlin Doyle over dinner and quizzed them with ten questions…
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN THIS STYLE OF MUSIC?
Zach: I grew up in Chicago, and most of the stuff I was inspired by came through my dad, starting with the blues– Muddy Waters, Paul Butterfield, and later Benny Goodman, The Allman Brothers, etc. For me, everything starts with the blues, including bluegrass, western swing– they’re all different flowers from the same seed. And that stuff that bridges the gap–the Dead, Dylan, Joe Cocker, even the Beatles and the Stones–they all started with a blues and Americana core–always with that knowledge of the original. I got turned on to bluegrass in college at the University of Michigan. Once I moved to LA I put up an ad on Craigslist saying this is the music I want to do and this is how I want to do it. By luck I had some really good people get in touch. That was three years ago.
Caitlin: I grew up with a family who played the Grateful Dead and Tom Petty in the van on these epic road trips. They didn’t really get jazz, but I loved it. I was always singing and I studied jazz in college. On one hand, I find jazz completely creative, on another it’s completely stifling–everyone thinks they’re a singer, you know? I was always searching for something different. So when I moved back to LA after college, I saw the Craigslist ad, and I’ve been with them ever since.
WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO LA?
Zach: I moved out here with a degree in film. I had already lived in New York, but I needed to be near the ocean. The music thing has just taken on a life of its own. You know, in this town, you say you have a screenplay and people are skeptical. But if you’ve got a horn section and a good song, chances are people are going to think it’s awesome.
Caitlin: I moved out here because of Will Smith. I remember being here when I was younger, and seeing this massive ad on the side of a building off Sunset for Wild Wild West, and just knew I had to live here. This place can be larger than life.
WHAT ARE YOUR INFLUENCES AS A BAND?
Zach: From a songwriting perspective– Dylan, Count Basie, Muddy Waters, Mahalia Jackson and gospel music.
Caitlin: Performance wise, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne. It’s not always a particular person. It’s more about letting go of fear and just singing.
HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE YOUR SOUND?
Zach: I’d say we’re a mixture of bluegrass, New Orleans swing, and Chicago blues. Not unlike what Preservation Hall Jazz Band or Del McCoury band are doing now–where you have some genres that you might not think fit but end up working together beautifully.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE MUSIC STORES IN THE CITY?
Zach: Truetone and McCabes in Santa Monica [NOTE: the band plays McCabes on July 30–tickets here], and Record Surplus, which is where I get a lot of vinyl. There’s just not a lot of very good vinyl stores anymore.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE DRINK?
Zach: Red wine. And pickle shots–it’s a New York thing with a shot of Jameson and a shot of pickle juice.
Caitlin: Whatever we have a drink ticket for or whatever a sailor will buy me.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE VENUE TO PLAY IN LA?
Caitlin: Cinema Bar–it’s our living room–we’ve been playing there ever since the band started.
Zach: It depends–each one has it’s own charm. We’ve had some great shows at The Mint. But it’s really the crowd that makes the venue. The crowds at Villains have been amazing. But ultimate venue? Amnesia in San Francisco–wow.
IF YOU DIDN’T LIVE IN LA, WHERE WOULD YOU BE BASED?
Zach: Maybe back in New York. In an ideal world, I’d be based in multiple places.
WHAT WOULD BE YOUR LAST MEAL IN LOS ANGELES?
Zach: It would involve soft shell steamer clams at the Blue Plate Oysterette and the salted butterscotch pudding at Gjelina in Venice.
Caitlin: Street dog… with extra jalapenos.
WHAT ARE YOUR CURRENT OBSESSIONS?
Zach: Bowling. I just joined a bowling league. I bought a ball and shoes and everything. Any my new autoharp from McCabes.
Caitlin: Bell Brigade. Reruns of Roseanne. Buying clothes at thrift stores and taking them in–it’s so fun and cheap.
The Dustbowl Revival’s new album, Holy Ghost Station, comes out this month. You can see them this weekend at Make Music Pasadena, in addition to a slew of other places around and outside of LA. You can check out the rest of their schedule on Facebook, Twitter, or go directly to their website http://www.dustbowlrevival.com.