Local Artist Spotlight: Industrial Revelation

Photo by Alley Rutzel

Every week, KEXP features a new local artist with an interview and suggested tracks for where to start. This week, we’re featuring Seattle fusion quartet Industrial Revelation, who play Concerts at the Mural this Friday, August 25, with The Maldives and Emma Lee Toyoda.

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It really wouldn’t be much of a hyperbole to say the four members of Industrial Revelation are musical geniuses – they won an award saying so back in 2014. But more than just a plaque or a trophy, the quartet has earned that title with their brilliant blend of jazz, funk, and rock plus a spirit that celebrates experimentation. They’ve been at it since 2005 and continue to find new territory to explore and blow up with each new release. We caught up with band leader D’Vonne Lewis about the band’s beginnings, embracing their musical instincts, and how they’ve continued to evolve their sound over the years.

All the members of the band have pretty vast and impressive musical backgrounds, some members coming from Cornish College of the Arts and others cutting their teeth on the road. What brought the four of you together?

I met and played with Evan and Aham at different times while I was a freshman at Roosevelt High School in 1999. I met Josh right after I graduated high school, sometime around 2002. I first played with Evan when I sat in at a jam session when he was playing with pianist Aaron Parks at the Centrum Jazz camp and we had an instant groove connection and stayed in touch on and off throughout the years until I asked him in 2005 to be in what is now Industrial Revelation.

I met Aham sort of around the same time and he and I would play at various Starbucks and other venues around town with his jazz-country band. After he took a few years off from playing the trumpet, he came to a gig that I was playing at with the late great Hadley Caliman and he sat in and I told him I’d call him the next day because I was thinking of starting a band with him on trumpet. I wanted him to continue playing because he had such a unique and distinct sound. I first played with Josh when he and I ended up on a swing dance gig with Kevin Buster. Josh and I instantly had a musical connection as well. At the time, he and Aham were attending Cornish College together and that’s where we had our first rehearsal-jam. So, that’s how we all originally ended up together, but I have to mention also, that it was my grandmother, Beverly Washington(who bought me my first drum set) who insisted on me having my own band and book it just like my grandfather, the late-great, Seattle legend Dave Lewis.

You’ve been a band since about 2005. How do you feel like the band has evolved and changed over those years? Does it differ at all from what you originally thought it might be?

Musically, we’ve been like a fine wine that tastes and gets better with age. In life, most people as they get older; get more experience in life; experience love and pain; become wiser. So, each of us in the band through natural human growth and performing and practicing our craft, have grown together musically and in life. Three of us have kids and teenagers now. It’s a trip to think about because we started as kids ourselves. At times, it can be rough and tough; like a marriage, but it’s a journey that we all probably wouldn’t change for anything. We are still here, so naturally, there’s still room for growth and striving for improvement in our music and in life, of course.

Personally, I knew the band would be something unique and special, you just can never gauge HOW special and unique, or how much the music will affect other people’s lives and hit their soul. We all had a similar drive and focus to the music that we wanted to get out into the world. We knew that we wanted to bring an honesty to the music that we play. That in itself is something that can only be drawn out from the within. Hence, that’s the meaning of the ‘revelation’ name. For me, it’s spiritual. We’ve been true to ourselves and our music from the beginning and that’s exactly what we’ve represented since the band’s start.

One of the things that’s so thrilling about listening and watching your band is how much you experiment with sound, utilizing pedals and improvising on your instruments. What excites you about experimenting with music?

I enjoy being in the moment with the music. I don’t use the electric pedals such as Josh and Aham, but it is cool to experiment with certain acoustic sounds on the drums or with certain sticks that give me a unique sound, such as the pedals do for them. The improvisation mixed with the experimentation, “improv-mentation” that we do is very organic which to me puts us all in the band in a position to utilize our soul in an honest and open expressiveness. I like to describe it as a love offering!

How do you go on musical detours and still stay in creative sync with one another?

It’s a balance of letting go; letting your musical instincts take over, but at the same time staying true to the fundamentals of your instrument. As a drummer, I can let myself get loose all day and play lots of chops and licks, but it’s the fundamentals of keeping the time/my internal clock, staying rhythmic, playing to the venue’s volume, etcetera that helps me go on a detour musically, but to also continue to listen to the band or soloist and find a quick idea to run with for a few minutes. I think we all stay aware of each others musical-needs and wants.

Your last album was 2015’s Liberation & the Kingdom of Nri, which drew inspiration from the ancient African kingdom of the same name. What drew about this part of history? How did you want the music to represent the ideas of Nri and liberation?

Aham brought the Nri idea to the band. I didn’t know too much about it at first, but what I did like about that ancient people is that the Nri tradition was based on the concept of peace, truth and harmony. That’s exactly what we were trying to convey on that album; our own peace, truth and harmony. Once you have those elements within yourself, it can be liberating. Hence, Liberation and the Kingdom of Nri.

What’s on the horizon for the band next? Are there any upcoming plans for another record?

We have a few shows coming up after our Mural performance. Be on the lookout for a special show at the Neptune theater in December; Nectar Lounge on 11/14 featuring the wonderful Marina Albero and co-billing with Happy Orchestra and Urban Ghost. We will be performing the opening night of the Earshot Jazz Festival on 10/8 at the new KEXP space; Rhythm and Rye in Olympia on 11/18 with the band Duende and we are planning to record before the end of this year at the new studio Ahamefule Oluo is building at the moment. So, we have quite a few things on the horizon…be on the lookout!

For those who’ve never seen Industrial Revelation, what can they expect from your Concerts at the Mural set?

Expect the unexpected. That’s what’s so interesting about the band; we get backstage or at our rehearsal beforehand and discuss our set list for a show, then once we get to the show and on the stage, we find something new to riff off of. We perform our lives. We perform what we see in the audience. We perform our conversation before we hit the stage. So, it’s no telling what’ll happen, but I guarantee you that one won’t want to miss it!

 

 

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