Q&A: Jamestown Revival describe what folk means to them

Ali Breland

Austin-founded group Jamestown Revival is on its way to becoming a big deal in music. Since the release of Knives and Pipes, Jamestown’s rise has occurred within a relatively meteoric time frame, especially given that its genre — folk — hasn’t given way to a lot of mainstream talent in recent years. The group’s story is very “Walden”-esque. The members describe the core idea behind their group as transcendence, and much of their inspiration comes from keyboardist and vocalist Zach Chance and guitarist and vocalist Jonathan Clay spending time on Clay’s 1,200-acre expanse of land.

Daily Texan: You guys don’t like to use the term “duo?” Is there another word you attribute to yourselves?
Jonathan Clay: It’s a duo, but we don’t use duo in the traditional sense, when you think of two people with guitars or something, like Simon and Garfunkel. While it does have that element to it, there’s a lot more going on. It’s a lot more rockin’ at times. We’re a very high-energy duo. We also play with other musicians. Like tonight, we’re playing with a drummer. Sometimes we play with a bass player. I think the transcendent thing is Jamestown Revival. The idea of what it stands for. It’s Zach and I’s creation. I think we’re both open to bringing other musicians in and playing with other people and helping things evolve.

DT: What’s the transcendent idea of Jamestown Revival?
Clay: We were solo artists. I’ve been doing this [music] for five or six years now. I felt like throughout my solo career I felt like I was always conforming to what I thought I needed to be, what I thought I needed to bring success. Jamestown Revival was finally about [Zach and I] coming together. To just what feels good and sing about what feels good to physically play. To just get back to the basics of why we love music. Jamestown Revival is about all of those things. There are some repetitive themes throughout our music. A call back to the wild and getting in touch with earth and nature.

DT: When did you make the transition from being an Austin band to a nationally touring act?
Clay: The life span of our solo stuff was more from when we were in Texas. We actually only started Jamestown Revival eight or 10 months ago. I think when you’re doing something truthful, it picks up momentum a lot more naturally than when you’re doing something contrived. I feel like Jamestown is the most natural thing I’ve done in my life.

DT: Folk music isn’t the only genre of music you guys fit into, but it is a large portion of it. What do you feel like the role of folk is in contemporary music?
Zach Chance: I think folk has kind of had a relevance lately. It’s storytelling and people talking about real issues and things that affect them in their lives, whether it be government or things they’re observing. To me, it feels like there’s a rebirth of that or an appreciation for that. It’s always been relevant, but it seems like it’s caught a little more mainstream kick up. I think people appreciate the genuineness of it. It’s not just talking about partying and having a good time all the time, which everybody enjoys. There’s a grit behind it.
Clay: Yeah. I think people are also hungry for that type of music and the storytelling. Music that talks about issues like what happened in the ’70s. That’s why people are going back to music in the ’70s and listening to old stuff. Stuff that related then relates today. When you write in a similar fashion to that, it stays relatable.

DT: What kind of stories do you tell in your music?
Chance: Sometimes we can be selfish. We write solely from experience. If we’ve experienced that, then it’s easy to pull from that. We try to tell stories that have affected us, the way we’re feeling and things that paint a picture of home and what people can relate to.
Clay: There’s been some land that’s been in my family that’s 1,200 acres. We went out there, and we’ve been going out there since we were kids. A lot of our growing up took place there. There is a definite outdoorsy-ness bred in what we do. At the same time, we have a new song called “Truth,” and it speaks directly about you mentioned; what the country’s going through. It’s sort of an observation of the condition of the country. It’s like ‘what are we gonna do about it? When are things really going to turn around?’

DT: You guys only have an EP out now. Are there plans for a full album?
Chance: We’re discussing it. It’s all pretty fresh right now. We’re entertaining ideas of producers. It’s a long way away. We like what we’re doing, so we’re going to stick to the same sounds. We might explore moving forward or just keep doing our southern thing.

Printed on Monday, October 17, 2011 as: Folk group gains success singing 'what feels good'