Interview: Musician/Producer Robert Davis (Guitarist, Revis)

Almost exactly one year ago, Revis was set to embark on a nationwide tour to end their lengthy hiatus and promote the release of their first album in eight years. But then the tour was canceled, the album was indefinitely delayed, and then… silence. What followed was a lot of rumors, questions, confusion, and sometimes anger from fans wanting to know what was going on with the band. It seemed (especially this far on) that the writing was on the wall, so I asked Revis guitarist Robert Davis for an interview to find out the official answer and to see what he’s been up to personally.

He agreed, and has confirmed that Revis is no longer together. In our own personal conversations, it’s quite clear that it’s been hard for him because of how much he cares for the fans. The reasoning for no official announcements being made anywhere is that no one person from the band can speak for the entire group as a collective, and if they cannot agree on one statement, then no statement can be made. It’s unfortunate, but sometimes that’s how things work out. Below is our interview:

So to start, Revis has disbanded…

Yeah, it’s just personal differences. We had such a great opportunity and such a great record made, and things just fell apart because of those personal differences, and the label started all those personal differences. They kinda got in between us and some guys in the band were carrying more weight then other guys, and it got really heavy. You know, I wish those guys the best, and if a label came to us and said look we want to give you guys X amount of money to put out an album and here’s the terms, I would do that — I’m never going to say no. But at the same time though, I wouldn’t go out and tour with those guys. I’m getting old (*laughs*).

You’ve got different priorities.

I wanna do my own thing you know what I mean? I just turned 29 and I’m doing movies with Mikey Hilewitz, he’s my production partner and he was the drummer in The Yelling. We just scored a movie that’s getting nominated for best short documentary at the Madrid International Film Festival. We have a band that we started this side project with this girl named Shea. It’s really cool music and it’s gonna be done soon. And we’re also doing soundtrack stuff. We’re really staying busy. I’m co-producing a record with Bernard Fowler who’s been in the Rolling Stones for 25 years. He’s 52 years old and the best singer I’ve ever worked with. Mikey’s playing on the record and helping us write songs and it’s just really good. We’re staying busy and all that stuff. But I really wanted to get on Facebook and explain to the fans what’s going on, but I just couldn’t do that without stepping on Justin or David’s toes. I still care about the guys you know, so I don’t wanna do anything to piss them off you know what I mean? That’s just pretty much it in a nutshell.

So there was originally a dispute over the terms of the record… you recorded it there with the label, and there was a disagreement over the terms, and the label just tried to pit one side against the other?

Yeah, basically. We had no contract with the label the whole time we were working with them, and they were helping us start our career and put money towards a tour, and I booked the tour myself by reaching out to these clubs and telling them who I was, you know what I mean? I did it myself. The guys came back to me [before the sophomore album] and asked if I wanted to do this band again, because fans wanted to hear new stuff. I said sure, if we’re gonna do it, let’s do it right. We went back to the same studio and had this conversation with Jay Baumgardner, and he said he’d love to sign us but they weren’t close to getting contracts done. So we said let’s start recording and get the ball rolling, and we did, but then this contract got presented to us that just wasn’t fair. It just didn’t make any sense, and we wouldn’t have been able to survive off the terms. We went out and did a little bit of touring, and that got cut short because of the financing, and then we couldn’t see eye to eye about the choice to keep going. I wanted to keep touring, Justin didn’t. He wanted something more secure, and I said let’s just play the shows because there were fans out there, but we just didn’t see eye to eye. I’m not saying I was right or I was wrong, we just couldn’t decide what we should do and we couldn’t be together any more. Later on we had some more conversations that went in the same direction, and we couldn’t see eye to eye. Eventually we just stopped talking. There were so many good songs that I want to get out there, but we just can’t put them out with that band. I’m doing everything I can to help [the songs] see the light of day through other projects.

So the album you did record, is that just shelved at this point? I know at one point you were going to re-record… was anything ever re-done?

Well, I didn’t want to. I was over it. I was already just kinda fed up with everything. David had broken his leg, and I… with me I’m an everyday kind of guy. I work every day and some people say I work too much. I don’t care, because if I’m gonna do something, I’m gonna do it. With Justin, he likes to take his time and focus on it, which is just a different method and is fine, but I didn’t want to do it again. I basically produced the record with David, and I didn’t want to press all the buttons again. It was something I just wasn’t willing to go through. Once David broke his leg, Justin kinda went dark, and the whole communication line kinda broke.

It’s unfortunate. Is there any chance at all of that album coming out at any point? Or is there just no hope at all.

I don’t know how to answer that question… I don’t see it coming out. I really don’t, because the relationship that we thought we had with that label didn’t turn out to be that way. Once the papers came to light, everything changed. Before that paper was there, if somebody said you’re getting ready to break up with this label and you wouldn’t be working with them, and asked if we could put it out anyway, I would’ve said yeah, we’re great friends, and we can all still put it out and benefit from it. But that’s not the case now. It’s just how the music business works I guess.

What about the possibility of a buyout? Could a label or group of people just go buy the record from them?

Yeah, that’s totally a possibility. It wouldn’t take much, but if that were the case, I’d rather just hire a producer and have them step in, pay us that money instead, and let’s do this. I would do it, but I wouldn’t press all the buttons and produce. I’d just play guitar and bass and that’s it. That’s just the point I’m at. If it needs to be more than that, we’d have to sit down and have a conversation about it. But I can’t instigate it or go chasing that down, because it’s just a pipe dream at this point for me.

So what were you been doing between the first album and when you recorded this last album?

After Revis I got involved with a project called Hensley, that was very close to getting a deal. We did the Late Show with Craig Ferguson and some other stuff that was pretty high profile for an unsigned artist. We got close, and the singer kind of imploded. I don’t know what you’d call it, but he just didn’t want to continue. I got out of that and played with the Webb Brothers, who were Jimmy Webb’s kids. Jimmy Webb wrote for Glenn Campbell and wrote a lot of his hits. I played with them for a while and had a good time doing that, and then shortly after that Mikey Hilewitz (my drummer/producer) and I started this band called The Yelling, with Nathaniel, the former rhythm guitarist for Revis, and he did the singing. We had a song on Grand Theft Auto, Hawaii Five-O, and we were a really popular LA unsigned band, selling out clubs and having a good time. We kind of exhausted ourselves and decided to go our separate ways. It was a lot of working with labels, and labels were transitioning, and wanted Nathaniel to be more active as a front-man, and that’s just not who he was. We moved on, but the music of course lives on. Like I said we just scored a movie. Of course all that stuff is still on iTunes. This movie Save Our Souls is coming out soon, and you’ll be able to hear a bunch of tunes that were unreleased, and they’ll be on iTunes too under the Save Our Souls soundtrack.

We’re just moving forward. These songs we’ve been recording over the past year, Mikey and I have really been coming alive lately and we’re gonna start getting these songs up for this band that we’re doing with Shea Logsdon, a girl singer, and it’s gonna be a great and unique project. We also just produced this hip-hop artist from South Africa — you’re gonna be blown away — this hip-hop song is amazing.

So you’re producing now… are you available for hire if any bands would like to get in the studio with you?

I am available, but I’m loaded right now. But I’m available to book something later. I’m producing a few people right now. I co-produced this record with Bernard Fowler that’s got a lot of guest musicians on this, from Steve Ferrone who plays drums with Tom Petty to Ronnie Woods coming in to play a song. It’s really good man, it’s unbelievable that I get to produce with names like this. It’s a Rolling Stone and I’ll have producing credit — kinda crazy. I’m really stepping into that world and Mikey is too and we’ve got access to great studios here [in LA] and great home studios for pre- and post-production, and it’s just great. Really awesome.

I’m definitely looking to find acts across the country that are willing to invest in themselves. I’m not talking like beau coup bucks, but something like if they’ve got great music that’s really amazing, it’s just such a big bonus. It’s 90% of the battle, but the rest of that is having funding to move yourself forward. Revis had to beg, borrow, and steal to get to LA and get where we were. It always takes something to invest in yourself, but once you do that with the right team around you, and not a bunch of bullshitters telling you what you want to hear and a bunch of yes-men, then you have the opportunity to move forward in this game. I look at a company like pledgemusic.com, and it’s just so cool what you can do if you have something. Revis was gonna do that, and it would’ve been so much fun to make custom guitar picks out of broken cymbals for gifts, paint them, and really make other stuff and interact with fans — that’s what I’m all about, and when you get involved in that kind of stuff as an artist, fans are really going to be in to that. So that’s the name of the game these days as a rock band. It’s just staying really interactive and try to out-do yourself musically from record to record.