It’s been three years since Late Night Revival released new music, but the American rock band is back and better than ever. The trio — made up of Neil Johnson (lead vocals, guitar), Adam Dashwood (guitar, backing vocals), and Jace Whitaker (drums) — just released their latest single “Xo”, which is about life after love and all the questions that follow.
I got the chance to talk to Neil about how the band originally came together, what they learned in the three years since their last release, the songwriting process for “Xo” and so much more. Keep reading to see what he has to say!
For those who might not have ever heard of Late Night Revival, why don’t you just tell me a little brief history of the band and how it culminated into what it is now.
Sure. So I actually started Late Night Revival in 2007 as just a project for me to just write. I’ve been playing in bands since I was 12 and I just kind of started as a way of me getting my own personal writing out. But it really started to become what it is now [when] we released our EP in 2016 and that’s kind of when it has been this particular lineup and things like that. So prior to that it was a lot of just random recordings and things like that.
Where did the name Late Night Revival come from?
Ooh, that’s a good question. It was just one of those things. Man, when did that happen? That would have been in like 2007 actually when it was started. We just threw a bunch of name ideas in a hat and it was one of those things; it actually started as Late Night something else, like Late Night Circuit or something and we were just like, “No, that doesn’t fit right.” And then we pulled out another one that said revival and the name just stood out at that point. It wasn’t one of the things that had any particular meaning behind it. It just rolled off the tongue and we’re like, “Alright, that’s it. That’s the name. Let’s go with it.” We just stuck with it and I’ve always used it.
And you still like it now? I mean, clearly you still like it now, but do you have any regrets about it?
No, I’m still totally cool with it. For some reason, I always wanted a simple one word band name. But it was one of those things, it’s like, “okay, now we have this EP out and we’re not going to change it.” A band name is a band name. So, I mean I love it. I do.
Something I’m always genuinely curious about is what artists want to convey to listeners with their music. So you guys would classify your sound as rock, but if you had to describe it without using genre names, how would you describe the music that you create?
I would say with the EP that we have out and “Xo”, the new single, I would say it’s a mixture. I mean it’s moody, it has everything from ambient moments to almost cinematic moments, but then it also has a very drive-y, upbeat feel to it as well. We kind of draw every inspiration from [the] early 80s and 90s [music] to today’s music. I mean without going into genres, we’re huge fans of music in general. So we’re all over the board. Even 70s; honestly, like 70s to early 90s we love. So it’s just all over the board. Everyone in the band is on totally different genres too. It’s kinda crazy, but it works really well. So it’s cool.
Yeah. Kind of going off that, do you guys have overall musical influences as a band or is it just kind of like you like your thing and then everyone else likes their own specific kind of music?
Yeah, I mean I think in terms of writing, cause I do most of the writing, I’m definitely pulling a lot from… I grew up on the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin and Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, you know that stuff. And then like 90s music that I actually was alive and listening to, bands like Smashing Pumpkins, Deftones, Incubus, that kind of stuff. Then newer bands like The Killers. The Killers are my personal favorite band of all time. So I love them and Coldplay and bands like that.
I want to talk a little bit about your new music. I know it’s been a couple of years since you guys released that EP, so I’m curious: what made now the right time to release new material again and what did you learn about yourselves, both personally and as a band overall, in that time period?
We didn’t plan on taking that long to release this new material at all. In fact, we never stopped writing since then. It’s never been an issue of we’re not working on music. Behind the scenes, we did have some setbacks. I mean we did have some member changes and we just had some moments of slowing down. So we kind of just were reclusive, I guess you could say. But we never stopped writing music. We probably wrote a hundred plus songs in just a matter of a few years. We just kept writing and demoing and writing and demoing and we would constantly rehearse and jam. But we just, I don’t know. I think we felt a little setback from member changes and things like that, so we just kind of worked on stuff behind the scenes. But we were just at the point where we were like, “You know what? We’re going to book studio time and we’re going to record a song.” So we booked studio time, not really knowing officially what song we were going to do, but we we had a bucket list of songs to pull from really; it was just one of those things where like, “You know what? This is a song that just feels right at this particular time for us to move forward with.” So that’s what we did.
So the single that you ended up releasing was “Xo.” What inspired that song?
“Xo” is really a song for me, as I wrote the lyrics and everything. I mean, it’s not one of those songs that’s about me, although I do write songs about me that are autobiographical all the time, but that particular song is more of me almost reflecting and putting myself in someone else’s shoes. I’m seeing the things around me, the people around me, whether it’s friends or even strangers that I see; I’m kind of pulling from a lot of that and even things that I see online or that I see on social media. I mean nowadays, we kind of have no choice but to see everybody’s lives, you know? And that’s a great thing. It’s not necessarily a bad thing; it’s a good thing and a bad thing I guess. Yeah, it was just one of those things that kind of came out and the word “Xo”, for whatever reason, just kind of stood out when I was just messing with the song. So just just off that alone, I tried to get started writing and basing the song off that kind of idea.
In terms of the songwriting process specifically, did this song come together pretty easily or was it something that took you a long time and you had to keep coming back to it?
No, this song came together pretty quickly. Yeah, it started with the intro guitar. I had the guitar riff with that particular drum beat. I just kinda had a loop of that drum beat and I would just jam it over and over and over and I was like, “Okay, this is a feeling, this is a good feeling. I want to move forward with this kind of a song.” And I think the song took I would say two days at most to write. I mean that song I just demoed it at my house; I demoed it and then I just sent it over to the guys and then we kind of took it from there and just started rehearsing it live and things like that.
Was this one of the songs that you wrote in that time period between the EP and then obviously this song coming out?
For sure. This and many, many, many other songs.
I know you said you do a lot of the writing for the band, but I’m curious: do you tend to write by yourself or do you like collaborating with other writers and artists in co-writes?
I would say it’s 99% myself. I write a lot at home; I just kind of get in my zone and I just literally write and write and write. Sometimes I’ll write maybe just the simplest little guitar riff and we’ll jam it out at our rehearsal and it turns into something else. Or sometimes I write an entire song and literally track the entire demo, drums and everything – just a rough idea of it; I’m not writing drum parts – but I’ll shoot that over to the guys and get some feedback. If it’s an exciting one, then we move forward with it. I mean we’re not opposed to doing co-writes and stuff. In the studio in the past, like even with the EP, we came in with the songs written already but we definitely rework some parts here and there with our producer.
That kind of goes into my next question. Were there any major changes made to “Xo” that happened once you guys got into the recording studio, whether it be in the lyrics or something sonically? Especially cause I know you just mentioned that you booked studio time and you weren’t even really sure what song you were going to record once you got in there.
Yeah. I mean before we actually went into the studio, we chose the song. So I had booked studio like a month or two out and we knew within a couple of weeks of being at the studio which song we were going to do. So we were already prepared to do “Xo” when we walked in the studio. But actually, “Xo” is pretty identical to the home demo. It’s very true to the home demo that we did. So that was one that did not change.
I know obviously you just put out “Xo”, but do you guys have plans to release newer music anytime soon?
Yeah, absolutely. We’re in the studio right now actually doing two more follow up singles that we’re going to be releasing really soon, in early summer actually. We’re going to be doing videos and things for that too. Then we’re going to be back in the studio after those two singles in September to do some more music as well. So this year, we’re just releasing singles. We’re not doing another EP or an album; we’re just going to be releasing singles and a lot of them.
Gotcha. I know you guys are obviously still relatively new to the music game, but like what are some music industry related goals or benchmarks that you guys are aiming to reach in the next couple of years?
So for the next couple of years, our goal really is to get everything. We’re really DIY; we do it ourselves right now. So we’re really trying to get the attention of some kind of a manager or somebody that can help us in that department or a booking agent. Obviously, I mean, a label would be nice, not sure when or are what the case will be with that. But I think in our immediate future, our goal with everything is to build our fan base, to really connect with people and get the attention of someone who would be interested in helping us get to a platform that we maybe can’t get to ourselves because we don’t have those connections.
Last question — our website is called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have some kind of inner nerd. So what is something that you are currently nerding out about?
Oh, I’m always nerding out on nature documentaries. I love nature documentaries.
What’s your favorite one or the one you watched most recently?
Planet Earth. They just released a new one on Netflix. Yeah, that one’s really good. But yeah, I have all the streaming services, so any nature documentary I’m obsessed with and I always watch them.