Whether you call it Americana,
alt-country, or one of the many other descriptions of what is classically
understood as roots rock, it’s hard to ignore the genre itself these days has
become saturated within modern music, oftentimes lulling the listener to sleep
with homogeneous guitar twanging and sad song lyricism.
Breaking that mold—actually shattering
it, frankly—is Los Angeles’ Dustbowl Revival. The group just released their
latest LP, the outstanding Is It You, Is It Me, which instead of being a
collection of cowboy and cowgirl laments is an upbeat mix of country rock and
soul, with a killer horn section and social conscience that’s admirable and relatable.
Recently, AQ spoke with
co-vocalist Liz Beebe about Dustbowl’s history, as well as the writing and
recording of Is It You, Is It Me.
Hey Liz. Thanks for taking the time to chat with AQ
No problem. Thank you.
So let’s start at the beginning… Can you tell me a
little bit about the band’s roots?
Yeah…. Zack (Lupetin,
guitars/vocals) started the band almost ten years ago. Everybody that he had
found at that time he found through a Craigslist ad. He had just moved from the
Chicago area to L.A. and wanted to be working in music, and the people he found
through that ad brought in other people. People are from all over; Connor
(Vance) our mandolin player is from Santa Monica, but everyone else is from
Washington, Illinois—our bass player right now (Yosmel Montejo) is from Cuba.
Everybody has their own history, you know?
Definitely. You and Zack have such an integral role
within Dustbowl Revival as co-vocalists. What really clicked for you guys when
you started working together?
Well, I’m actually one of the
newest members of the band, even though I’ve been around for seven years… and
I think what is so special about Zack is that he studied screenwriting—he has
always been a writer first, and a music lover. I come from an acting
background, and I’m also a music lover. So, I think the way that he writes
through stories is really special because I know how to insert myself in those
stories and tell them like they’re mine. To me, not only do our voices fit well
together, but our style of expressing art is similar, as well.
Sounds like you’re both approaching the music from a
similar school of thought.
Yeah, I think so, and then the
rest of the band are [trained musicians], so they all went to school for music.
It’s a really great team of people that have strong foundations in music theory
and improvisation, and then Zack and I have these strong foundations in
My understanding is that the band challenged itself to
write and record Is It You, Is It Me in a two-week fury. What was that
Yeah. The songs weren’t
necessarily written in that two week period, but that is definitely when we
took songs that Zack had been working on over the past few years since the last
record. And unlike previous years, we did not play them on the road. We kept
them close to our chest, and then when we came into the studio, we took those
songs apart and put them back together into the way you hear them on the album.
So, it was exciting and possibly a little nerve-wracking for everybody—I can only
speak for myself. But I was definitely excited to have new material and to have
it be fresh for the audiences and for us, which isn’t always the case.
That sounds like an intense experience. Did you learn
anything about yourself personally as a musician?
In this process, it was really
neat to come together and have the guidance of our producer Sam Kassirer.
Because there are so many cooks in the kitchen in our group, it helps to have
an objective, outside perspective that we can lean on, to have an over-arching
view—which is what I think is wonderful about having a producer on a project. So
for me, I think if you listen the album, the song “Let It Go” is one of the
songs that I brought to the band, and I think working on this album was an
in-real-life example of working on that mantra—letting go of control, letting go
of perfection and personal expectations, and just seeing what comes in that
How about the band—is this record a turning point for
the group in terms of growth?
I wonder if turning point is the
right [description]. It feels like every time we have a new album it’s at least
a big step forward, because the album that existed before I joined the band definitely
had an homage to a different time and feel to it…. So, I think that we
definitely grow every time we get together and we write. I just hesitate to say
“turning point” because to me that sounds like something else [laughs].
And what is that?
I guess a turning point feels
like a departure, and instead of this feeling like a departure, I think we’re
always learning and growing from our past experiences, so this more like an
I think some of the tracks on the album have a bit of a
protest vibe to them. Would you agree?
Yeah, I would definitely agree,
and that’s why Zack talks about a lot of [the songs] on stage. You know, he
cares a lot. Not that it isn’t for all of us, but for instance, the song “Get
Rid of You”—common sense gun control is something that Zack feels really
passionate about, and that’s something that he took to heart when he wrote that
song as an homage to the kids at the Parkland, Florida school shooting.
Very cool. So, if you were describe a Dustbowl Revival live
show, how would you put that into words?
Oooh, um…. we might describe
it differently, but I guess I can describe it for myself (laughs). I
would describe a Dustbowl show as always a good time—you’re gonna laugh, you’re
gonna sing, you’re gonna dance, and you might cry a little bit, at least on
this album. But it’s ok, because we’ll hold you if you do (laughs).