2017 marks the 20th anniversary of the release of We Told You Not to Cross Us, the Revelators first LP on Crypt Records. It was my first ever record by my first band, and is probably the only reason you are aware of my existence enough to be reading this blog today. I owe my whole “music career” (ha ha), such as it is, to Crypt Records madman Tim Warren for putting out this record. As Allmusic said, “Hear it and be amazed.”
To celebrate, the Revelators are playing our first ever reunion shows. First in Austin in September, as part of the Austin Jukebox series (which in the past has hosted legends like Rocket From the Tombs, James Chance and the Contortions, Cherubs, Knife in the Water, and Pere Ubu, among others – prestigious company) and then in October at an amazing rock n’ roll festival in Spain called Funtastic Dracula Carnival.
To promote our return to the stage, and to celebrate the fact that anybody still gives a shit after two decades, we created a “20th Anniversary Edition” digital release of the album for the Revelators Bandcamp page. If you’ve never heard it, or own the LP but would like a digital version, it includes all the songs from the We Told You session, the two songs from our very first 45 on Crypt, and two cuts with Walter Daniels from our single on Sympathy for the Record Industry. (After the Revelators, I went on to collaborate with Walter frequently over the years, leading to our most recent release, the Meet Your Death LP on 12XU Records.) The “20th Anniversary Edition” has 22 songs in all, everything the original Schooley/Jeremiah/Mark lineup of the Revelators ever recorded!
How did this all come about? Last fall, I got an email from the folks who put on Funtastic Dracula Carnival, and they asked if the Revelators would ever consider playing a reunion show. I said, “Well, you are the first people to ever ask.” Next thing you know, after twenty years we have shows on two continents.
The good folks at the festival are pressing up a limited edition 45 with two unreleased songs from the We Told You Not To Cross Us session – Pot Smokin’ Pussy b/w Baby Doll. Tim shelved the songs because there wasn’t enough room on the LP for everything we recorded, and they’ve never made it onto vinyl until now. You can order the single by emailing email@example.com The 45 will be available at the festival in Spain, but if you don’t already have tickets, you’re out of luck. It sold out in under two minutes – a new record!
Grammy Award Winning™ graphic designer Rob Jones re-imagined the original cover of the Crypt album, giving us new artwork for the 45 and the digital “20th anniversary” re-release of the LP. I was never happy with how the original LP artwork came out, though at least I could assume that people bought the record for the music and not for the image.
You can now download the 20th Anniversary Edition of We Told You Not To Cross Us here. Only five bucks – cheap! I know you can stream it on youtube or steal it from online somewhere, but whatever. Five bucks.
In retrospect, it is hard to believe the Revelators even existed, or that we managed to unleash this record on the world. We had no local following, no fans, and came from nowhere. Columbia, Missouri, where Jeremiah, Mark, and I met, had nothing going on. Untamed Youth had been from Columbia, but were already broken up, and Untamed Youth guitarist Deke Dickerson had left town before we arrived. Thanks to Norton Records, more people knew about Untamed Youth elsewhere than remembered them in their own hometown.
Columbia was tolerable only because it seemed like the big city compared to the towns Jeremiah and I came from. Revelators singer Jeremiah Kidwell hailed from Shelbina, MO – population 1,704. My hometown was even tinier – Niangua, MO, population 405. Drummer Mark Walters was from the cosmopolitan state of Virginia, making him worldly and sophisticated by comparison. Jeremiah and I didn’t even know that we had just missed the Big Star reunion in Columbia in 1993, because we had never heard of Big Star at the time (Mark was there). The nearest record store where I grew up was 50 miles away. When Jeremiah sang about the bank taking the farm in “These Calloused Hands”, it wasn’t shtick.
Jeremiah and I had come to Columbia to enroll in the school of agriculture at the University of Missouri. Temporarily escaping our small towns and lives of toil, we were expecting to resume our lives of toil again immediately after graduation. We became friends because we were the only people in town who came from out on the rural route but also bought Billy Childish albums.
One of the few things Columbia had going for it was a good record store. Whitney Shroyer owned Whizz! Records and stocked all the latest Crypt, Sympathy, and Norton releases. I bought my first Link Wray record at Whitney’s store. We learned a lot from Whitney. (We would close the We Told You album with an inside-joke laden tribute to Whizz!)
We knew Mark because he worked at Whizz! Whitney said he was a drummer, so we asked a skeptical Mark if he wanted to join our band. We needed a decision right away, because after we had decided to start a band, we finagled our non-existent band into opening for the Oblivians even though we technically weren’t actually a band yet, didn’t have any other members, and had never played a show. I was going to play guitar, and Jeremiah was going to be the singer, and beyond that we hadn’t worked out the details. You’d think that opening for the Oblivians would have been a sought-after gig, but that’s just how lame things were in Columbia at the time. Two guys who had never performed publicly could snag the opening slot for the Oblivians when they didn’t even have a band together.
After deciding to start a band, and securing the opening slot for the Oblivians, Jeremiah and I only had about two weeks to recruit the other band members. We had originally planned to look for a bass player, too, but the clock was ticking. By the time we played with Mark it was only a week before the show. We had no luck finding other potential Revelators, but we told ourselves that the Oblivians didn’t have a bass player either, nor did the Flat Duo Jets or the Fendermen. Trio had already done the guitar/drum/singer lineup, so precedent was set. This was before squares thought that the White Stripes invented it. Fuck it! No bass player. Whitney let us practice in the Whizz! Records basement and we practiced hard – harder than all. We pretty much emerged fully-formed at that first show.
Later, when we went into the studio for We Told You Not To Cross Us, we recorded one song, dubbed it onto a cassette, and took the cassette out to the parking lot. We played it on our shitty car stereos, and decided that the mix sounded good in the car. Then we went back inside and recorded the entire album in a couple of hours. No overdubs, few second takes, no post-production mixing, 100% live. That record is the reason anybody remembers the Revelators in 2017. For the first album, just like our first show, we didn’t overthink it.
Jeremiah and I listened to country music, blues, and soul, and had jumped ahead to punk rock. We skipped over most things post-punk, post-rock, or art-rock. The songs were simple and to the point. It was the 90s, and everybody else wanted to sound like the popular bands of the era: Nirvana, Soul Asylum, Pavement, Melvins, Neutral Milk Hotel, Son Volt, Wilco – all that garbage. Even the supposedly “underground” bands sounded square to us. Nobody wanted to hear I’m Stranded-era Saints playing the Sun Records catalog. We were too roots rock for the punks, and too punk for the roots rockers.
As an odd breed, the rural punks, we were alienated from everybody. Our mix of influences didn’t win us any fans at the time, but the record still sounds fresh today while most 90s bands sound like 90s bands. Indie rock types buying Slanted and Enchanted from Whizz! didn’t get what we were doing, but it wasn’t like anybody from the college of agriculture came to our shows, either. Though we were playing quintessentially American music, we found that more people appreciated us when we toured in Europe than when we played in our own country. That’s probably why the first people to ask us to play again were from Spain, not Missouri.
I was bummed when Mark and Jeremiah quit the band (my second band wasn’t named The Hard Feelings for nuthin’). I never expected to ever make a living as a musician, but despite the complete lack of success I always believed that we were a great band. I figured that at least we’d go back to Europe one more time. Never thought it would happen, but when we recently practiced for the first time in two decades, we still sounded just like we did on We Told You Not To Cross Us, so – let’s get revelated.