When I arrived at Swan Dive Saturday night at 8:30, the place was already buzzing, with people rushing in and out to set up for the performances of MAMAHAWK and Medicine Man Revival. In the midst of the craziness of stage setup and soundcheck, I managed to squeeze in a short talk with both members of the band, Keite Young and Jason Burt.
developing in dallas
As mentioned in my previous article about Medicine Man Revival’s residency, they are based in Dallas. Dallas, Young says, “is like a crucible.” Both Young and Burt express gratitude toward Dallas for providing a solid support system and great atmosphere for their music creation.
Although they cherish the support Dallas have given them, they acknowledge that it can be quite tough to make it in a city with so much talent. “If you’re not good, you kinda drown,” Burt says, adding, “The amount of amazing musicians who are actually there… due to the crucible… It’s dog eat dog in the best way ever.” He continues, saying, “we were lucky enough to have all those players on our team. We had a good opportunity to call in the big wigs, the best musicians in the world.” Young chimed in right after: “the best musicians in the world are in Dallas.”
Their network of collaborators, and their own artistic freedom, has allowed them to thrive in Dallas. They have nothing holding them back from creating the music they want to create, like a lack of musicians that can offer their talents to their creation process – they simply create what they wish. “We can make anything we want as long as we can think of it,” Burt says, emphasizing that although MMR is lucky in that aspect, for most bands, this isn’t the case – they struggle to create the music they truly want because of the lack of a solid and supportive creative network.
focusing on themselves – not anyone else
As such, MMR has crafted their music to the genres and sounds they want to create, or incorporate, not just the sounds to which they are limited – the wide variety of which can be quite clearly heard in their songs. With gospel, neosoul (which, Young says, “was invented in Dallas”), and rock amongst their most audible influences, MMR has found a unique blend of “mainstream” and “underground” sounds – although I hesitate to use these terms.
Young strongly dislikes the term “indie” musician, and Burt feels similarly. “Indie music is just a vague term,” he says, to which Young replies, “At this point, everybody is indie. If you make music, you’re an independent company. It’s not really an accurate term to describe something.”
Perhaps it is indecent of me to define certain sounds as “underground” or “mainstream,” but there are many qualities to MMR that make clear their ability to be very popular musicians – their talent, foremost, but also their stage presence, and their creation of a new genre that incorporates genres that are relatively uncommon in the mainstream with sounds that have a radio-friendly vibe (as is evident by their music gaining radio traction).
However, Burt says it is not their goal to bridge some sort of gap between what is underground and what is mainstream. “I don’t think I envision the music in any way yet. We’re just trying to climb the ladder.” Young adds, “That’s not even something we look at.”
medicine man revival is a brand, not a band
Perhaps most striking about my talk with MMR is the opinion they express about selling music – which, succinctly, is that music should not be sold. Certainly this is isn’t a very common sentiment amongst most musicians, and it sounds unusual coming from a band, considering their livelihood depends on their music. However, as they explain this idea to me, their vision became clear – music deserves to be heard, not hidden behind a pay wall.
“Music isn’t a commodity,” Young says. “We’ll sell the shit out of hats, and we’ll sell the shit out of shirts – culture, things that are placeholders for our expression. We’re not in the business of selling music.” Burt immediately adds a disclaimer, however – MMR indeed will be selling vinyl records, although Young says that, more or less, they’re only selling a piece of shellac, not the music that is on it.
Further, although their future album will be on streaming services, the records will have added extras, like interludes. “We believe albums are a premium experience. We wanna bring the magic back to that.”
With this view towards selling music, Young wants to make one thing clear: MMR is a brand, not a band. He repeatedly refers to the band as a startup – a “content company.” “We see just as much value in putting out a 30-second clip as we do a 3-minute song – it’s art.”
All about Love
As the interview winds down, Young discusses more about what, exactly, is the crux of MMR – both as a band and a business. To this, he emphasizes that MMR’s music is all about love and healing. “Our music comes from a place of do it now. A place of love.”
As the bands took the stage, the vibe of the show clearly expressed this message. Young talked to the audience in between songs, and sang as if he was actually singing to the crowd, not just at it. The audience was also engaged with the show, and a few people I stood near were dancing and really getting into it – feeling the music. Clearly, MMR’s sound was well-liked, because people were still rolling into Swan Dive past 12:30am – over 2 hours into the show.
As the crowd grew larger, so too did the feeling that MMR’s music really feels inviting. The vibe of love and healing created a welcoming environment for everyone at the show, and with this (and, obviously, their great music), MMR really hit their performance out of the park.
Medicine Man Revival will be performing at Swan Dive each Saturday of June. Their next show is Saturday, June 10, at 9:30, with Dream Attics.