Q&A: Dirty Revival gets funky onstage and even on the road

Tahoe Onstage

Sarah Clarke is the lead singer for Portland’s Dirty Revival.
Shaun Astor / Tahoe Onstage

If you need some funk music delivered straight to your soul, you can count on Dirty Revival to do the job. It will deliver what you need, no matter if there ’s snow, rain, sleet or heat.

For Portland’s finest funk service Dirty Revival, it’s all about getting onstage and getting the music to the people. Since it began touring in 2015, the seven-piece outfit has played everything from sunshine-filled festivals in Montana to ice-cold apres ski parties in Oregon.

Last summer when Dirty Revival rolled through Lake Tahoe for an outside concert, the band members had to contend with the smoke and haze from surrounding wildfires. Working in all those types of weather conditions certainly gives members a leg-up next time a weather reporter position opens up in Portland.

When you add broken-down vans, crummy vampiric sleep schedules and a whole slew of day-of logistical hurdles, it can be quite the exhausting adventure putting on a single concert, let alone a whole string of them.

But it’s all a day-in-the-life for a touring band. With the rise of social media and the business pressure to grow a band’s online presence and promote shows, you can now find that life pinned and posted to social media websites across the internet, chopped and cropped into GIFs and videos for your viewing pleasure.

Dirty Revival has seemingly adopted a warts-and-all policy when it comes to how members document the collective experience. A quick scroll through Instagram will reveal posts at both ends of the experiential spectrum, from stunning shots of the band onstage to surprising shots of the band experiencing late-stage cabin fever in the van.

For lead singer Sarah Clarke and bandmates Evan “Evv’n’flo” Simko (guitar + MC), Terry Drysdale (drums), Jon Shaw (bass), Ben Turner (keyboards), Chris Hardin (tenor sax) and Thomas Barber (trumpet), all the hard work is culminating into some real success. Dirty Revival recently signed up with booking and management company Nimbleslick Entertainment, whose roster includes Perpetual Groove and The Higgs.

On a national level the band has nabbed slots at major festivals such as Northwest String Summit and Soul’d Out Music Festival and has toured with bands such as The Motet and Con Brio. You can even chart the Dirty Revivial’s rise in the Tahoe region, with the band working its way from local bar The Divided Sky to North Shore’s Red Room and Crown Room at the Crystal Bay Casino to Offbeat Music Festival in Reno over the past couple years. The band’s sound has evolved from classic soul to a menagerie of funk, rock, soul, hip-hop and alternative.

Tahoe Onstage: Dirty Revival recently teamed up with Nimbleslick Entertainment. What are you hoping from this partnership?

Sarah Clarke: We want to tour and continue to expand but also play the right types of shows. They’ve been great so far in getting us where we want to be, like getting us with The Motet and other festivals that they have good relationships with. There is a balance between playing money gigs and playing cool gigs with bands you admire and want to play with.

The goal is to find that balance between making enough money while we are out on the road and really enjoying the places we are playing. Hopefully, we’ll be playing at a lot more festivals this summer and linking up with some cool bands. Good stuff in the works for March and April in California.

You released the “So Cold” EP in 2018. It featured a cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” that was really fantastic and cool. How and why did you choose that song to cover? 

We take a lot of pride in what we do with the covers that we choose. The Nine Inch Nails track is something that is the opposite of what you would expect out of us, so we thought it would be really fun to take it on. Our bass player sat down and transcribed every part and assigned it to a different instrument. That makes that wall of sound.

You haven’t released a full album since your debut in 2015. It was very soul-based record and right at the beginning of your career. How do you think the band’s sound has evolved since then? 

I think we are a completely different band now, more funk and rock. We didn’t make time to record (in the beginning). We didn’t want to get bored playing the same music and we were touring so heavily. We’ve been busy writing and writing and writing. We realized how little we’ve been in the studio. We’re focusing on getting our demos together and releasing a couple because we have a backlog of music and want to get it out to the people.

Could you elaborate more on the evolution?

I don’t know if we even got there on our first album, that blend of funk and rock. We got close, maybe at the end of a couple songs. The more we toured the more we grew with each other and the music kind of settled in. Then we know people’s strengths and we can write to it instead of trying to fit ourselves into all the songs. It’s hard to watch videos from a couple years ago. It’s who we were then, but it’s so different now. It’s kind of like a reflection of yourself that looks off.

You guys do a good job on social media, I think, of being genuine with some of the challenges and boredoms of life as a touring musician? How do you approach social media? 

We pass the torch around in terms of social media because everyone is a little uncomfortable with it. We’ll watch other artists and band and their histories and stories. We’re still figuring it out. It’s kind of like a teasing game, this contrast dangling a carrot so you maintain interest. It gets a little hard and weird for me and others in the band. We’ve been on the road for two weeks and no one is sleeping real great. It’s not something I want to document (laughs). Then there are those parts where you get to the venue and everything becomes beautiful and fun again, which you want to share with people.

 The band has got some great merchandise, specifically two things that are really awesome a T-shirt that says “Dirty, Nasty Woman” and condoms. Where’d those ideas come from?

The “Dirty” T-shirt was before a home show. I got this wild hair to do it. I got one made and there was such a positive reaction to it. It became a thing. A lot of these ideas deal with resistance, especially politically. A couple years ago we sat down with all the band members and wrote a ton of music. A lot of the music was when the presidential election was happening so there are political undertones to a lot of it. We just felt frustrated and full of angst and it manifested itself to different decisions we made outside of music.

The condom thing was our drummer’s idea. Our shows tend to be a party, drinking and dancing together and I think it’s good to send them home with a reminder of safety. Let’s promote that. Unfortunately we ran out, so we’ll need to order new ones.

— Garrett Bethmann

Related story: The Motet’s “RDM” steeped in musical tradition.

  • In concert
    Opener: Dirty Revival
    Headliner: The Motet
    Red Room after-party: Mojo Green
    Where: Crystal Bay Casino
    When: Friday, March 1
    Tickets: $25 in advance or $30 on the day of the show

About Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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