“Bass Player’s cover story about how Michael League leads Snarky Puppy on bass was awesome, but I’d like to add that you can lead a band dynamically, harmonically, and rhythmically without having to be in the forefront,” says George Gekas. He anchors modern roots rockers the Revivalists, which includes a pedalsteel guitar player, horn player, and keyboardist in addition to the core rock-band-with-frontman format. They cover copious stylistic ground from soul to Americana, leaving the listener unsure which side of the sonic spectrum they’ll explore next. Gekas delights in the possibilities, and feels his way around.
How do you drive the Revivalists in various directions without overtly taking the reins?
That often happens onstage at the beginning or end of a particular section of music. For example, when we’ve been improvising on an open-ended jam for a while, I often wind up driving the band toward the next part, but it’s not something the audience would easily notice. It happens musically. I’ll put a particular energy into a fill at the end of a phrase that’s more dynamic or harmonically different, and that sends a sonic signal.
How about during a jam?
I make most of my moves in the first and last bars of, say, a four-bar pattern. Those are the most opportune places for the bass to shine. That’s where you add variation to your core idea, such as sliding between notes, or run an arpeggio based on what you hear from another player. The middle bars should be the most sturdy.
How does that concept apply in a recording situation?
When the arrangement is more rigid, I listen carefully for creative ways to serve the band while satisfying myself artistically. “Wish I Knew You” is a good example: The verses are all feel. I’m sliding into and out of notes, and then leaving lots of space for what all is going on around me. During the chorus, I’m playing eighth-notes with lots of propulsion—literally driving the point home.
You seem to purposely eschew technical facility in the name of the greater good.
I’m a total bass geek. I pay attention to what’s going on in the community. There’s a part of me that would relish showcasing my abilities as a player, but the bottom line is that’s not best for the Revivalists. There is just as much satisfaction being the driving force as the rudder for our seven-piece ensemble as there would be at the helm of a trio.
The Revivalists, Men Among Mountains [2015, Wind Up]
Basses Warwick Corvette Standard 5-String, PRS SE Kingfisher, Fender Jazz Bass (American-made, passive), Fender Deluxe P-Bass Special
Rig Eden World Tour WT800 head, Ampeg SVT-810E 8x10 cabinet, J.H. Audio JH11 in-ear monitors
Rig MXR M288 Bass Octave Deluxe, Boss GEB-7 Bass Equalizer, Radial Engineering Bassbone OD preamp MF-101 Lowpass Filter
Effects MXR M288 Bass Octave Deluxe, Boss GEB-7 Bass Equalizer, Radial Engineering Bassbone OD preamp
Strings DR Long Necks Taper Core