If you go to the Rev Gusto page at ReverbNation and listen to one of the five songs on the band’s self-titled EP, the music will inevitably remind you of another era of pop music, one that erupted in the wake of the British Invasion. The songs are short and catchy, well-crafted and embroidered with harmonies, hand-claps and la-la-las.
If what you hear reminds you even slightly of the Kinks or Ray Davies, your ears aren’t playing tricks on you. Davies has had an influence on this band, which formed in Lenexa several years ago.
“Ray Davies does this songwriting class every couple of years over in England,” said Jerry Frederick, the band’s singer and songwriter. “He picks 12 people from all over the world, and for two weeks he teaches you about songwriting. I’m a big Kinks fan, so I entered some of my songs and got accepted.”
About a year and a half ago, he and 11 other songwriters spent two weeks in Sheepwash, a village in Devon, England, under the tutelage of Davies, who gave Frederick much advice and support.
“He was really encouraging,” Frederick said. “He said he really liked my songs and told me to keep working at it. So I was like, ‘OK, if you say so, Ray Davies.’”
Frederick graduated from St. James Academy in Lenexa in 2010, but his music tastes go back to the mid-1960s and bands like the Kinks and the Zombies.
“Instead of going out on weekends, I like to sit in my room and listen to all kinds of music,” he said. “I really like that era of music, sunshine pop and old soul.”
He was also influenced, he said, by a grandmother who wrote musicals, performed on Broadway and toured Europe.
“She loved Cole Porter, so I heard a lot of that growing up, too,” he said.
He started Rev Gusto about two years ago with his brother, Sam, who plays bass, and drummer Quinn Hernandez, a fellow St. James alum. Where did the name come from?
“I used to know a priest who used to encourage people to sing with ‘reverent gusto.’ Eventually it got shortened to ‘rev,’” Jerry Frederick said.
The band took about a year off but regrouped in early 2012, this time with a different lineup. They added two more St. James alums: Shaun Crowley and Peter Beatty, who play guitar, keyboards and the occasional trumpet.
Crowley is classically trained and spent the 2012 academic year enrolled in the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory. In the fall, he and Hernandez will study audio engineering at Kansas City Kansas Community College.
“I know my theory, and if something isn’t working or sounds funny I can usually give them a long explanation as to why and try to figure out what to do,” Crowley said. “Jerry usually has most of the work done. We don’t have to do much.”
“I just strum the chords and sing the melody, and they do the rest,” Jerry Frederick said. “They’re all good musicians. Peter and Shaun are such great guitar players. I bring ideas to them, and they help fill it all out.”
Saturday night, for the second year in a row, Rev Gusto is on the lineup for RedRock KC, a benefit for the American Red Cross at Crossroads KC at Grinders. They’ll play tracks from that self-titled EP plus new songs written after Frederick’s audience with Ray Davies, songs that showcase everyone’s favor for melody, groove and pop soul and follow Davies’ advice to Frederick: Be disciplined but deviant.
“He told me a couple of things that I will remember,” Frederick said of Davies. “One was make sure your songs are really well-structured before you bring them out to sing in front of anybody.
“The other was to stay deviant, in life in general. Cause trouble. Don’t settle down any time soon.”
To reach Timothy Finn, call 816.234.4781 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.