Revival Season and Night Beats Get Psyched-Out

Jonah Swilley and Danny Lee Blackwell talk psychedelia, sandwiches, slot machines, and more.

Jonah Swilley is a member of the Atlanta-based band Mattiel, who recently started his new project Revival Season with Raf Rundell and BEZ; Danny Lee Blackwell is a Texas- and LA-based artist who performs as Night Beats. Revival Season’s debut mixtape Outernational just came out last Friday, so to celebrate, the two friends hopped on a call to catch up about sandwiches, UFOs, Las Vegas, and much more.
—Annie Fell, Editor-in-chief, Talkhouse Music

Jonah Swilley: How’s it going?

Danny Lee Blackwell: It’s going good. I’m just getting out of the shower. I was working on a video late last night, so I’m a little fried, but I think it went pretty good.

Jonah: Cool. I’m glad that you’re clean and ready to go for this.

Danny: [Laughs.] 

Jonah: I wanted to ask you, first and foremost — because this just kind of gets it out of the way — but if you could be any sandwich in the world, what would you be?

Danny: Does being a sandwich make me, like, have an appreciation for other sandwiches, or is it more about my own taste?

Jonah: I mean, yeah, you want to taste good.

Danny: Hm. It can’t be, let’s call them dessert sandwiches — like coleslaw on top of a Reuben, and you toast the bread. It’s pretty exquisite. So I’d say that’s almost like a dessert sandwich. You don’t want dessert every day — or do you?

Jonah: That’s cool, and very unique.

Danny: It’s an insane sandwich. I mean, that might be my favorite sandwich, but that’s not the question. If I was a sandwich, I would be a hummus, onion, bacon, ranch, toasted swirled rye, and then… I don’t know, something spicy. Jalapenos on the side or green chiles. [Laughs.]

Jonah: That sounds like a direct trip to the bathroom, dude.

Danny: No way, it’s so good. It’s got your protein…

Jonah: Well, OK, that makes sense. I mean, you’re a pretty unique guy. You just like to throw it all in there and have a lot of different influences. 

Danny: Thank you. 

Jonah: You know what mine is? BLT.

Danny: BLT? Solid.

Jonah: Three letters, dude. That’s all you need. Maybe an egg in there. So after you eat this sandwich, what does a day look like for you? You know, just like a random Wednesday.

Danny: Well, I think it’s mostly spent working on some type of creating.

Jonah: What are you working on right now?

Danny: I’m working on a couple of videos right now, but this one I’m working on currently-currently has a bunch of different shots that we took from video, and I’m putting them together and looking at color and composition stuff and making it go with the music. 

Jonah: Is this for Night Beats?

Danny: Yeah. This is the first single. It’s the first song off the album, too, so it’s like an introduction in a way.

Jonah: How long have you been making your own music videos? 

Danny: Since the beginning, in a way. Well, not the beginning, because at 15 — the family had a camcorder, but we weren’t making music videos yet. I think with moving to Seattle is when I started working with film and digital shit.

Jonah: Has it always been a psychedelic edge to your visuals? 

Danny: I think that as an adjective, “psychedelic” could mean a lot of things.

Jonah: But what does it mean to you?

Danny: Shattering the egg, maybe. I don’t think there’s one definition to it, because to me, it kind of is supposed to embrace the unknown. But I think a lot of things do that. I think anger does that, I think hope does that, I think frustration does that, love does that. I think “psychedelic” is something that you could pinpoint as maybe a style or something… Anything gets stylized. You can type in “blues” on the internet and you’ll see some dude with shades, you know?

Jonah: Also there’s so many different definitions and styles of one genre, or one idea of a type of music. Psychedelic can mean so many different things.

Danny: To me it almost cheapens it by defining it, because it could take away from something else. Like if I say like psychedelic is the unknown, or it’s the bizarre. that’s one thing. But so does soul music, so does punk rock, so does like rock & roll. The state that you get to passing out from lack of oxygen to the brain by screaming at Elvis is maybe far out as fuck.

Jonah: Holotropic, dude. I just read about that — “holotropic” is used when talking about breathwork. I don’t know if you ever have done that, but it’s basically like you hyperventilate yourself to the point of euphoria. It’s crazy. You breathe slowly through your mouth, and you have a guide and they basically just help you get to a place mentally, and then you talk about it afterwards. A lot of people have visions and real psychedelic experiences, without even taking anything.

Danny: That reminds me of the Wim Hof stuff. You know that guy? that I think he’s Norwegian.

Jonah: I don’t know him.

Danny: He does this breathing technique that basically defies science. It’s not just about holding your breath for a long time — what he does is he alkalizes the blood in the body, basically hacking his body. It has been proven to fight off disease — like they literally hook him up to something, he does this breathing technique, they shoot him up with a virus and they study it. And the virus doesn’t take because his blood is in a certain way [from this] slow breathing exercise. I mean, the stuff is far out as fucked. 

Jonah: Yeah. I mean, I grew up in church, as you know, and a lot of those experiences, specifically with the music part of it, were very trippy. That’s what I can still tap into now playing shows, that feeling growing up of people getting to a place mentally. I guess it’s kind of tribalistic in a way. 

Danny: Definitely. It comes down to rhythm.

Jonah: Yeah, for sure.

Danny: I just heard again recently that rad Lo Fi Allstars song “Battleflag,” and it just has a really heavy rhythm. And if you break down 13th Floor Elevators, for instance, it’s rhythm and soul infused in a way. Again, using a word like “soul” is tough also, because it maybe displays a level of vulnerability or authenticity, so that’s hard to define too. And I think psychedelic and those things are kind of one in the same in a lot of ways. But what you’re doing is you’re hearing rhythm and the combination of these nuanced sort of glimpses into the human spirit, and it’s creating something that could be the same feeling you can get from that “Battleflag” song where it’s like hypnotic. 

Jonah: Yeah. 

Danny: House music can be psychedelic. It’s more of an adjective.

Jonah: I think James Brown’s psychedelic. You know what I mean? 

Danny: Big time. 

Jonah: Like the repetition and crazy drum breaks, that have obviously stood the test of time. You can’t match that thing that he was he was on.

Danny: It’s all rhythm, man. It comes down to rhythm.

Jonah: Yeah, man. I mean, we have this mixtape coming out, and the rhythm aspect of it is very much what I bring. I incorporated some trippy visuals to the music that I feel like click really well. And it’s not your typical, you know, Tame Impala style contemporary psychedelic music. But it’s got that energy that… I feel like it’s almost like dub. We took more of a dub approach that I feel like is way more psychedelic. If you just go back and listen to dub records, they’ll take you to a place, you know what I mean?

Danny: Yeah, a lot of those ham radio programs where they’re just using live boards, and your Lee Scratch Perry stuff, it’s trippy as hell. 

Jonah: Yeah. That just made me think of — he’s not dub at all, or even psychedelic, but Jim Sullivan. How did you discover that U.F.O. record? Was it around the same time we were on tour?

Danny: My friend Miles, my buddy in Seattle, showed it to me, and I think he got privy to it from Light In The Attic because they did a reissue of it. But yeah, I couldn’t stop listening to it, as you know. If I got to DJ in the van for an hour or something, I’d probably go to it.

Jonah: Yeah. And then what’s the story? Because there’s a lot of UFO talk lately in the news, and I’m thinking maybe Jim Sullivan’s up there floating around in one of those.

Danny: [Laughs.] That’s beautiful. Yeah, so he was out in the desert, apparently, in California, and if you listen to the lyrics on that U.F.O. record, it’s very much like, “Hey guys, I’m waiting, where are you at?” A lot of imagery that was maybe not as common, talking about weird stuff in the way that he was doing it. And he apparently goes missing — he takes his car out to the desert,, leaves his guitar in the car, which was apparently very unlike him to do. So all his stuff was [left] there as if he just got out, and then there was no trace of him, and he’s never been found. He got abducted, basically. 

Jonah: So he made that record and then soon after kind of disappeared?

Danny: Yeah, that’s the story. But he’s incredible. I love his singing. His voice is very beautiful.

Jonah: And just the production on the album is such a… It’s like a ‘70s production Rosetta Stone. That shit is so clean and good. That record is great. 

So to switch gears, you got a tour coming up?

Danny: Yeah, [we’re playing] day two of Austin Psych Fest 2023, and a couple of shows in California.

Jonah: How many hotel rooms do you guys normally get now?

Danny: Well, we would get three, because our tour manager would get her own room, and then we would have two in one room and one in a single.

Jonah: Do you remember being in a hotel room with me in Las Vegas, and we were trying to hold off getting out of the room as long as possible? Because they were trying to kick us out because it was time to check out, but we had our flight at, like, 7 PM. I just remember I was camping out in this room and just basically acting like we were leaving every time they would come to the door, and be like, “We’re on our way! We’re on our way out now!” And that was for hours.

Danny: [Laughs.] “I’m just getting out of the shower!”

Jonah: That doesn’t work everywhere, but it worked at Caesar’s Palace. 

Danny: I’m glad you could do it, that you could feign wealth at a place like that.

Jonah: Oh, yeah. “I’m rich, man! Don’t worry, I could get another night if I need to, I’m rolling in money!” 

Danny: I just watched that Anna Delvey shit, Inventing Anna

Jonah: Yeah, it seems like that kind of [scammer] stuff happens a lot. I watched that WeWork documentary and I’m like, how does this guy pull this off? And I just pass. It’s like scammers on billion dollar level. I mean, I guess when you have that amount of money, people just trust you for some reason, which is so bogus. 

Danny: Well, that’s the hotel! We were able to just—

Jonah: Yeah, smoke and mirrors. I’m terrible at gambling — I’m terrible at anything that’s, like, by chance and putting money into something — but you, I remember, were good at the slots. Is that something that you’ve always been good at?

Danny: No, I haven’t always been good at it. It definitely took a bit of losing money to understand a little bit about it. But slots is kind of my Diet Coke — I definitely have an addictive personality with certain things. So gambling is fun. I’m not going to lie, gambling is amazing.

Jonah: [Laughs.] Yeah, people like it a lot.

Danny: I don’t want to play cards with people that I don’t know, because that just doesn’t sound like a lot of fun.

Jonah: You don’t like wearing glasses at a round table full of random dudes? You don’t like wearing your Oakleys?

Danny: Maybe in another life, maybe on a different planet.

Jonah: That’s actually a good music video idea, man. I don’t know if a lot of people have done that.

Danny: I actually played a card shark in a music video one time. We played a real game of poker and — a little Easter egg — I totally won the game. 

Jonah: What music video is that?

Danny:  It’s called “Currency” by Black Angels. But gambling — I do go to the casinos every once in a while. I don’t go enough to get better at anything.

Jonah: Right, and they don’t want you to get better. Their business is you not winning. Yeah, I just don’t have the mojo to be, like, “Put it all in, let’s go.” I’ll do, like, 20 bucks on a slot and I’ll immediately lose it, and then you just don’t even come back to it.

Danny: Yeah. But you have to have that one night where you spend, like, 200 bucks or something, and then you’re like, Holy shit, I made $800. Now I see this is possible. But I don’t condone it. 

Jonah: Yeah, it’s a dicey thing. But it’s everywhere — there’s apps everywhere for it, and I see it all the time. It’s funny that people shy away from talking about it sometimes, cause it is such an addiction…

Danny: Well, it’s constructed and intended for low income people. Powerball, Mega Millions, all that stuff is trying to make money off of poor people. So fundamentally it’s fucked in so many ways. But it’s such a huge thing now. Literally whole cities are built around that concept, that a little fun on the side is a little harmless.

Jonah: Yeah. I’ve only been to Vegas that once, but every time it gets brought up in conversation, I’m always like, “Yeah, the place sucks.” I just didn’t like the city at all. It just felt like a movie set or something, cause everything felt plastic. You know what I mean? 

Danny: Yeah. I think the main thing for Vegas that’s hard on the senses is the lack of foliage. There’s no trees, there’s no grass anywhere. Everything’s a giant concrete slab. And then on top of that, you have the more human stuff, which is more weird and complicated, like gambling and capitalism or whatever. But I think Las Vegas is kind of amazing because if you can find a side to it that you can enjoy and see people as people doing their thing… I don’t really vibe with it as a whole, but I’ve had fun in Vegas.

 It’s like a lot of places. I live in Los Angeles and people can can walk away with the same opinion. They go there, they see big lights and wasted people on the boardwalk and weird, quote-unquote, “Hollywood” shit. And I could agree with that for sure. But also it’s harder for me to sort of wrap up a city like Baltimore, for instance.

Jonah: Some people don’t like playing the fly over states, man. And I don’t blame them — I mean, touring post-COVID, you gotta really think about playing certain places. We made $100 playing Salt Lake City last time we played with Mattiel. It was crazy. I was like, “What are we even doing here?” [Laughs.] I mean, it was because we had to pay the club or whatever, but you’re like, “Dude, we could have just DJ’d somewhere or just hung out and not played a show.” And then but the people there were great.

Danny: You might have saved some money by not playing.

Jonah: It’s the type of shit people don’t even realize would be the case. 

Danny: I was thinking about this: I think the basic thing is knowing what you’re good at, and loving something strongly enough to want to work at it through the dark and the light and the hard and the easy — playing it on all modes. So then it’s like, the intent is everything. That show for 100 bucks — it fucking blows and it makes you think, Maybe if I was smarter I would have been able to think of this other solution before I got to this outcome. But at the end of the day, it’s the intent. I guess my example I can make is, it’s like going out to sea trying to discover some new world or some shit: You might hit land or you might not. But the intent to go out, whether or not you’re going to hit that land, is the point.

Jonah: Totally. And that’s why I didn’t know we were going to get so little cash, because it was kind of just like, I’m excited to get back on the road and just go at it no matter where we’re playing or for how much money. That was kind of the the energy behind that.

Danny: Right. It’s what gets the ship off the shore. 

Jonah: Well, cool, man. I’ll talk to you soon, and I love you, dude.

Danny: Alright, man, I love you, too. I’ll talk to you soon!

Jonah Swilley is an Atlanta-based artist who performs with the band Mattiel and his collaborative project with Raf Rundell and BEZ, Revival Season. Revival Season’s debut mixtape, Outernational, is out now. 

(Photo Credit: Mattiel Brown)