Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band is releasing aptly titled new album Dance Songs for Hard Times on April 9th via Thirty Tigers, and every single song on the album is very likely to get you dancing. That’s quite a feat in an era without live shows and is set to bring very real consolation to fans at home via the album’s driving beats and relevant lyrics. But you don’t even have to listen and dance alone, since you can also tune into monthly livestream shows from the Peyton’s log cabin where you’ll find plenty of unusual cover songs and favorites alike. For those who want some extra insider reveals and and performances, you can also check out the band’s Patreon account which, having become a mainstay during the pandemic is going to continue full steam ahead even after live shows and touring begin again.
Several singles off of Dance Songs for Hard Times have already been released, as well as videos, and two that have provoked plenty of discussion are “Ways & Means” and “Too Cool to Dance.” They both convey Rev Peyton’s reflections upon his life in music, and upon life in general, brought about by struggles and isolation during hard times. Rev Peyton joined us to talk about the very real hardships that he and his wife and bandmate, Breezy Peyton, experienced in 2020 and beyond, and how that has fueled his songwriting, as well as his determination to continue making music as a band.
Americana Highways: I have really enjoyed listening to Dance Songs for Hard Times and I think it’s one of the best album titles I’ve heard in a long time.
Rev Peyton: Thank you so much. In March of last year, when everything shut down, we were all really sick. At the time, it was too early for everyone to get tested, but Breezy was sick for three weeks with a temperature of 102 off and on. We were home from tour and everything we knew was crashing down. We lost power at our place for something like four days due to an ice storm. Everything was so completely bonkers back then, I didn’t know if there were going to be roving toilet paper pirates out there! For the most part, the entire record was written then.
AH: That is so crazy to hear that!
Rev Peyton: It was a scary time. It was wild. I don’t do this very often, but I told Breezy, “I’m going to play you a bunch of songs.” And I played a bunch of these songs that are on the record by candlelight. When I think about this record, I think about that moment more than anything else.
I’ve toured for the better part of my adult life, and we were in the middle of what was supposed to be the biggest run of club shows of the year at that time, and we didn’t know what was going to happen. Here we are a year later, pretty much. It’s hard to believe. I don’t know how people are surviving, especially in the music business. It’s been a very dark time for people in the music business. Something like 90% of the music industry has been affected.
AH: It’s so serious, I know. Thank you for being willing to talk about it, since it’s a heavy thing. It’s messed up.
Rev Peyton: It is messed up. I was warning people about this virus before it was a big thing. I was following the news. I had some toilet paper sent to the house since the first thing that goes in the Western world is toilet paper when there’s a disaster. My Dad’s cousin was one of the first people who died of Covid in Washington state, so we knew from the start and we’ve known about 50 people in our friends and fanbase who have died. Knowing it’s real doesn’t make it any easier to take, since we’ve been shut down from doing what we’ve done our whole lives with no compensation. It just has felt like a shit sandwich that everyone has had to take a bite out of.
So we’ve just been trying to get along, but when I wrote these songs, we recorded them at the beginning of summer. At that time, we didn’t know if we’d be playing again in the Fall. As the shows kept moving, we changed when we were going to put the record out. And for a lot of people, that’s been the hardest part, just continuing to move things like that. Having a plan is so important so this has been rough. I’ve talked to a lot of people in the music business who are just not in the music business anymore and I don’t know if they’ll come back or not.
AH: That’s so sad to hear.
Rev Peyton: I don’t know what’s going to be born from the ashes of all this, but the only thing I’ve knows is that we are going to keep making music and we are going to keep being a band. We got our Patreon going and our livestreams set up and we kept going. I thought, “Even if we aren’t touring on this record, I want people to hear it. I’m really proud of it. I think it’s a moment in time.” I don’t think these songs necessarily have to be listened to in the context of this, but there is a context, and I wanted it to come out now. I’m really excited for people to hear this record. That’s the thing about being an artist: Art is meant to be shared, even if an artist may act blasé about it. All art. If you just create it for yourself, it’s something else. For a real artist, I think it’s not about accolades, but it’s about finding people who feel about that art the same way that you feel about it. They feel some kind of connection. At least that’s how I feel about it.
AH: Thank you for sharing the story of that time. I know it’s hard to talk about the real fear back then and the suffering that all of this has caused. I think it’s important for musicians and fans to hear that because they can relate, and this has all impacted their lives in huge ways.
Rev Peyton: I think music is a bigger part of our lives than we realize. Recording music is special, don’t get me wrong, but that live music experience borders on the religious. It’s a similar feeling to what you get at church, it’s like a revival.
AH: I totally agree with that.
Rev Peyton: It’s a community thing that happens there that goes way beyond something like going to a movie because it’s live, right there. We’ve done these livestreams and I’ve really tried to harness that because I know people like it. It’s not the same adrenaline rush and it’s not the same subconscious connection, but we try to get as close to live as we can, even though it’s not. There’s something magical about being in a room of people.
AH: I caught some of the videos of the livestreams and they are really great. I was a skeptic with livestream concerts in general, I didn’t think I’d enjoy them, but I tried a couple and I was surprised. It did do something for me, though it was different than going to a live concert in person. Watching and listening to a livestream would change my mood and mentality, though, and I felt like it would sort of push me in the right direction toward a better frame of mind.
Rev Peyton: For me, it’s been a saving grace because it’s been something to look forward. And because we wanted to do so many of them, it’s caused me to dig deep into our catalog and search out new things to keep them fresh. If you’re on tour, you’re in a different city with a different audience every night, so you have to have a routine. With this, I can’t have a routine. It has to be fresh every time. We try to use multi-camera shoots and use audio inputs so it sounds better than just an iPhone speaker. We’ve been trying really hard to do that, and we’ve been donation only. Right now, there are so many people out of work, and we don’t want them to miss a show. But if people are not out of work, they can donate. We have to keep doing this, we have to keep making music. It’s not a hobby for me, it hasn’t been a hobby for 15 years. It’s way more than that. It is who I am.
AH: I think this experience already has and could certainly still break peoples’ lives right in half if they feel they have to find other work. Then, who are you after that?
Rev Peyton: I’ve been a professional musician one way or another since I was 13 years old. I started giving guitar lessons and playing in bands when I was 13 and 14 years old. We’ve now been doing this for 15 years. Sometimes that feels like a miracle, and our fans have been so good. After our first livestream, it felt like the end of It’s a Wonderful Life. Now we make sure to do one a month and make sure it’s worth it and worthwhile for fans. Even after we get back to touring, we may keep it up to do a livestream every few months.
AH: How early on in this process of creating the new album did you get into Patreon?
Rev Peyton: The fans have been there for that and I feel like I can give them a glimpse into the writing process, and some things we don’t share with other people. Sometimes we do a weird cover, and we’re not sure about it, so we don’t want to put it on Youtube, but we want them to see it.
AH: You all have done so many great weird covers lately that you have shared publicly!
Rev Peyton: Yes, there’s been a weird emphasis on 1960s Soul music. I have no idea where that’s coming from. But with Patreon, we want them to get even weirder stuff. We’ve also been in the studio recording some new stuff that’s going to go up, including some covers, some originals. We may move our Podcast over there. We’re trying to do what we can to make sure that people feel like they are getting their money’s worth rather than donating to the cause. Because whatever else happens, Patreon will continue. That will be a way to connect with fans in a very real way and without any middleman. It’s just us and our fans.
AH: I wanted to ask about the album cover. I really like the colors and the font and how they are presented. What went into those choices?
Rev Peyton: Breezy really encouraged me in that. It’s the first time I’ve ever done album art. Normally we’d have someone else do that. I was kind of going for a 1960s donut ad that I saw. The color scheme is a little different and the way the colors rotate in threes is from another ad I saw. But when I saw the ad, I thought, “That’s what I’m going for!” Because there’s kind of a 60s or 70s vibe to the songs somehow, even though some of these songs are from a way older place, like “Ways & Means”. But somehow the way that Vance [Powell] produced it, there’s kind of a 70s sheen on everything. Maybe other people don’t hear that.
This is a crazy thing, but I see music in colors a lot of the time. That kind of orange red that you see on the front shows up a lot in my brain, so I wanted that color scheme to be there, and colors pulled from those photos. There were several options and Breezy chose this one. I said that I kind of wanted it to look sad and happy at the same time, which is a tall order. But that’s kind of how I felt this year, you know?
AH: If you managed to feel happy this year, that’s something! Did the choice of colors for the album cover affect the choice of colors for the video for “Ways & Means”?
Rev Peyton: No, not really, but I’ll tell you about the video. I told everyone, “Our next video is going to be in a laundromat.” And they said, “That sounds like the most boring thing ever!”
AH: I love the setting so much.
Rev Peyton: The idea that was in my brain is how it all went down. I said that the beginning of the video would have a cinematic element, and then a walkthrough like a Martin Scorsese picture. Then, I said, I wanted it to look like Quentin Tarantino directed a Katy Perry video.
AH: That is actually a perfect description for the vibe.
Rev Peyton: And we put spinning things on the fronts of the washers and dryers. We ordered stuff on Amazon and affixed them to the dryers. I said that we’d all be wearing the same colors, like Willy Wonka or something, and I didn’t know what colors we’d use until we saw the laundromat. We matched the colors to the laundromat. There were green and yellow tables, so to match the clothes, we went and got a lot of stuff from Goodwill, and also dyed some white clothes. Man, it worked out so well. It was perfect. The idea was just that when the music started, it was like a party in a laundromat.
The song is about the idea that there are a lot of people with a lot of greatness inside, but maybe they don’t have the seed money to push them over the edge, so it never happens. It’s not because they aren’t talented enough, but just because they don’t have the bankroll to push it forward. I know a lot of musicians who have famous last names and seed money who get the press, who get the look, and we never had any of that. The video itself is like that. If you knew how limited our budget was and how great it turned out, it’s amazing. It’s crazy how we managed to pull this off. We also had to work around Covid and have everyone tested and waiting outside. I didn’t want to date the video by using masks, since I prefer the music and the videos to be timeless, but that meant using a lot of restrictions.
AH: It’s amazing that the way in which you made the video is totally suited to the theme of the song.
Rev Peyton: It’s a wink and a nod, too, to people who know what it’s like to have to do laundry at a laundromat. The crazy thing, too, is that laundromat looks exactly like the ones that I used to go to with my mom, in the 80s. It was like a step back in time. I always have these crazy ideas for videos, and everyone tries to help me figure out how to do it. Actually, making music videos is one of my favorite damn things to do.
Thank you, Rev, for talking to us. Find more information here: