Revolution Saints Release Their Incredible New Album Against The Winds, Spring 2024
Step into the slipstream...
Against The Winds is the absolutely stunning new album from US melodic rockers Revolution Saints. It’s the band’s 5th studio album and the second with the current line up of Deen Castronovo (vocals, drums), Joel Hoekstra (guitar) and Jeff Pilson (bass). What is particularly incredible is that a record of this quality is ready to be shared with the world less than 10 months since their previous album, 2023’s Eagle Flight. We catch up with Jeff at his home in Los Angeles to get the full story. Jeff is understandably brimming with excitement and pride, and whilst he may be enjoying the gorgeous California sunshine, it’s ironic that back in the UK we are absolutely ‘against the winds’ ourselves as Storm Isha continues to ravage the country. As this writer battens down the hatches, our conversation begins…
Against The Winds is set for release on 9th February, in just a couple of weeks time. What sort of thoughts are going through your mind as the release date approaches?
Well I think the main one is that I hope everybody enjoys the record as much as we do. That’s kind of all that can happen at this point. We’ve got the videos out there, and I think the music speaks for itself. So I’m not worried at all and I don’t have that nervous trepidation. Sometimes I do with releases but on this one it’s just such a solid release. To me it’s about Deen’s voice and then Joel’s playing - just two phenomenal elements. Having somebody as proficient as Joel with someone who is as naturally unique as Deen,, I love the matching of the two, and so my thoughts basically are just that I think people are gonna enjoy this. I’ll be curious to see how much ‘expectation meets what actually happens’. I’m a happily excited guy!
Throughout your career you’ve released nearly 50 albums. Is it still is exciting to be releasing a new record now as it was a back when you released your first one in 1980 (with Rock Justice)?
No! (Laughs!) There is no way that that could be the case! The first record I ever had released on a major label was in 1980 and it was a real big deal back then. All throughout the 80s records sold a lot more and there was a lot more involved with it. So no, the excitement level now wouldn’t be the same. For me, the excitement level comes from the writing and recording process – that’s where I get really excited and that’s where I focus most of my energy. As far as release dates go, I love doing the interviews but it’s doing the record that means a lot more to me because I do this because I love the music. It’s not about fame and fortune and selling a million records anymore. That’s not in the equation. For me it’s about the music and so my peak is during the making of the record.
Well let’s talk about the new album. Against The Winds is an absolutely outstanding record, and the first thing I would like to talk about is how it will be released in less than 10 months since the last Revolution Saints record Eagle Flight which was only released on 21st April last year. It was huge surprise for me that a new Revolution Saints album would be arriving so soon, especially when of course all band members are involved in so many projects. How did you manage to create such an incredible album in such a short period of time?
Well, Against The Winds was still primarily written by Alessandro Del Vecchio who is the producer. So he had the songs in the pipeline. I got the tracks not long after Eagle Flight came out, and I think it’s Alessandro having a huge library of songs. I think that’s where that really stems from. We wanted to do it quickly, we wanted to release something and show people that this version of the band is solid. We are looking forward to the next record because Joel and I are probably going to be involved in the writing this time which will be fun. Again, I would say it’s mostly due to Alessandro’s extreme proficiency and prolificness!
This is of course your second album with Revolution Saints. The musical heritage that exists within this line up is staggering. What was it the band that made you want to be a part of Revolution Saints?
Deen and Joel! It’s a simple as that! I mean, both of whom I’ve known for a long time. I’ve never actually worked with Deen before – I’ve worked with Joel before – and I’m a huge fan of Deen’s voice. So when the call came I kind of said yes before the whole sentence came out of their mouths. I love Deen’s voice and I love Deen’s drumming obviously! He’s a world-class drummer but his voice really does move me. And I think Joel is one of the best guitar players out there. He’s a phenomenal talent, he has phenomenal feel when he plays and everything about his playing is just top of the list. So those 2 things together, it was a no brainer. Of course I’m going to want to do it! And I’m really looking forward to doing some writing together. Deen wants to actually get in a room and all 3 of us jam out and play which I think would be wonderful! I haven’t been able to do that with a band in a long time, so I’m hoping that happens. That would be too much fun! Just to work with Deen and Joel, I would drop a lot of things just to do that!
Just focussing on the record as a whole, Against The Winds exudes everything that Revolution Saints is known for, which is great melodic rock with the strongest of songwriting consistently at its foundation. However, this record feels a little heavier. Would you agree with this, and also was this something you were specifically trying to achieve with the new album?
Do I agree with it? Maybe a little, but no it wasn’t a conscious thing that we were going to be heavier. I think what it is is that we just try to approach each song with what’s going to really deliver the message on this song best and if it’s getting heavy then it’s getting heavy. If the 3 of us get to be in a room to write together I imagine there’s going to be some heaviness going on there too. But it’s still all about the song. Revolution Saints is all about the songs, no matter what. So if it takes getting heavy, we’ll do that and if it takes not getting heavy we’ll do that.
Well, let’s talk about some of the new songs and I would like to start with the title track. Against The Winds was of course the first single and it’s track 1 on the album. A wonderful track to introduce the album. I love the thundering drum intro, the whole mood and the sense of anticipation that builds before everything comes crashing in. I think it would be a great track to take to the stage to. Is this something the band were specifically thinking about when writing the track and considering overall track listing?
If there was to be a live show and that was the intro, sure, why not! I believe an album should be a listening experience. I’m kind of old school – I love my vinyl and I love going in and putting on a record, listen all the way through, change sides, listen all the way through… That’s where I come from. So track listing is very important to me, and Alessandro did the track listing for all this and I think he did a fabulous job! And yes, you want to build anticipation as you want to suck people in and get them ready, and if it makes them envision a live show, great!
Well I think Against The Winds is absolutely perfect for the vinyl format because when you talk about an album being a listening experience, this album is something that takes a listener on a whole journey and should be enjoyed as a whole. It reminds me of the old days where where you would go to a friend’s house or a party and you would take an album to showcase for everyone to enjoy.
Yes! That’s the way to experience music! It’s a great way to experience music. And I think it is a body of work. It’s not meant to be a ‘one stand out track’ record. It’s meant to be the whole thing and that’s why Frontiers likes to do several videos for these records because it really is about the whole experience. I really do want people – even if it’s a CD – to plug it in and listen to the whole thing. It’s about listening to the whole thing, it really is, and I’m glad you picked up on that because it’s a great point.
You mention that Frontiers love doing videos. The supporting video for Against The Winds is fantastic, but what’s most wonderful is the all the incredible feedback from the fans, words such as ‘my god how amazing is Deen and the band? Excellent, excellent, excellent’, ‘Epic greatness’, ‘Pilson remains a legend’, ‘Awesome tune!’, ‘Outstanding’ and ‘Simply spectacular!’. This is just a snapshot and I could go on and on! How does it make you feel when you hear such wonderful comments and love from the fans?
It makes me feel like we’re doing the right thing and that’s a great feeling! That’s what we’re shooting for! We enjoyed making the records and while we’re making the records were trying to please ourselves. Let’s face it – we do want to connect with the fans and connecting with them is tremendously rewarding. I’m pretty astonished at how thoroughly people seem to enjoy Revolution Saints and I’m just really pleased by it. So to answer your question, I am as happy as can be!
Another song I would like to talk about is Changing My Mind. This is just a beautiful song and for me it’s an example of a wonderful ‘storytelling song’. It’s no surprise that it would emerge as the second single. You’ve mentioned that Alessandro wrote the songs but as an artist, writer and producer, how important is it for you that a song tells a story?
Here’s my perspective on that. I love storytelling songs. That’s one of the things that I love about the Black Swan project that I do, because I think Robin McAuley is a fabulous storytelling writer. So for me, not all songs are storytelling songs but when they are, as a producer if I noticed that right away and if I say ‘okay, this is a story telling song’ then the production has to fit all around the storytelling, And I think Alessandro has the same philosophy. So the answer wouldn’t be ‘how important is it for it to be a storytelling song?’, because if somebody comes in with a song that isn’t particularly a storytelling song but I still think it’s a great song that I’m not going to try and force it to be a storytelling song but when they are I think it’s very important that the production matches the story. I’ve heard cases where I hear what this song is about and then the music around it kind of has nothing to do with it and that kind of makes me uncomfortable as a listener. So as a producer I want to make sure that that doesn’t happen. When it is a storytelling song it almost makes the production a little bit easier because then you have a clear path in front of you. When it’s more vague you can be creative and there can be other things - and I love songs that are vague and mysterious as well, I think that’s a great thing – but I think with a storytelling song it should be very clear what you’re going to do once you hear what the story is and I love that aspect of production.
Referring to the track Show Me Your Light, for me this is an example of where the keyboards perhaps have more of a lead role, but it’s the bass I want to focus on. The bass in this song just gives the song a whole hypnotic foundation and vibe. To what extent was this something you were specifically trying to create?
That was exactly the purpose of the bass line, to do that and have it be hypnotic and very fundamental. This was something I was specifically going for!
You mentioned yourself how Deen is a highly accomplished drummer and known for being a drummer but vocally he is an incredibly gifted man. You’ve shared the stage with some of the world’s very best vocalists, and for me Deen stands shoulder to shoulder with them. To what extent would you agree with that?
100%! Deen’s voice moves me as much as any other great vocalist and there’s something about his voice, even though there is that kind of journey-ish sound to it - you can’t help but think of Journey when you hear is voice to a certain degree. I think the reason it works is there is a natural innocence and vulnerability about his voice, even though it’s very powerful. There’s a deep emotion in there and he conveys a very complete set of emotions. He voice conveys it all to me, and I think that’s because that’s who he is. He’s such a natural. He’s not trying to sing, he’s emoting and that’s the kind of singing that I’m really drawn to. And yes, I would agree with you, he’s right up there with all the greats, he really is!
The album was produced by Alessandro Del Vecchio and you’ve mentioned the proficiency he has. Of course, you yourself, Jeff, are an absolutely outstanding producer and as such there must be a part of you that’s always in ‘producer mode’. To what extent is that a fair thing to say and was it hard to stand back and just let Alessandro do his thing?
There is a certain degree where you’re always in producer mode, you kind of can’t help that, but I will tell you, for me Revolution Saints is a great release because I don’t have to be the producer! Number one, I have a wonderful working relationship with Alessandro. Not only do I deeply respect him but I just think the world of him and I think he’s great. 99% of the time I’m going to agree with how he approaches things. So for me, it’s nice to just be the bass player, it really is! I don’t have any problem with that at all. It’s fun for me because I don’t get to do that with other projects. Generally, if Alessandro is going to present an idea it’s going to be great. It’s a joy kick back and just play bass!
Well let’s focus a little bit more on Alessandro? He has been a part of the Revolution Saints story since the outset. As well as being a producer he also contributes keyboards and backing vocals to this record. It seems like he is an unofficial fourth member of the band. To what extent is that fair thing to say?
Oh yeah! I would absolutely agree with that!
Revolution Saints now has 5 albums and an incredible body of work. It’s clear that there is a huge demand for live shows. What plans do the band have for live dates and with all members having so many other commitments, how realistic is it that you will actually get to tour the album Against The Winds to ensure it reaches its full potential?
Well, there is definitely talk of trying to do something to get the band to play live. There’s a lot of talk about that but nothing concrete right now. I will tell you that this is my last year of full-on, 9 months of the year touring with Foreigner. Foreigner is not going to be a 9 month touring entity as of 2025. So my schedule is going to open up considerably and that might be the case with what’s going on with Journey, we’ll see. But either way, there may be more time in 2025. That could open up the door to some live stuff. But having said that, it’s very difficult to coordinate this stuff. People do have conflicting, very busy schedules so I never promise, but I will promise you that we are looking into it and thinking about it, so we’ll see!
Our closing thoughts...
As our conversation draws to a close, we reflect on what an absolutely outstanding album Against The Winds really is, and how the calibre and musical heritage of these musicians, together with the wholly outstanding songwriting and production brought by Alessandro Del Vecchio, this was surely destined to be the case. Understandably demand for live shows is huge. Who knows, it might just happen… To find out more, head over to www.revolutionsaints.com and in the meantime, check out the video to the title track below.