Dustbowl Revival Confront Trump Support, Social Media on New Album - Rolling Stone
Country Flag
Home Music Country Music

Dustbowl Revival Call Out Trump’s ‘Seed of Doubt,’ Illusion of Social Media on New Album

‘Is It You, Is It Me’ highlights the topical songwriting and eclectic sound of the L.A. collective

Dustbowl Revival tour datesDustbowl Revival tour dates

Los Angeles band Dustbowl Revival address topical and polarizing issues on their latest album 'Is It You, Is It Me.'

Shervin Lainez*

Writing songs about polarizing issues can be a fool’s errand. Writers run the risk of coming across as pretentious or, even worse, trite. But that didn’t stop Los Angeles band Dustbowl Revival from addressing some weighty topics on their new album Is It You, Is It Me, out this Friday. The Americana group sings about the blight of mass shootings in the U.S.; the inherent manipulation of social media; and the disconcerting idea that those within our own families or friend circles may have helped vote Trump into office.

More often than not, Dustbowl Revival stick the landing.

“There is a fine line between preaching at people and actually having ideas that will be heard and enjoyed as music,” says the band’s leader, singer, and primary songwriter Z. Lupetin. An L.A. transplant from Chicago, he committed himself to forming an art-rock project in 2008 by placing a “musicians wanted” ad on Craiglist (some of the musicians who answered his call are still in the group today). But Lupetin was keenly aware that his ambitions weren’t likely to generate a pop hit or make him an overnight success. That wasn’t his goal. Instead, he was out to enact some type of societal change.

On “Get Rid of You,” he champions the gun-reform efforts of Emma González and the Parkland, Florida, students, while also bursting the bubble of those who believe that a mass shooting will never affect them. “The gun control debate and the stubbornness with which our country refuses to adapt and pass meaningful legislation has been one of those things that really rankles me,” Lupetin says. “But the kids in Florida seemed to refuse to believe that that was OK anymore. That was really inspiring to me.”

Studying classic protest songs like Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” he sought to write something that not just took a stand, but was also a song you’d want to turn up when it came on the radio. “There is a lot of music that came out of the Sixties and Seventies that was very politically active but also poetic and musically brilliant,” he says. “A lot of our popular music now feels very nihilistic, consumer-driven, and empty. I feel like there was a way to write a song where it could have an almost punk-rock fun chorus but also be about kids standing up to their elders.”

“Get Rid of You” ultimately succeeds because of its catchy “hey hey” refrain and a fine-tuned melody. “Sonic Boom” does likewise, reaching skyward with Lupetin’s rhythmic plea: “Don’t you/want to/know who I am?” The song casts an unblinking eye on Instagram, where nothing is as it’s presented. Lupetin says even his own band isn’t immune to projecting a filtered image. “You want to be, ‘Everything is great, the album is done, and we can’t wait to play shows for you,’ but really we’re trying to figure out how to pay for all the travel,” he says. “This song came out of a conversation I had with my wife, who is an actress here in L.A., about how we put on rose-colored glasses and are constantly comparing ourselves to people around us, and are deeply unsatisfied.”

But it’s the track “Enemy,” sung by Dustbowl Revival’s other lead vocalist Liz Beebe, that best mixes message with a hook. A deceptively bouncy sing-along with some horn-driven flair, the track asks how our relationships with loved ones may change when you learn they voted for Trump. “I could never be your enemy, now I just can’t be your friend,” sings Beebe.

“It came from a pretty nasty argument within some parts of my extended family that went from being civilized to something that was openly hostile and dark,” Lupetin says, lamenting the seemingly slow death of facts and information. “That’s the most devastating thing Trump and his whole movement have created, that seed of doubt that everything can be faked and everything is rigged. Like climate change is a hoax. ‘How did you begin to believe that?’ the character in the song is wondering.”

With its two vocalists, horn players, and an eager but defiant attitude, Dustbowl Revival have become a popular Los Angeles live draw, despite the city’s reputation for cold industry crowds. “I always find myself defending L.A,” says Lupetin. “It’s open-minded and passionate about all types of music. It just takes time.”

On January 29th, they’ll hit the road in support of Is It You, Is It Me. Here are the dates:
January 29 – Boston, MA @ Sinclair
January 30 – Portsmouth, NH @ 3S Artspace
January 31 – Portland, ME @ Bayside Bowl
February 1 – Irvington, NY @ Irvington Folk Festival
February 2 – Uncasville, CT @ Wolf Den at Mohegan Sun
February 4 – Holyoke, MA @ Gateway Arts
February 5 – Bethlehem, PA @ Musikfest Café
February 6 – Philadelphia, PA @ The Foundry
February 7 – Washington, DC @ 930 Club
February 8 – Bristol, TN @ Paramount Theatre
February 9 – Asheville, NC @ Grey Eagle
February 11 – Atlanta, GA @ Aisle 5
February 12 – Nashville, TN @ The High Watt
February 19 – Coos Bay, OR @ Egyptian Theatre
February 20 – Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios
February 21 – Sisters, OR @ Sisters Folk Festival
February 22 – Seattle, WA @ Nectar Lounge
February 28 – San Francisco, CA @ The Fillmore
February 29 – Los Angeles, CA @ Troubadour
March 11 – Providence, RI @ Columbia Theatre
March 12 – Brooklyn, NY @ Rough Trade
March 13 – Albany, NY @ Swyer Theatre
March 14 – Syracuse, NY @ The Westcott Theater
March 16 – Columbia, OH @ Woodlands Tavern
March 18 – Ann Arbor, MI @ The Ark
March 19 – Grand Rapids, MI @ Pyramid Scheme
March 20 – Evanston, IL @ SPACE
March 21 – Indianapolis, IN @ HiFi
March 22 – Charleston, WV @ Mountain Stage
April 4 – Redondo, CA @ Redondo Union High School Auditorium
April 26 – Long Beach, CA @ Marine Stadium Park – Annual Spring Into Summer Concert
May 16 – St. Joseph, MI @ Whirlpool Centennial Park
May 23 – Colorado Springs, CO @ MeadowGrass Festival
May 24 – Boulder, CO @ eTown Hall
June 19 – Cheyenne, WY @ Cheyenne Depot Plaza
June 25 – Chicago, IL @ Atheneaum Theatre
June 26 – Dayton, OH @ Levitt Pavilion Dayton
July 19 – Navarro, CA @ Redwood Ramble
August 15 – Iowa City, IA @ Hancher Auditorium
September 25 – Springdale, UT @ Zion Canyon Music Festival


Powered by
Arrow Created with Sketch. Calendar Created with Sketch. Path Created with Sketch. Shape Created with Sketch. Plus Created with Sketch. minus Created with Sketch.