They’re bringing a Rock Revolution
It’s been a long journey for Nashville based rock band “The Reveal,” but Dustin McKee, aka “Brother Dusty” (lead vocals/bass), Josh Norfleet (guitar/vocals) and Kirk Morrow, Jr. (drummer) have found their niche, after years of hard work developing their unique flavor and sound, and a name befitting of both their music and vision. Recently, I sat down with Dustin McKee to talk about the band’s journey to becoming one of Nashville’s most talked about bands and their vision for the future.
“I feel like, in town, that’s the thing that helps us stand out. There are so many good, talented bands who are doing so well and they’re really good, but a lot of them are fortunately and unfortunately for themselves, kind of doing the straightforward rock platform. They’re just making rock music. For us, we’re trying to have our own identity, and from what I hear, that’s our biggest compliment — that we’re unique.”
The band’s recent performance at Bowie’s of Nashville (during one of Bowie’s weekly all-original music nights) was a huge success … they literally stole the show and Nashville noticed. The Reveal came out with an undeniable presence delivering a performance that was not only captivating but memorable, and really demonstrated their unique blend of organic influence of blues, rock, funk, hip hop, classic rock, progressive rock and psychedelic music – a cocktail of experience they embrace, rather than try and control.
While the band’s members all share the same hometown being originally from Kokomo, Indiana, they each bring completely different elements to the band’s musical style, as Dusty explains:
“The guitar player (Josh Norfleet) was raised in a bluegrass family in a bluegrass band, so he has bluegrass and country in everything that he does. He’s heavy into Stevie Ray Vaughn bluegrass, The Allman Brothers, the Eagles and Tom Petty, and brings a whole kind of country twang, classic rock vibe.
In no way, shape or form is our music ‘country,’ but with us living in Nashville and being from the Midwest, we do have a slight degree of that flavor. It’s just not on purpose, which kind of makes it even cooler.
The drummer (Kirk Morrow, Jr.) is really into Rush, Dream Theater and Kiss. He really likes theatrical stuff, so he brings in a really theatrical progressive rock vibe.”
…and as to Dusty:
“If Black Sabbath and Rage Against the Machine had a baby, we’re that baby. We also get Red Hot Chili Peppers a lot, the Black Keys and White Stripes. I personally craft a lot of our song elements out of Wolfmother, but then we also have an entire hip hop vibe of like different rappers that we’re into. I really want to make rap music with guitar, it’s kind of the whole embodiment. We’re actually about to put out a Kanye West cover.
As far as vocalists go, my top influences would be Jimi Hendrix, Jack White, and Kid Cudi, and the reason I say that is, because those artists are not the type of dudes who would win an American Idol style singing competition, but they figured out how to make their voice their instrument. They have their own vocal identity that people love and people really enjoy, and I think as someone who spent the entire first half of my life not singing, that my best bet is to follow in the footsteps of people like that. They’re not technically what people would consider ‘expert singers,’ but they figured out how to use their voice as an instrument, and that’s really important to me because that’s how I compete. That’s how I maneuver the scene.
I think I’ve got a uniqueness to my voice, but I would really like to be more of an operatic, good melodic singer. I personally feel like my voice is the weakest aspect of the band, but I also don’t think it’s necessarily a ‘weakness.’ I just think our drummer is amazing, the guitar player is really killer and memorable, and my bass playing is pretty unique, but my vocals – I don’t really compete with any other vocalists in town… drums are my primary instrument, so rhythm and groove is kind of my thing. I’m trying to use what I’ve got.“
The band’s beginnings date back to when Dusty and Josh were friends attending the same high school in Kokomo, and playing in a few projects together:
“We actually had this band that I dropped out of college for, but eventually Josh went on to doing his own thing, and I went back to college. That’s when I started hanging out and playing with this other band, called ‘The Peaceful Kings.’ They’re like an acoustic project. Kirk was singing and playing guitar for the band, but I knew Kirk had been a drummer, because some dudes that graduated with Josh were two of my best friends and Kirk used to be their drummer. Once we started playing together with The Peaceful Kings, I was like, ‘Dude, I know you’re a good drummer. I’ve got some songs that I want you to learn and we should jam that. Once we started getting going, Josh’s schedule freed up and we started playing together.
The trio was now formed, and Dusty, Josh and Kirk began playing gigs as a 3-piece band in their hometown of Kokomo, Indiana enjoying popularity as a local success, but after reaching somewhat of a plateau, they decided they wanted more and began planning their move to Nashville:
“We started to peak in our hometown; it got kind of obvious. I mean, there was definitely more we could accomplish from living in Indiana, but it just got to the point where it was like alright, we’ve had enough. Let’s go somewhere where there’s more to learn and more to accomplish.”
Coming up with the right name for the band was not something the guys took lightly either, Dusty explained, because “once you pick a name it is difficult to change,” but the pressure was mounting:
“It’s really funny, because we started off booking as ‘Dustin, Josh and Kirk.’ We didn’t have a band name. We didn’t have social media. We didn’t have anything at all –no originals, no content. We were literally just three guys playing music in a live scene.
It was probably late 2015 when we formed, but we didn’t really start playing gigs until 2016. Over time and eventually venues were like, ‘What’s your band name?’ We didn’t have one, so we made up this joke that we literally ‘have’ the ‘no name blues,’ and we spent three and a half years calling ourselves the ‘No Name Blues.’ It was just a funny concept, until we got more serious and moved to Nashville.”
The entire process the band went through in choosing the name “The Reveal” was so important to them, Dusty says, they created a story to memorialize it in their official video entitled, “She’s Bad.”
The Reveal is much more than a rock band writing music for entertainment, says Dusty. There’s a spiritual message in their songs, if you are listening carefully enough to hear it, and the objective — “Revealing mystical truths to the masses.” Dusty went on to explain what they mean by “mystical truths”:
“When you talk about the truth, it’s more of a subjective thing than an objective thing. There’s not one truth, but more. I feel like we’re born into this world thinking you’ve got to get a job and you’ve got to do the normal human thing, and I feel like only certain people wake up to the reality that there’s more of an artistic approach to life. For us, the truth is just anything that can wake you up to the spirit and to the fact that reality goes beyond the senses. A lot of things, like mythology, religion, philosophy and science — things like that, that just make people think. It’s kind of what we aim to do.
We don’t want to stress people out, but in the lyrics, what I try to do is aim to be secular and create music that anyone and everyone can listen to, and subliminally put some sort of spiritual message into the lyrics that you may or may not hear. The whole thing is we are trying to preach…trying to push a spiritual message through it, but we don’t want to shove it down people’s throats. We do it in a way, like this is still party music, it’s still head banging music, it’s still like dancy fun, funky, like rock & roll music, but if you’re really paying attention and the type of person who thinks a lot, you can hear the lyrics and see that we’re trying to paint a little bit more of a vivid picture than just ‘Heh, let’s party and talk about girls, chicks, and let’s dance and drink and do drugs.’ We kind of make it to where that’s what on the surface level of what we do, but there’s a much deeper aspect to all of it.
The visionary aspect is kind of like this — spiritual, revolutionary, dark, mystical, powerful sound… and we kind of mix in a lot of our own things. We try to not sound like any other band.”
When it comes to songwriting, it’s a collective and inclusive process:
“I’m usually the visionary or conductor of the operation, but I try to make it where all three of us are as equal as possible. A lot of times Josh will bring a guitar riff that he made up, and we’ll take that and alter that into a full song, or Kirk will come up with a really cool drum beat, and I’ll say let’s turn that into a song. Sometimes Josh will supply lyrics, and sometimes Kirk will supply lyrics. A good half of our songs start with one of Josh’s riffs that the audience really liked, and I’m like, ‘That’s great, Dude. I’m going to write lyrics to that.’ For the most part, I visionaire the songs and create the arrangements and the composition, but when we’re writing songs, there are a lot of options and we’ll vote on what sounds best.”
What’s next for The Reveal, and where do they want to be in the next couple of years? What is their vision for the band? According to Dusty, they want it all:
“I mean, we want the whole world. I’ll be honest. We want to go all the way. I want the rock and roll hall of fame. I can’t speak for Josh and Kirk, but me personally, I want to start the revolution. I want to create the next British invasion from America. I want to create the Nashville invasion. I want to create a new rock and roll revolution, and it’s not just about my band. I want rock and roll to come back. For me, what I’m really aiming for is, I would love to be the mascot like the fucking Elvis, the Jimmy Hendrix or the Jim Morrison, whatever it may be.
I want to be the face of the rock and roll revolution, and I want to share my success with all the other bands in town. I want to create a brotherhood fraternal community and raise up the rock and roll army. That’s kind of what I’m doing. I’m working on a website portfolio that features me, my bands, all my projects and music, but also highlights all my favorite rock bands in town. I really want to create a whole new wave of rock music in the world that rather than saying we’re bringing back rock music, I almost want to completely reinvent an entire new wave of music that IS rock music.
There are a lot of kids growing up in this generation right now that don’t even know what rock music is, so for some people, it’s going to be like, ‘oh, rock is back,’ but for some people, it’s going to be like, ‘there’s this new thing that I’ve never heard of, called rock and roll. My personal goal is to bring it back, and to bring the whole community on board. It’s not about me and it’s not about my band, it’s about literally the unity of Nashville, the unity of rock and roll, and creating a new revolution.”
With the pandemic of 2020 and subsesquent shutdown of so many businesses that hit the music industry so harshly, I asked Dusty how he felt about the year and was not only surprised, but very intrigued by his answer:
“I think as a spiritual person, I have no choice but to kind of feel like everything happens for a reason. It’s honestly good for us, because we spent the first three years here learning all these new things, but we couldn’t put it to use because we didn’t have a band name. We didn’t want to go too far with a name that wasn’t even real, because we knew it’s going to be that much harder to change. We watched all these bands take off that were originally on our level, taking off and taking off and doing better and better, while we were just sitting there stagnantly. When all this happened, it was kind of an advantage for us, because it stopped everyone else and allowed us a chance to catch up. It’s kind of selfish, but it actually worked out very well for us.
I think things like live music help the mental health of everyone… maybe herd immunity is not the answer, but for me, that’s kind of the side that I take. I think we should all go out and accept the disease for what it is and take it head on, on the front lines and just be about it. The thing is, there’s a lot of people that disagree with that, and I think they should disagree with it. I’m thankful there are a lot of people that are so nurturing and caring that they’re like, ‘no, we need to stay at home and hide from the virus.’ I don’t agree with them, but I’m thankful they exist. I think it’s a very good thing to have the variety of opinions on both sides. I just wish we could all get along and people wouldn’t hate on each other.”
As to his personal career goals, Dustin McKee has big plans:
“The three of us are kind of at different levels of the spectrum, as far as what we want to do, but I’m trying to claim the throne. I’m trying to wear the crown, trying to go all the way. You know, a few years ago, Kanye West went on stage and said, ‘We’re the new rock stars.’ He changed the world, when he said that. He pissed a lot of people off, but I’m trying to do that by trying to reverse it and say, you know, I respect all you digital rapper EDM guys, but it’s time for talent to take the stage again. I feel like that’s my role and that’s what I really want to do.
A lot of music is all electronic and talentless, and it’s buttons and computers doing it alone. I think people really need to see what it looks like when three talented people hit a stage and put their souls together to create something with their hands, that didn’t require buttons on a computer. For me, that’s what it’s all about — literally changing the entire world and conquering the planet in the name of rock and roll. Those are my personal goals.”
Mark your calendars, because The Reveal will return to the stage at Bowie’s in Nashville on December 29, 2020, for the Rock Scene Nashville’s final night of original music for the year, a show you won’t want to miss.
You can keep up with The Reveal on Instagram, Facebook and Linktree.
Special thanks to Marshall Latimer of Bowie’s Nashville who graciously provided me with this opportunity, and for all that he does for the rock music community.