Perhaps the simplest thing about Holy Ghost Tent Revival is their name.
"It was just a sign on the side of the road," Russ Montsinger, drummer for the band, explains. "We saw it and needed a name for the band for a talent show we were playing. I wish there was more to it than that."
Few bands have a sound as confounding as Holy Ghost Tent Revival. When the horn-driven rock band formed in North Carolina back in 2007, they were originally pegged as just one more young bluegrass band attempting to gain footing in an already saturated arena of music. According to Montsinger, it was a misconception bred from lazy pigeonholing.
"At first we had a real twangy sound to us, because we had a banjo player and it just came together," he says. "We were able to come up with some songs without putting much thought into it. Through traveling so much, we were able to listen to a lot of music together, and became influenced by classic rock. That seeped its way into a couple of our albums, and now we're starting to feel like we're more excited about going into more of a soul direction."
Changing direction is nothing new for the band. The departure of a few members over the years has caused an interesting transformation to occur each time a new ingredient has been added or subtracted. Holy Ghost has always been for a raucous live performance, but it is their ability to not only maintain but to gain audience members despite seamlessly moving between such distinct musical sounds as jug band and '70s R&B that is truly awe-inspiring.
Montsinger gives some of the credit to the impulses of youth. Describing the thought process that once inspired Holy Ghost to take to the road for 300 dates in one year. "It was just what we wanted to do at that time," he says. "We were fresh out of college, and there wasn't anything else that we wanted to do other than play music. I'd like to think that we've grown up a little bit both musically and in our personal lives since then. We just can't be away from home as much as we used to. Everyone in the band now have lives that they need to tend to as well."
The enthusiasm in Montsinger's voice is evident, however, when discussing the band's upcoming appearance at DIG South. Festivals have long been a cornerstone of Holy Ghost's grassroots efforts in marketing itself, visiting other towns, and, in effect, following the audience members home.
"People are there with the mindset that they are going to see something new that they can then find closer to home," Montsinger says. "From the audience's perspective, it's like, 'Oh, I hope that they come to my hometown.' It works the same way for us, where we get put in front of a crowd that is much larger and more excitable than if we were just playing clubs.
"So we are given that opportunity, and then we just tell the crowd, 'I hope you're there when we tour through your hometown.' And then they usually are," he says. "Those are usually the ones that are more likely to go to the shows, folks who associate the band with the festival and all of the stuff they heard there."