The Revenants were born into a scene of raucous punk shows at long-defunct all-ages venues such as Pandamonium, Primizie's and Sparks — a scene that's been re-imagined and reborn over and over again since the band members' high school days in the mid-1990s.
When Jason Whitworth launched this menacing horror punk outfit in 1996 in the vein of The Misfits, Louisville suffered no dearth of loud, frightening punk and hardcore acts. While the city's South End-based metal scene is ascendant — and accepting of a noisy punk band — The Revenants are among the few remaining punk bands left from the old scene.
“To me, it's the work that goes into it, not the stages or clubs we're playing in,” said bassist Gabrielle Kays. “(Fans) know we put on a good show.”
No matter. The Revenants have endured, and sometimes flourished.
It's a bit of a surprise. Louisville is known for its patience with loud, odd bands, but The Revenants are noisy, brutal and theatric, drawing on horror punk, metal and Goth influences
The band sometimes dons face paint, not unlike The Misfits, and often work props into the act. Few black-leather-and-studs-wearing teenagers watching this band at Pandamonium in 1999 would have expected The Revenants to be the last band standing from that era.
Nostalgia is fine, but The Revenants aren't dying off any time soon.
The band's fourth album is planned for release this summer and will be followed by touring. Beforehand, The Revenants will perform Friday at the South by South End Music & Art Festival, the third itineration of a fest that has evolved from a South End lovefest to a three-day celebration of the Louisville metal and heavy rock scenes.
“A lot of the punk bands dried up, but there are so many metal bands,” Kays said. “They're doing the same thing — DIY, putting out their own records, booking their own shows. I think Louisville has always been an indie rock kind of town. That's great for some people, but not for us.”
The Revenants don't tout the South End roots of other SXSE acts such as Stonecutters — with whom The Revenants often share bills — but the band can commiserate with the perception of South End bands as outsiders in Louisville's greater music scene. Last year's SXSE was packed with bands that often played with The Revenants, and Kays said they lobbied to be included in this year's bill.
The Revenants began as a high school project for Kays, Whitworth and a litany of friends who are past members of the band. Today's lineup includes William Ragland on guitar, Roger Leasor on keyboards and Chris Smith on drums.
The band has evolved from pure horror punk to a nuanced, noisy mesh of the dark arts of music, although it is still saddled with a comparison to The Misfits, an identity crisis that has endured 14 years after its expiration date.
“It's something of a thorn in our sides,” Kays said. “The, ‘Oh, that's that Misfits band.' I love that band, but we don't sound like that. People attached that to us because we were into theatrical punk, but we're a lot more technical and a lot more thrashing.”
Of course, the band hasn't shied away from face paint. “If people come out to see you, you've got to put on a show — lights, makeup, blood,” she said.
The attention to the live show will bleed into the as-yet-unnamed new album, a follow-up to 2007's self-released “Hand of Midnight.”
“We want it to have more of a raw, live band feel,” Kays said. “I'd like to better capture the aggression.”