It’s particularly curious considering the frantic yet focused energy within the music of The Woohoo Revue, evident both in their live set and their most recent full-length, Moreland’s Ball. The music of the band encompasses the idea that as a society, we’re one simple misstep away from self-implosion. There’s an evident tenseness, but McKenzie insists that The Woohoo Revue is not so much a release for him, but an indication of life in general.
“My life is generally quite frantic,” he says. “I feel like I’m always a month behind where I need to be. When we get on the road we play some pretty interesting stages and the adrenalin takes over, things kind of take care of themselves.
“It probably is a bit more personal, though” he concedes. “I wear a lot of the franticness while the rest of the band wears most of the normality.”
McKenzie may be the proverbial black sheep in the group in terms of how he lives his life. Yet when asked about what originally brought the sextet together, a theme emerges. There was no outcast in terms of influence. The band’s sound runs the gamut of genres, from freak-out gypsy to a decisive Saturday night party band. By not leaning too far to one side, the band accurately developed the sound that The Woohoo Revue would soon become known for.
“I started the band about four years ago, doing some traditional Balkan gypsy tunes,” says McKenzie. “Certain Albanian and Macedonian tunes. But we’ve still become very middle of the way in terms of the way we adhere to both the past and present. And a lot of the other guys in the band have played before in bands, be it rock, jazz, Latin, whatever. Approaching our music with a definite awareness of the dance floor usually allows us to come up sounding unique. It definitely doesn’t sound like traditional, eastern European gypsy, but that’s been a conscious decision to sound that way.”
With a sound as eccentric as that of The Woohoo Revue, the subject of influences is one that has to be examined at length.
comes from the broken Gypsy bands that we all got into when we were young,” McKenzie continues. “But we’re into music that’s a celebration. Playing that kind of big music, it has to come from people drawing upon different elements. As a musician, you’re always going to be drawn to the stuff you’re passionate about, which we are.”
Labeling The Woohoo Revue as “celebration” music may be the understatement of the year. To be able to stand still during their live sets would exercise the kind of restraint normally practiced by sisters of the cloth. The band brings the party, and as McKenzie tells it, it doesn’t take much for the band to get psyched for their gigs.
“When you’ve got the kind of people who are there, at your shows to have a good time and they want to dance, it’s usually pretty easy. It really only takes a couple of bars of the first tune before everyone’s flying.”
“A great example of that is when we played the National Folk Festival in Canberra,” he continues. “We got in there after being on the road for so long; we’d been working so hard, we’re all tired and hungover and we’d just started the tour! But we got up onstage, the place was packed and ready to go and everyone’s face lights up. And from there on in, we’re a part of something. It becomes an event. It becomes a synchronistic experience between us and the crowd, and like them we just collapse after we’re finished the show. Yet when it’s happening, we have no choice but to get swept up in it.
“There can be challenges,” he admits, “because there’s a human element between us and the crowd. We have to block everything out and keep everyone engaged. We’re not a cabaret act; we do play some big stages so we have to work to get to everyone in the room.”
Another challenge the band faces is often finding venues that can accommodate not just the band, but the party that ensues afterwards. Such is the frantic nature of the life of The Woohoo Revue. It’s not optimism that allows McKenzie and the band to continue. Yet there the idea that while it can’t always be perfect, it can be fun is one that is equally as comforting.
“We do prefer to play in an environment where people can really cut loose. When we launched our first album in 2008, we’d never played a big festival before. And people were just crashing over the stage, falling into our speaker stacks, and we thought we were doomed. But the thing is, you can’t stop the ball once it gets rolling.”
BY JOSHUA KLOKE