The Thurston Revival

The Thurston Revival


drunken gospel revival music for gothgirls and soulboys......highly-touted....razorsharp songwriting....charismatic frontman....UPCOMING CANADIAN TOUR WITH montreal's critically-acclaimed STARS


Erratic. unreliable. tempermental. depressive. demanding. ego-centric. dictatorial prima-donna. self-destructive. opinionated. messy. delusional romantic. idealist. sensualist. auteur. singer. songwriter. producer. painter. fucking idiot? Pop genius?

mediocre? no – definitely not mediocre.

In the past year I’ve seen all these sides to the young Vancouver-based singer O’Connell – better known by his alias The Thurston Revival.

Before I ever saw The Thurston Revival, I had heard O’Connell’s music described as sounding like the Leonard Cohen songbook as sung by Sly Stone. I was doubtful - the dark poet-laureate of suffering could never share the stage with the ecstatically-high Family Stone.

But what I discovered is probably the vanguard of an emerging gospel-influenced rock movement.

Onstage, The Thurston Revival is wildly unpredictable: using an old 1920’s microphone, a primitive drum machine and an echo pedal, O’Connell layers his voice and instruments on-the-fly. The result swings between a one-man Bohemian Rhapsody and a drunken gospel revival.

He’s a charismatic, intense and commanding frontman (although the first time I saw him play, he was a little out of it and fell over onstage three times, causing the drummer to quit mid-set, to my great amusement.) But O’Connell still managed to deliver an inspired set, with enough religious fervour for a travelling revival meeting, and enough pain and rapture for an old-time New Orleans funeral parade.

And when The Thurston Revival plays as a full six-piece band, there are moments of absolute abandon. With Rob Chursinoff (tegan&sara) on drums, Fraser MacKenzie on guitar, Wes Regan (speed to kill) on synth, Mary Ancheta on organ, and Joel Myers (holly mcnarland) on bass, the band is made up of some of the most talented and interesting musicians in Canada.

Whether it’s the unhinged political sermon Prophet Potential (a blistering castigation of corporate profiteering in the African AIDS epidemic), the lascivious and sexually-overheated urging of Want, skid-row desperation in the darkly-poetic Hotel, or the minute-long pop gem Coolsong, the songs of The Thurston Revival show O’Connell to be a subtle and powerful writer – not to mention a master of the deceptively-catchy pop song. Scratch beneath the surface and you will find a raw poetic depth and a level of multiplicity and complexity usually reserved for modern novelists.

A true believer in the DIY ethic, O’Connell plays a Prince-like 25 instruments.

But he’s not afraid to get a little help from his friends, including:

Torquil Campbell (stars) Pat Steward (matthew good)

Barry Mirochnick (veda hille) Fio Kone (kanda bongo man)

Brian Minato (sarah mclachlan)

The upcoming debut EP (soon to be released in the UK, Ireland, and Canada on the small Dark Arts Gramophone Company label) was produced and recorded by O’Connell and Howard Redekopp (new pornographers / tegan&sara) at the legendary Mushroom and Armoury well as in the back of an old Ford van, strangely enough.

So far, The Thurston Revival has already played the prestigious Pop Montreal Festival, recorded in Morocco, garnered airplay on RTE 2fm (Ireland’s national radio) and CBC Radio2 & Radio 3 (Canada’s national radio/internet) and is currently #1 on the NewMusicCanada gospel chart.

This is a golden era for Canadian music and if O’Connell keeps up his sly mix of rock, gospel, and tragedy, The Thurston Revival’s status as a strictly-underground band will soon be in jeopardy. Smart, sexy, passionate, addictive, and often heart-wrenchingly sad, The Thurston Revival has taken over my stereo.

In a era when most bands are looting their old record collection for derivative ideas, The Thurston Revival is off claiming new territories. In a world of calculated rock, a true original is a rare discovery.


“Rocknroll gospel revival music for gothgirls and soulboys. Razorsharp songwriting, infectiously catchy and an unpredictable & charismatic frontman. A truly original band. Possibly the best unsigned newcomer in Canada.” (Canada)

“EYE's must-sees: The Thurston Revival: Vancouver songwriter O'Connell (one name only please) is no standard solo operation. Looking goth but feeling new wave, his songs are built from live, spontaneous samples à la Joseph Arthur, forging a union between gospel-informed ecstasy and synth-pop sadness. The Pop Montreal performance saw a frustrated O'Connell hurl his malfunctioning key-tar at the floor (who knew those things could bounce?), but when god and technology are on his side, The Thurston Revival's electro hymns feel feel just like heaven.”

Stuart Berman, EYE Weekly (Toronto)

“This song just blows me away. This



Written By: O'Connell

-and who came here by the hour, knew the cracks in the plaster
-by mem(o)ry if you asked her when she closed her eyes on the ceiling….
-and who knew - the cracks outlast her

-and who slipped the money from whose pocket as the morning broke
-and slipped out the door while the neighbours in the next room shot their coke and watched eachother unblinking – what the other was thinking – paranoia revealing, (what) each of them was plotting on stealing

-and who creaked the door slowly, tiptoed away – lock it
-who put whose hand in whose pocket
-who deserved it – who got it

-and who came here to resolve to die by the bottle,
-rot into the chair in the room that’s next door, til the sickly sweet smell of decay pervade the air, crept under the door, out over the hall
-while I sat here writing on the opposite side of the same fucking wall about who and who and who and who
-and who is it watches over the things that we do
-and who left me here to find myself and who did I find –
-….one of these people is me…
-…and one of them was you

-and who lay here lonely, despair
-reading verse and chapter, year in year after by a 40 watt bulb
-and who was it they found when they forced in the door
-unable to pull himself up from the floor, only lay there
-and stare up the crude plywood bedframe
-sweet merciful God, it was NOT MEANT to end it all here –
-Who always kept your day in the way that you asked,
-Who tried to walk your path despite what you threw
-and who did NOT Deserve this final, Painful humiliation…..
-……………no answer, just silence………………

-then the kick at the door as they forced their way in –
-unexpected salvation, pull him up from the cold hard hotel dirty floor,
-the bright light getting brighter, the hookers, the writer
-have come to look in on the weighing of virtue and sin against providence,
-……(and) they’re probably still standing there weighing the evidence
-…..while a stranger hold his hand in the back of a downtown eastside fastmoving ambulance

-and so who is it watches over the things that we do…..
-I gotta clean myself up, stop writing things for you.


debut ep out on DarK Arts Gramophone Company
also available from iTunes

advance copy airplay:
RTE 2FM....Ireland's national music station
CBC Radio2....Canadian national radio
CBC Radio3....Canadian online radio

Set List

all original
set length: 45 min (or 25-90 min as required.