Readers of I Enjoy Music will know that I enjoy keytar very much. I love the vibes. I love the boldness of choosing a keytar over a regular keyboard. The swag of a keytar is unmatched. My previous keytar-themed interview was with Blind Equation's live keys player Jeffrey Kornfeld, who praised the keytar for its freedom of motion ("We have a really energetic approach to live shows where I have the need to be able to flail around and jump kick onstage") and teased the appearance of his prized limited edish K-ON! Mugi keytar in a future music video.
When I was doing my end-of-year blogging about other peoples' top songs of the year, I thought the recommended Geese songs ("3D Country" and "Cowboy Nudes") were thrilling — channeling super old school rock 'n' roll, but with fresh angles and unique talent on display — and I dug enthusiastically into the band's catalog, including recent live sets posted on YouTube. How thrilling to see that they employed a keytar player!! It's Sam Revaz, an NYC-based pianist with a jazz background (he studied jazz piano performance at NYU) who has been playing live with Geese as of late. I emailed Sam with a few questions about his keytar journey and he kindly responded.
I'd first love to hear a bit about your musical history — when did you start playing piano, and when did you start playing keytar? What drew you to each instrument?
I started piano when I was around 5-6 and didn’t start playing keytar until I was 18. A late bloomer but I came around eventually. I guess piano allowed me the most harmonic freedom of any instrument and could best approximate whatever musical ideas were going through my head. You can interpret songs a lot of different ways on piano and really get away with being a chameleon if that’s what you’re going for. And I thought the keytar was worth pursuing since I wanted to feel like a guitarist without doing the work of learning guitar. It paid off somehow.
Are there any keytar players that you especially admire?
There unfortunately aren’t too many keytarists I know to cite as direct inspiration, but Herbie Hancock will always be my #1 as a keys player. He is a true sonic pioneer and by the time he embarked on his keytar trip he had already started fusing different genres in a way that no one else had quite done yet. I heard his record Sextant again the other day and forgot how far ahead of its time it sounds, most of his records from the mid-late 70s are transcendent no matter how many times I listen.
What is your make and model of keytar, and why did you choose it?
I've had a Roland AX-Synth from the beginning and it chose me. Via Craigslist. For an incredibly good deal because the owner didn't realize they were sitting on a gold mine.
From videos I've watched on YouTube, it sometimes sounds like your keytar actually is programmed to sound somewhat like a guitar as opposed to keys — is that a fairly natural adjustment from playing piano, or does doing things like bending notes, etc. take some getting used to?
I do run the keytar through a few pedals (tremolo, distortion, etc.) so that's probably why it's sounding hopefully less like a keyboard and more like a guitar. And the pitch-bend stuff happens pretty naturally from there. I think once you have the sound you're going for, your technique sort of gets better inherently.
Have you gotten any interesting comments or reactions from the audience when you've played keytar at Geese shows?
Yeah it's crazy. People ask me well where has the keytar been all their lives and I answer knowingly, the keytar has always been there.
Is there a Geese song that is your personal favorite to play on keytar, and if so, why?
I would say "3D Country" is my favorite song on keytar because I get a solo out of it, but I love any song just as much where the focus is more complementing Gus or leaving more space for Cameron to weave through, etc. I think any song we play has the potential to be my favorite!