If ever there was a drum shop suited to a city, it’s Revival, which embodies Portland’s independent spirit, dedication to community, and allegiance to small-batch craftsmanship. Its two floors (including a wing dedicated to lessons, clinics, and performances) are heavy on vintage kits and snares from well-known manufacturers. But among the name-brand gear is a wide selection of artisanal cymbals from the Portland-based company Cymbal & Gong, snares and all manner of accessories from Pacific Northwest–based Keplinger Drums, one-of-a-kind percussion by Morfbeats, and so much more you usually don’t see, even at the most independent-minded drum shops.
“We wouldn’t be able to do this if it wasn’t for Portland’s spirit and belief in a shop like Revival,” says owner Jose Medeles, who worked at Professional Drum Shop in Hollywood and spent years recording and touring with the Breeders, Ben Harper, and Donavon Frankenreiter before getting off the road and settling in Portland with his wife and son in 2008. Medeles opened Revival the following year, and has seen its reputation as a truly unique shop grow. He talked with MD about what he’s learned during nearly ten years in business.
All I’d done was tour and play drums and work at a drum shop. So it made sense to open a shop, but there were no guarantees. I knew I had to figure something out to stay home. I kind of put my ego aside. It’s odd to reinvent yourself. Now someone’s calling you for your drums, not for your drumming. But I made that decision. It wasn’t easy, but it got easier. And I was home for a lot of firsts, and when my friends and family needed me. As long as I’m being true to myself, the shop is going to thrive.
What I love about being small is that we can pivot in a millisecond. We’ve stumbled along the way. I’ll think, Maybe this will work, and it doesn’t work. You have to be open. You have to be okay with being vulnerable. The customer will tell you if it’s going to work or not. We haven’t hit a home run every time, but it’s been a neat journey. Always learning.
It doesn’t feel like you’re walking into a casino when you walk into Revival. Not only do we care about what’s in there, we care about how it’s presented. What does the shop feel like when you walk in? What’s it like when someone looks up the stairs? When they walk around that corner, how are they going to feel when they see this or that? What music is playing? To me, all of that is about the experience. And I think that’s why people venture to Revival. There are still enough drummers that appreciate that. I feel like this is what we as drummers deserve. We love our drums, we love our instrument.
We’ve done great collaborations with companies big and small. Ludwig pitched a collaboration to us—the Revette kit (12/14/18). I was super flattered. They’re the first corporate we ever did something like this with. We do a custom stick with L.A. Backbeat, and we’ve done a Revival line of cymbals with Cymbal & Gong. It’s all stuff that we really believe in. But you have to be smart about it. We’re not going to collaborate with someone to put out something that’s just sort of ish. It’s got to be something that’s really well thought out. Love is in the end result—for this kit, this cymbal, this bag, whatever it is.
I made a commitment to myself to pump the brakes on my involvement with Revival. It took me about seven years until I was like, I have to figure this out, because it’s so out of whack. It was twenty-four/seven. It was a beautiful thing, but I feel like I was putting too much pressure on myself to keep it going. I took time off and found that balance. I was able to do that with the support of my Revival crew, and of course the support of my family. I needed to learn how to let go, not to micromanage. It’s been a really good process for me. It’s made everything better. I’m home when my son gets home from school. I’m at the shop when I need to be there spiritually for myself, when it’s good for everything. I feel fortunate that I’m able to step away from the shop, think about what we need, try something, and to be able to execute that without the day-to-day stuff in my face. That’s what you want as a business owner, to have that type of freedom.