Before playing shows, the members of Revision load gear into their van at their Ithaca home. Then they head to the nearest restaurant, where they fill up their van — with vegetable oil.
The band met while attending Ithaca College and formed in 2001. It features John Petronzio ’04 (keyboard/vocals), Nick Bullock ’02 (guitar/vocals) and Devon Reehl ’03 (drums).
While many of their alum have left Ithaca, the band has stayed to pursue rock and funk music. The group averages about a hundred shows a year and have opened for artists such as Derek Trucks and The Cat Empire.
On Friday, Revision will host a CD release show for its new disc, “Amplification.”
The group’s roots are diverse. Petronzio grew up on ragtime music. Reehl was raised by parents who traveled the country performing in Vaudeville theater. Bullock listened to The Grateful Dead before studying jazz guitar under Steve Brown, professor of music performance at Ithaca College.
“It’s more about the song than it is the playing for me now,” Bullock said. “I’m more interested in cool chord changes and good melodies, cool arrangements and good production than a lot of the [jam bands].”
“Amplification” finds the band striving for a poppier sound than previous efforts. The songs range from the acoustic, violin-driven “California” to the J. Geils-reminiscent “Soul System Breakdown.”
The new sound comes partly from the group’s lineup change. It parted ways with bassist Jason Pratt in 2006.
“The bass player wrote a lot of the material and it was kind of a G. Love type of vibe,” Bullock said. “I don’t think we sound anything like G. Love now. So I think we maintained a groove but kind of turned it back into more of a rock band kind of setting.”
The band’s sound emphasizes song structure. Since Pratt left the group, Petronzio plays the bass lines on his keyboard.
“If you bring a group of four down to a group of three, things get tighter so there’s one less thing that can be out of line,” Reehl said.
The group travels regularly to live music spots such as Burlington, Vt., and Chicago, Ill., often sleeping wherever there’s an available couch. Traveling time is spent listening to a wide range of artists, from Radiohead to D’Angelo.
“A lot of times we’ll do different studies,” Petronzio said. “When I sit with Devon up front we’ll dissect grooves and why a bass player does what he does, or why a drummer is really pulling back.”
The group wrote “Amplification” during the last year and a half. It first attempted to record the disc in a cabin in Spencer, N.Y. Reehl said this failed to materialize into
“[It] just didn’t produce [a] recording that had much continuity or much of a vibe,” he said. “We realized that the vibe was more important to us than anything else.”
Revision returned to Ithaca and wrote the rest of the album. It discovered producer Matthew Ellard (Billy Bragg, Wilco), who the band was drawn to after hearing his production on the The Slip’s 2006 disc, “Eisenhower.”
“He’s British, which was instantly fun and never got old,” Reehl said. “He’d just say things that were really funny.”
The group spent much of last winter between shows commuting to Ellard’s studio in Boston. It recorded for 30 days, including two weeks in Ellard’s loft studio.
“[His] loft space studio … was cool, “ Bullock said. “Kind of dingy, mice running around on the floor, water leaking from the ceiling but all this cool gear everywhere.”
The album is being released independently on both CD and the more unconventional USB drive. The disc is available on the band’s Web site, revisionmusic.com, and it plans to sell it on iTunes.
While the group aims to be successful, Reehl said it is reluctant to sign to a label.
“The major labels are freaking out [because] they don’t know what to do now in this environment,” he said. “They don’t know how they’re going to sell records, they don’t know how they’re going to make money.”
At the band’s Ithaca home base, a white board hangs in their practice space. It has 26 song titles, all new material, separated into musical categories. The band plans to release the songs in two EP’s — a funk disc and an acoustic disc — before recording another full-length album.
“The idea is to have a wide range to show what we can do as musicians and show what we like because now’s the time to do that,” Reehl said.
First, though, Revision is going on tour.
“We know the road now,” Petronzio said. “I trust these guys to catch me or back me up if we’re in trouble. [We] spend three months of the year in the van. We’re really good at it now. We’ve got it boiled to a science.”
Revision will perform at 10 p.m. tomorrow at Castaways, 413 Taughannock Blvd. Tickets are $7.