The Blackbird Revue has shrunk, but its sound has grown and evolved.
Once a six-piece Americana band, the Revue is now a duo tinkering with indie-rock. The husband-and-wife team of Jacob and Danielle Prestidge has been making music since 2008. Back then, they were fans of different genres.
“I was coming from a much more folky place,” said Jacob Prestidge, “and Danielle’s tastes were much more electronic rock, bands like the Killers and Shiny Toy Guns.”
The two met by happenstance at a mutual friend’s house in early 2008. Jacob Prestidge had moved to Kansas City from Pennsylvania, where he earned a degree in music-recording technology.
“I ended up in Kansas City because my brother lives here and I wanted to spend a summer with him,” he said. “So I got an internship at a venue up north … which is now closed. I really enjoyed my time in Kansas City, and I wanted to come back. So after I finished my degree, I moved out here.”
At the time he met Danielle Burch she was at the University of Kansas, where she was working on a bachelor of arts degree with an emphasis in vocal.
Jacob Prestidge,who had made a couple records with a ska bands in high school, had just released a solo EP called “The Blackbird Revue.” He also had some other songs in the can, so when he and Danielle started collaborating, he was the principal songwriter. They would release two EPs: “The Whaler and Other Stories” in 2010 and “Glow” in 2013.
“We’d become a six-piece band with pedal steel that was going for a very Americana sound,” he said, “kind of a Ray LaMontagne or Amos Lee kind of feel.”
They also drew comparisons to the Civil Wars and Over the Rhine, bands that mix acoustic folk and pop and bits of country and that lay down transcendent harmonies. Danielle Prestidge’s voice is a lovely, porcelain soprano (think of Alison Krauss) that blends perfectly with Jacob’s warm tenor. Their EPs were well-received and he’s proud of them, but Jacob Prestidge said those songs, which were all his, didn’t reflect what the two could have created by collaborating.
“When Danielle wanted to collaborate, rather than stop what I was doing and create something new, I made the mistake of continuing what I was doing and she joined in,” he said. “It has taken us a long time to get where we are now, which is a much truer collaboration.”
They are working together on a full-length recording, which they hope to release in winter.
“We don’t sit down to co-write,” he said. “We typically write on our own and bring the bones of a song to each other and make suggestions for the chorus or suggest a lyrical change. Generally, the lion’s share of a song is written by one or the other.”
Last year, after a couple band members moved on to other music projects or away to other cities, the Prestidges decided to become a duo, although one that sounds bigger than that.
“We split drums: I play kick and Danielle plays a snare with her feet,” he said. “She also takes on the bass with one hand on a keyboard and with the right hand plays more melodic lines on another keyboard. And I’m playing more electric guitar. I’m no longer exclusively acoustic.”
The two quit their day jobs — Jacob was a shift manager at a Starbucks; Danielle was head of medical records at a nursing home — and are pursuing music full time.
“We do all the booking on our own,” he said. “Building a team around us is the next step. Getting a booking agent is a priority. We’ve already hired someone to do our social media. We hope to hook up with a publicist as we release the new album.”
That record will reflect the Blackbird Revue’s new direction, which is a departure from its previous sound, which fit snugly into the Americana/roots genre.
“It’s hard to pinpoint a sound or genre to describe it,” he said. “We have no less emphasis on our vocal harmonies or songwriting, but overall the sound is hard to place in one genre. Not that we jump around from genre to genre, it just doesn’t feel as much like we’re trying to emulate something.”
They’ve been playing some of the new material out live and will play some of it Friday night at the Plaza Art Fair. Their fans are noticing the differences in the sound and its size.
“We just got back from a three-week tour,” he said, “and we heard some comparisons to Death Cab for Cutie and Haim.
“We still get Civil War comparisons now and then, but our music has taken on a more driving, electric feel. People say they’re surprised how big we sound for two people.”
Music again will be a big part of the Plaza Art Fair, which runs Friday through Sunday on the Country Club Plaza. Hours are 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
The Blackbird Revue performs from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Friday at the 90.1 KKFI Community Stage, Nichols Road and Central Avenue.
▪ Peter Schlamb and the Electric Tinks: 6 p.m. at the Ink Live! Stage, Ward Parkway and Pennsylvania Avenue.
▪ Kangaroo Knife Fight: 8 p.m. at the Ink Live Stage
▪ Not a Planet: 8:30 p.m. at the KKFI Community Stage
▪ The Phantastics: 9 p.m. at the Ink Live! Stage
▪ Shades of Jade, 10 a.m. at the Ink Live! Stage
▪ John Velghe and the Prodigal Sons, 1 p.m. at the Ink Live! Stage
▪ Calvin Arsenia, 1:30 p.m. at the KKFI Community Stage
▪ My Brothers and Sisters, 5 p.m. at the Ink Live! Stage
▪ Yes You Are, 7 p.m. at the Ink Live! Stage
▪ Kris and Havilah, 11 a.m. at the KKFI Community Stage
▪ Kasey Rausch with Marco Pascolini, 12:30 p.m. at the KKFI Community Stage
▪ Silver Maggies, 1 p.m. at the Ink Live! Stage
▪ Gracie Schram, 3:30 p.m. at the KKFI Community Stage
▪ Katy Guillen & the Girls, 4 p.m. at the Ink Live! Stage