Saturday, June 8, 2013

Interview with Royal Teeth (6/3/13)

Royal Teeth is one of the most exciting new indie-pop/dance-pop groups to grace the American music scene, and though they've only been around for a few years they're already making a name for themselves. The group has an EP on Dangerbird Records, released there about a year and a half ago, and it's quite a solid release of upbeat, energetic pop music. The group has a new full-length, Glow, out on August 13, and is currently headlining a tour all across the US in support of the album. We recently had the opportunity to speak with the band briefly in anticipation of some Northeast tour dates and the album's full release date about the album itself, the band's early days, the excitement around having a new LP ready, and Dangerbird.

First of all, can you introduce yourself for the readers?

I'm Gary, and I sing and do a little bit of guitar and drums in Royal Teeth.

You’ve got a new album, Glow, coming out on August 13. Are you excited?

Very excited - this album feels like it's been a long time coming. We've technically had the EP [Act Naturally] for over two years now, and we released it to Dangerbird a little over a year and a half or so ago, so we're very excited to get a full album out to everybody.

I loved the poppy, upbeat feel of Act Naturally - I think it’s been one of my favorite shot-in-the-dark finds ever since I discovered you guys off the Dangerbird sampler for Record Store Day. At the same time, though, it felt a little short - part of the problem with EPs, I guess. Now that you have the full album, though, you'll have a bit more space. How do you think that space allowed you to flesh out your sound?

I think we made an effort to keep the big, upbeat positive energies there that we had on the EP. I definitely think that with a little more time, and being on the road for the past year and a half and all, I think it's really given us a chance to expand on that and do more. I think the album has a little more of an intimate vibe, it's a little more personal. And also, I definitely think we captured a little more of the live energy that we have on the road - I think from just being together and touring so much we kind of wanted to approach that as a little more than what we did on the EP. When we recorded the EP, it was one of the first things we had ever done. We had always played local shows, we hadn't even toured yet, it was a very new experience for us to make that. And to be able to do the album, I think it gave us a chance to really be ourselves more, to do what we wanted, and, you know, put our experiences in. I'm really happy with what we'll be able to present everybody with soon.

On that note of "the EP was before everything really got started," how'd you guys get formed?

We formed a little over two and a half years ago. I moved into Lafayette with our bass player, Joshua Wells, and we started playing music at the time. There were two other band members in Royal Teeth that played music with Josh for two years, and so when we needed more members we reached out to those guys, to see if they wanted to get back into playing music. Our guitar player, Stevie, was in a local band around town. Louisiana has a lot of music, a lot of bands - you're connected to a lot of people in different projects, and that's kind of how it started. [Singer] Nora, she was the last person to join the band, and she's never actually been in a band before, but she graduated college in Lafayette with a few of the guys and moved to New Orleans, and when we needed a female singer they suggested her because of word of mouth that she could sing well. So, we kind of stalked her, and looked her up on Facebook and messaged her, and met with her and had coffee, and asked her if she could play a show a week later. She did it, and she's been in the band ever since, so that was lucky for us.

Why'd you guys decide to go with the unorthodox double lead vocalist idea?

When we first started playing music, it was just me by myself, and of course we ended up with the double male-female lead vocalist thing. At the same time, we were figuring out our style of music as well. When Joshua Wells and I first started playing music, we had to come around to what we really wanted to do, because it was kind of a fresh start for both of us, to do whatever we wanted to do. I think the direction it ended up going, which, you know, is what Royal Teeth is, is that I'm a big fan of all kinds of music, but I was really into old folk music, which always had a couple singers at a time, and a lot of harmonies, and I was always interested if I could do that. We had a friend of ours from Lafayette that was the first female singer that was in the band, and she quit before we had Nora, and when we had her I just got really interested in the idea of the play back-and-forth of male-female vocalists, and I figured we could add a little more depth to what we wanted to do, you know, get both perspectives of a male and female. At the same time, if you're sending one message, you can double it up with a male and female voice. I really liked the way that when we got Nora it really came together. I think our voices suit each other really well, and I think it makes us as a duo more powerful.

Royal Teeth is currently on the opening leg of a nationwide tour. How is it to be the lead act? Does it feel weird that people are paying money to see you specifically?

Yes, absolutely. (laughs) We're still technically new to touring, it's been about a year, but at the same time we feel like we're pretty used to touring. At the same time, we're not used to being the headlining band. It's a whole new nervous feeling when you know that kind of rests on your shoulders, you know, that people are there to see you, and you have to be able to put on a really great headlining set for everybody. We take that very seriously, and at the same time we're very excited to be able to do it. And a lot of times on past tours we'd do 30-minute sets, opening sets and things like that. To be able to have a full set for everybody is really, really great, so yeah, we're really excited.

You're an up-and-coming act on the prestigious Dangerbird Records. What was the signing process like?

It was great. A lot of things really worked out for us, and we're very lucky that they did. The timing of everything couldn't really have been better. We were actually surprised at how quick everything happened with the band when we started with Dangerbird. The way it started was basically that we had a show on Halloween night in New Orleans at a venue called Napalm, and so we were all dressed up in foolish-looking costumes on Halloween and it was a packed club show, and the former president of Dangerbird, Jeff Castelaz, was there, and he saw the band play. Right away, from then he got in contact with us, and we had coffee with him, and he expressed how much he enjoyed the show, how much he really liked the vibe and energy of the band. And I think that when he mentioned that stuff, it really connected to what we value as a band, the fact that we can bring a lot of very positive energy to our show and performances, and it really just felt like they got it, you know? We really liked the idea of Dangerbird as a smaller label that can really nurture and help a new band and help us grow. We were a little timid, though, since we'd heard all the horror stories about things that could happen to bands on their first-time labels, and so we waited until we played South by Southwest for the first time. We had such a great time at that festival and met a bunch of great people, but after we finished that we made the decision that we were going to make our home Dangerbird. We finally did shortly after that.

How much does the label influence you guys in your writing and recording?

The great thing for us at least is that Dangerbird is very open to letting us be ourselves, and I think that was a very good thing. At the same time, it was great to have people on your team that could give you honest opinions and honest critiques. Sometimes, when you're in a band, you're so focused on something that it's hard to take your mind out of it and analyze the situation, so it's nice to have a team of people that are all working towards the same goal, trying to get you from point A to point B. When it came to the record and everything, we got to make the decision on the producer we wanted to work with, and they were very supportive of it, and very supportive of helping us get the product we wanted. Now that we have it, we feel great about it, and it's a good feeling to know you have people on your side who are working for the same common goal. The main thing they influenced me on was following my gut, because we're only going to make the best product where we feel we're really happy with what we're doing.

A lot of my friends have heard of you because your track "Wild" was in FIFA 13. How'd the song get there, and how does it feel to have that kind of exposure?

It was amazing. The funny thing is that I don't play video games personally very much, but our guitar player loves soccer and plays FIFA all the time. I think that was kind of an "aw crap, we made it" moment for him, and he was like "oh, look at us, we're on this FIFA game." And actually, I knew it was one of the biggest sports video games in the world, but I don't think I quite realized the kind of impact it would have until we noticed that a fan had posted a fan video of "Wild" on YouTube, and on the FIFA webpage they linked that video to their page, and they were showing the artists they had. In a short amount of time, the views on that video skyrocketed because of the video game, and people were leaving comments and stuff. And I think right then I realized "oh crap, this is huge." We're very grateful for that, that it's helped the band reach so many people that we would have never been able to reach before. When you're a new band, and you're really working hard to get your name out there, a lot of stuff takes a long time, so something like that is really a huge breakthrough in terms of getting your music to more people's ears quickly.

You guys are deeply rooted in the Louisiana music scene, as you mentioned earlier. Can you talk about that scene?

The band is split in Louisiana. Two of our members live in Lafayette, and a couple in New Orleans.  When we first got started, actually, I think for us it was good because there are three major markets that we like to play at - New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Lafayette. When we started, instead of oversaturating ourselves by playing New Orleans every couple of weeks, we would do a show in New Orleans, wait a couple weeks, do a show in Lafayette, wait, and do a show in Baton Rouge. It gave us a chance to branch out and play for more people at the beginning, and it helped us as a new band. I think the location in general is very good because even though we might not sound like a traditional New Orleans band, I think living there provides us with a really positive energy and a really big party atmosphere, and we try to do that in all of our performances. That's what we carry with us.

Any up-and-coming bands (aside from you guys) that we should be on the lookout for?

Well, we're on tour right now with American Authors, and those guys are amazing and so much fun to be on the road with. We got lucky enough to play with them a while back, and we had such a good time that we had to have them with us now. Then, on the later half of the tour, we'll be playing with a band called The Colourist. We actually haven't met them yet, but their music's great and we're really excited to play with them. We've actually gone on a couple really great tours with bands that were getting played on the Sirius XM radio stations, and we've got a lot of friends from bands like that. We've met A Silent Film, which is a great band, and we've met Gold Fields and Animal Kingdom - these are all bands we've got lucky enough to play shows with and get on the XM radio at the same time.

Any final words?

Thank you for taking the time for this. We're really looking forward to the shows coming up.

We'd like to thank Gary and Royal Teeth for taking time out of their busy touring schedule to field this interview. The band has quite a few dates left on their tour, which you can check out here, and of course they have their debut LP, Glow, out August 13. We'll most likely be posting a review of the album when August rolls around, so check back here for more news.

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