If I were to tell you that you should listen to the new band that Chicago’s Victory Records was promoting this summer, you’d probably spit it in my face or tell me that you’re too old to go to Warped Tour and, for the most part, you’d be right. When emo bands like Taking Back Sunday were blowing up all over MySpace and every kid who felt a little bit angsty in high school was blasting them through their headphones and writing their lyrics down in their notebooks and on the rubber of their converse, Victory was the outlet for those bands.
However, Victory Records has stumbled upon a great indie-rock band that is so far from what their old brand used to be that there might actually be a light at the end of the emo-tunnel. That’s right, the label that broke bands like Taking Back Sunday and Hawthorne Heights (among dozens of cookie-cutter spin-off bands) has signed a band that doesn’t squeal and bleed, well, scream-o.
The Royalty are a five piece indie-rock band that hail from San Antonio, Texas. They have the standard set up your parents would be proud of: guitar, bass, drums, keyboard, and a female singer. Lovers is dripping with do-woppy, dreamy, distortion heavy 1960s love songs that are relevant to not just teenagers, but twenty somethings as well. At times The Royalty sound like a less depressing and slightly psychedelic Amy Winehouse that don’t sound retro as a gimmick, but because it’s who they are.
Lovers tells stories so personal that they feel as real as your best friend telling you about the night before like in the song “Bartender” where lead vocalist Nicole Bourdeau sings, “I’m in love with the bartender/Whenever I see him he plays the old rhythm and blues/I’m in love I don’t know what to do/When I see him we talk about all his tattoos.”
Teenagers are angsty and emotional and a lot of the time decide what’s cool and what’s going to sell because they’re the ones with the disposable income who will go to a concert and pay $40 for a t-shirt. The problem with emo was that it only spoke to a certain demographic (mostly suburban white teenagers) for a certain time in their life and the songs weren’t relevant a few years later. People seemed to want to “forget those days” when they outgrew emo. However, The Royalty have kept that intimate and highly emotional subject matter but are singing to listeners both old and young, albeit more targeted towards girls like line “Other boys they tell me that I’m worth it,” in song “Other Boys,” which is something that many young girls could relate to. But the instrumentals and other songs are solid enough that a few “girly” songs won’t alienate a young male.
There need to be bands like The Royalty singing to younger kids and it’s great that there’s a band with real substance playing the songs. The Royalty create music that you could sing twenty years prior to now and twenty years after and people could still relate to them. Each song on Lovers goes through a certain emotional state that every single person who ever has or will have a relationship on earth will experience and there’s truth in that. That’s where emo (and bands like Best Coast) fail and The Royalty wins. You don’t have to try to tell the difference between songs on Lovers because each of the songs are unique. Songs like “Witchcraft” boast spacious and airy guitars that put you into a dreamy mood, while “Mr. Hyde” is a power-pop surf inspired jam with bite that if taken further could be a Vivian Girls song.
Besides the lyrical content to Lovers, the album is an instrumental treat. The Royalty don’t break any boundaries or really experiment with anything new, but they play around in an old style so well and bring fresh breath to it with a few modern techniques. Their sound draws on aspects of the washed out, heavy distorted lo-fi, but not because they don’t have the means or equipment to do so, but because it actually adds to their aesthetic. The Royalty could have produced their album crisp and clean, but there is a certain feel that the fuzz.
While The Royalty are not for everyone, they are certainly not a band to ignore. They don’t ride on their female lead singer to make up for a lack of substance. Songs like “I Want You” have more kick because of Nicole and a certain kind of sexy that wouldn’t work if were sung by a male. The Royalty picks up in the path that acts like La Sera have left for bands that have awesome energy to show that girls can rock just as hard as the boys ,or possibly that boys and girls can work together to create music in a very male dominated industry.
The Royalty – Lovers tracklist:
- “How I Like ‘Em”
- “Please Lie”
- “Bottle Breaker”
- “Mr. Hyde”
- “Other Boys”
- “Say the Word”
- “Every Little Bit”
- “Saint Bowie”
- “Won’t Be Long”