Archive for the ‘Royal Bangs’ tag
Royal Bangs: (from left) Chris Rusk, Ryan Schaefer, Sam Stratton
Knoxville electro-pop indie darlings the Royal Bangs will play a rare hometown show on Friday, Sept. 21, at The Ciderhouse (112 Ramsey St. in Knoxville’s Warehouse District, adjacent to The Valarium; Marina Orchestra opens the show), and we caught up via email with singer/instrumental wizard Ryan Schaefer to get the skinny on what’s happening with the guys.
The band plans on debuting a “bunch of new material” at the Ciderhouse show, Schaefer writes, from the band’s forthcoming new album. Although it’s untitled right now and a firm release date has yet to be locked in, it’s a safe bet given the band’s last two nationally distributed releases — 2009’s “Let It Beep” and last year’s “Flux Outside” (released on the Glassnote label) — a lot of fans in East Tennessee and beyond are waiting on pins and needles for a new record.
It’s “almost finished, just getting it mastered now,” Schaefer writes. “We recorded it in Nashville with our friend Patrick Carney (of The Black Keys and founder of the Audio Eagle record label, which released “Let It Beep”) producing and Roger Moutenot engineering. It was really fun to make. Dylan Dawkins (formerly of up-and-coming fuzz-pop band Yung Life and the side project Persona La Ave) plays bass for us now, so we could actually track most of it live, which was kind of new for us. Usually we figure everything out in the studio, but this time we had it more or less put together before we got there, and the songs can breathe a little bit more because we’re playing them together.”
The band’s other two members include guitarist Sam Stratton and drummer/percussionist Chris Rusk. The Sept. 21 show starts at 10 p.m., and admission is $10; it’s a presentation of that most awesome Old City indie-rock club The Pilot Light.
Royal Bangs are (from left) Chris Rusk, Sam Stratton and Ryan Schaefer
A Royal Bangs live album? The boys in the band wouldn’t be opposed to it, singer/multi-instrumentalist Ryan Schaefer told me last week.
“I’d love too, actually; we sound so much different live that I’d love to document it,” he said. “It justs depends, because it’s so difficult to get it right. You listen to something like Dylan’s Albert Hall bootleg, and it sounds so good. It captures what was really going on in the room. A lot of time, the aesthetic of a live album can be distracting.”
Schaefer talked about the band, its status in the Knoxville music scene and this weekend’s two-shows-in-one-day assault on The Pilot Light, 106 E. Jackson Ave. in Knoxville’s Old City. Aside from a few last-minute, barely promoted benefit shows, the Bangs haven’t had a proper Knoxville date in a while, and going back to the venue that helped launch the group is a gratifying thing, Schaefer said.
“It’s something that we want to do, but we spend so much time on the road that it’s kind of difficult for us,” he said. “We really like playing The Pilot Light, and I think it’s important to support that venue. It was important for us, and it’s still the best place to see good music. That was the only place that would let us play when we were starting out.
“This weekend is kind of an experiment, doing two shows on the same day. It’s fun when it’s a small place and everybody’s packed in there, but we haven’t played an all-ages show in years in Knoxville. That’s going to be kind of exciting.”
Late night talk show host David Letterman loves him some bands with Knoxville connections. (To be fair … he loves music, period, or at least the people who book his musical acts do.) On Feb. 2, The Boxer Rebellion — fronted by Maryville native Nathan Nicholson — performed on “The Late Show With David Letterman.” Now comes word from Motormouth Media, the publicity company representing Knoxville three-piece indie rock outfit Royal Bangs, that the Bangs will be the musical guests on Letterman on April 1.
That’s the week the band’s new album, “Flux Outside,” drops. We reviewed that here.
UPDATED: The Bangs will actually be on “Letterman” on April 1, not March 28.
The Boxer Rebellion, “The Cold Still”
Release date: Out now (Absentee Recordings)
If you were not at the Clayton Center for the Arts on the Maryville College campus last October to see The Boxer Rebellion perform, don’t tell me. Because your absence makes me want to slap you.
Not only did you miss an absolutely amazing show, you probably helped ensure that the band — fronted by singer Nathan Nicholson — won’t be performing in this area for quite a while. I hope that’s not the case, but when you do well to fill 300 seats of a 1,400-person venue … and the audience sits for most of the show even though you’re parting their hair with some amazing rock ‘n’ roll … well, can you blame them?
If they pass up East Tennessee on future tours (and we’re certainly not a stop on the recently announced U.S. jaunt), then that, to put it crudely, sucks hairy testicles. Because this band … right now … is doing something amazing.
They’re not reinventing the wheel here, and the boys will be the first to tell you that. They’re humble, good-natured dudes who just want to play music. What makes “The Cold Still,” the band’s most recent album so bloody brilliant (sorry; their Britishness affected me momentarily) is the context of it. Go back and listen to “Exits,” the band’s first full-length. Linger a little while listening to “Union,” released in 2009. Then, I think, will you full appreciate just how committed these musicians are to growing and evolving and making the next album even better than the last.
The record kicks off with the beautifully haunting “No Harm,” a somber dirge that allows Nicholson’s vocals room to soar. Producer Ethan Johns is the album’s mastermind, and his deft touch turns a good song into something amazing at about the 1:20 mark, when bassist Adam Harrison’s few simple notes rise to the surface with the breathtaking beauty of a dolphin breaching the waves a few yards away. “Step Out of the Car,” the lead-off single/track, is certainly a high point — it’s got the dark energy and the razor-sharp guitar work of Todd Howe and comes as close as anything to replicating the big sounds off of “Union.” (Naturally, it was the choice for the guys to play when they rocked “Late Night with David Letterman” on Feb. 2.)
But the somber mood prevails — sometimes with urgency, as on the song “Locked In the Basement,” and sometimes with a swirling kaleidoscope of vibrating sonic flourishes, as on “Caught By the Light.” Then there’s a track like “Organ Song,” which sounds similar to, and as good as anything on, The National’s 2010 masterpiece “High Violet.” Once again, the band takes something beautiful and elevates it — this time at about the 2:12 mark, when the melody circles back on itself and Nicholson’s repetitive refrain builds into a ballad of urgency and longing.
The album fades on even quieter notes — the hushed, haunting “Doubt,” which features Nicholson’s croon reduced to a near whisper, with other instruments slowly adding to the understated mix. It’s unlike anything long-time fans will expect from The Boxer Rebellion, but in my opinion, that’s a good thing. After all, this band makes Blount County look good, and the boys are so genuine, so spot-on nice that they deserve continued success. If their subsequent efforts add to their catalog the way “The Cold Still” does, they’ll surely have it.
Royal Bangs, “Flux Outside”
Release date: March 29 (Glassnote Records)
Although the three members of Royal Bangs (Sam Stratton, Ryan Schaefer, Chris Rusk) are Southern boys, I do not know if they like gravy. Nor do I have any idea why, upon listening to “Flux Outside,” the forthcoming new album from the Knoxville electro-rockers, would my brain think of gravy, that quintessentially Southern condiment that so often gets poured over biscuits but goes quite well with mashed potatoes, country ham and just about any other food product. Other than making myself hungry, the association is rather pointless and stupid, but that’s what I think of — electronic gravy.
It would be easy to declare that “Flux Otuside” is the album the Bangs have been working so hard to make, but that’s a retarded statement. Of course it’s the album they’ve been working so hard to make, but it’s brilliance (yes, it is brilliant) doesn’t diminish “Let It Beep,” the album the guys put out in 2009 on Audio Eagle. I loved that record and still do; “Poison Control” may be among my Top 20 Most Favorite Songs Ever, because listening to it makes me feel like I’ve been French-kissing a light socket. Everything synapse seems to fire faster and better and with laser-beam focus and intensity.
For the new album, the Bangs have taken everything that was good about “Let It Beep” and smothered it (in electronic gravy) — which is to say that as delectable as the last album was, this one’s even better. All of the white space, the little moments of linear progression that came closest to resembling the verse-chorus-verse structure of traditional songs, has been covered up — augmented, if you will — by skittering sounds both obvious and barely noticeable. The guys have refined their manic energy and amplified it with pops, buzzes, beeps, clicks and all manner of electronic sound effects. The end result is an album that kicks off frantic with “Grass Helmet” and doesn’t allow the trio to come up for air until the sixth track, “Bad News, Strange Luck” — and even that maintains a normal heartrate for about 2 minutes, until the guys plug back into the generator and swing full-tilt toward buzzsaw insanity once agan.
Personally, I lean toward the muscular feel of songs like “Triccs,” which roars from one side of the brain to the other on Rusk’s powerhouse pounding, snarling and growling like a muscle car barely hanging onto coastal road curves but never slowing down. And the guys get almost introspective on the final two tracks, which slow down considerably from the frenetic pace with which the album kicks off.
But wait — there’s more. There’s a shimmering, Toro y Moi-like swirling intro to the song “Fireball” that gives way to a bouncing, sunny groove … a throwback to the rhythmic sounds of the “Let It Beep” lead-off track “War Bells” on “Back Then It Was Different” … some chiming prettiness on “Silver Step” … and just, damn, a whole lot more. Each listen reveals something new, some hidden ingredient bubbling just beneath the surface that slowly bobs up, revealing itself as a seemingly inconsequential detail that, it turns out, elevates the overall serving of “Flux Outside” from something merely delicious to a dish that would move Chef Gordon Ramsay to tears.
What that is, what the Bangs have brought to the table for “Flux,” is the gravy. Because gravy makes everything better.
Senryu, “Half Wild”
Release date: April 1 (independent)
It’s a puzzling album title for anyone who’s seen Knoxville indie-pop band Senryu perform live.
“Half Wild”? Really? Because every time I’ve seen the group, “wild” doesn’t begin to do the live show justice. With evil genius Wil Wright at the helm, Senryu is a band of four Terminators programmed to rock and party, not necessarily in that order: “It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever” … until you collapse from exhaustion because your ear drums feel like someone poured a package of Pop Rocks down your ear canal and topped them with a 2-liter bottle of Dr Pepper.
In fact, that’s always been the challenge for Wright and company — recording an album that does the band justice and comes as close as the impossibility of doing so allows to capturing that live energy in the studio. The genius is that the two animals, while closely related, are two separate vehicles for Senryu’s creative spirit.
In concert, you can usually count on a few things — a skull-crusher like the intense “I Am a Battering Ram” … the crowd-favorite “The Hometown Bounce” … the gorgeous and lush “Inklings,” which became the backdrop for a marriage proposal during Senryu’s show at The Longbranch Saloon last August. Generally speaking — and specifically so, when it comes to “Half Wild” — the studio becomes a playground, a laboratory for soundscapes and musical collages that seem pulled from some garishly vibrant palette of colors so vivid they seem almost edible. (Take, for example, the lead-off single “Great. Expectations.,” which I reviewed when it was first released.)
“Half Wild” kicks off on an almost quaint note with “A Change of Heart,” languid and breezy, tinkling xylophone notes and drumbeats building toward the 1:47 mark, when Wright’s plaintive, soulful singing gives way in a growl to an explosion of force. Here’s the beauty of “Half Wild,” though, and maybe it’s what gives the album it’s title — just when you think it’s going to jump the tracks and turn into something so chaotic and crazy it leaves you pounding your chest to make sure your heart is still pumping blood to vital organs, Wright and co. reel it back in.
That control, that measured pace, is maintained throughout much of “Half Wild.” Take a song like “Thunder Shook the House,” which grows toward a turbulent finish, sounding like something The Doors might have recorded if Jim Morrison’s drug of choice had been cocaine instead of everything else — the band works the listener to the edge of the seat, anticipating something primal, only to put a finger over protesting lips and ask for patience. It’s a scenario that gets repeated on “Halfwild Boys,” a track destined for live performance greatness, and for most of “Take Yourself Apart,” a madcap of melody that gives way to to the 45-second “Hyperventilator.”
That’s the turning point — in less than a minute, Wright channels angst, rage, frustration, desperation and finally lights the “Half Wild” fuse, letting it burn toward the detonation point … only to lick his thumb and forefinger, reach down at the last minute and extinguish that flame. The next song is so dreamy, so hypnotic, that by song’s end you’re not sure what’s going to happen next … whether this is the Senryu you’ve known for so long or something completely different … or whether the plodding coda of “Before It Happens” signals some cosmic shift toward a new field of stars.
“We’re gonna have to leave the rest behind,” Wright wails as the song, and the album, come to a close. Hearing that, and soaking up the complexity that is “Half Wild,” I feel more confident that if nothing else, “Half Wild” is a sign of good things to come — for the band, hopefully, but definitely for fans. God knows, Senryu deserves it, because Wright and his bandmates make sure that the fans always get what they deserve, even if they don’t know what that is until after they hear it.
- There’s a new singer-songwriter night taking place at Downtown Grill and Brewery, 424 S. Gay St. in downtown Knoxville. It’s on Tuesdays (next one is Tuesday, Sept. 21); you have to sign up by 9 p.m., and you get to play two songs.
- Local hard rock outfit November Sky has called it quits; the members say a new project is in the works.
- Comedian Brian Posehn has postponed several of his fall dates — including an Oct. 1 gig at The Bijou Theatre in downtown Knoxville — because of scheduling conflicts with a movie part. He pledged on Twitter to make up the dates this winter.
- That wild-eyed hillbilly preacher known as the singer-songwriter Jon Worley is at it again. This time, he’s tackling The Beatles — specifically, the song “I’ve Got a Feeling” from the band’s 1970 album “Let It Be.” On a Beatles tribute album featuring ukuleles as the primary instrument. “The Beatles Complete on Ukulele” is a bizarre little gem that’s getting quite a bit of recognition, and Worley’s contribution is one of several on the record, but together as a project by David Barratt and Roger Greenawalt. You can download the album for free; here’s the link to Worley’s gritty version.
- As reported last week by the local alt-weekly, the three-piece local band Royal Bangs have signed with Glassnote Records. The group is currently working on the follow-up to last year’s “Let It Beep,” which wound up on our year-end best-of list.
As the year winds down to a close, it’s only appropriate, we think, to look back on all of the ink we’ve spilled over the past 12 months. Over the next several days, we’ll be rounding up all of the interviews that have graced the pages of The Daily Times Weekend entertainment section … starting with all of the East Tennessee bands and musicians of all genres to whom we’ve devoted space this year. Presenting … the local interviews of 2009!
Southbound (cover story)
The Drunk Uncles: (cover story)
Jonathan Sexton and The Big Love Choir (cover story)
Whitechapel 2 (front page story)
Dirty Guv’nahs 1 (cover story)
Royal Bangs (cover story)
R.B. Morris (cover story)
Maryville Metal Fest (cover story)
Brandy Robinson (cover story)
Scott Miller (cover story)
The Black Lillies (cover story)
Teenage Love13 (cover story)
Not that Europeans ever need a reason to lose their minds — pick any random soccer match overseas, and chances are there’s gonna be a riot before the fourth quarter ends — but come November, there’s gonna be another reason for them to act crazy.
That would be East Tennessee indie-pop quintet the Royal Bangs, who return home for a show on Thursday, Oct. 15, at The Pilot Light (106 E. Jackson Ave. in Knoxville’s Old City), where they open for Audio Eagle Records labelmates Drummer. After wrapping up the dates with Drummer and a week of additional touring, the band is headed overseas.
The Bangs posted the new dates on their Myspace page this morning; I caught up with drummer extraordinaire Chris Rusk by phone this afternoon as the band made its way through Brooklyn for a show tonight at the fabled Mercury Lounge.
“It’s been good — lots of driving, that’s for sure, but we’ve been getting good turnouts,” he said.
It’s the first time the Bangs have been out West, and for many of the members, driving through parts of the country they’ve never seen before has been an adventure, he added. San Francisco, Portland, Washington State, the Southwest … the guys have hit them all. The craziest show, he said, was at Grinnell College, in Iowa.
“There was just tons of college kids dancing from the beginning to the end of the set, and afterward, we all went outside and lit off fireworks after we played,” Rusk said. “It was a constant party the whole night.”
Although the schedule is grueling — the guys don’t have a night off until Oct. 18 — it’s not without reward: the band will perform Nov. 6 at the Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin, Texas, on a bill that includes The Jesus Lizard and GZA from the Wu-Tang Clan. Then, it’s off to Europe — the first time any of the band members, except for vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Ryan Schaeffer, who spent time in France before the Bangs were signed to Audio Eagle — have ever been overseas.
“It’ll even be the first time (bass player) Henry (Gibson) has been on a plane,” Rusk added.
Thursday’s show starts at 10 p.m.; cover is $8. Incidentally, Drummer is the side project of Patrick Carney, one half of The Black Keys. I haven’t heard Drummer, but I can’t recommend enough seeing the Royal Bangs. This band makes music that you absolutely, positively, cannot stay (or get) in a bad mood while hearing. The new album, “Let It Beep,” is a frantic, bombastic explosion of joy and aural orgasms and … well, just fun. I think the second track, “Poison Control,” has been on “repeat” in my iTunes for two weeks now. If leaders of two warring countries were forced to be in the same room and the door was locked while this song was piped in over speakers, the Bangs would have won the damn Nobel Peace Prize instead of President Obama, because by the end of the song, those two guys would be dancing their asses off with one another. Seriously.
Once again, two fine bands have allowed us to either host or link to free mp3s of their music!
First up, Royal Bangs — a damn fine indie band from East Tennessee that we have on our cover. Read all about the guys here, then go over to their own website to download a song off of their new album, “Let It Beep”:
Download “My Car Is Haunted,” by Royal Bangs: Right-click here (choose “Save Target As” or “Save Link As”)
Visit the site for the band’s label, Audio Eagle Records, to purchase Royal Bangs goodness and other tunage.
Secondly — burgeoning folk duo Cain and Annabelle are finding quite the niche all over the country. Hit their Myspace site up to check out all those tour dates, then read today’s interview with them here.
Download “Side Porch Swing,” by Cain and Annabelle: Right-click here (choose “Save Target As” or “Save Link As”)
Download “Sycamore Tree,” by Cain and Annabelle: Right-click here (choose “Save Target As” or “Save Link As”)
Buy “The Lake Takes,” by Cain and Annabelle: Click here