Thursday, February 11, 2010

Up Front and In Your Face: An interview with Royal Bangs

Royal Bangs, a rock group from Knoxville, TN, hits the Terrace Club stage this Saturday night. Formed in 2005, the quintet’s music is a unique amalgamation of indie-rock and electronica that crosses conventional boundaries of genre and style. Whatever their type of music is actually called, Royal Bangs music is danceable above all else, and their performance should be upbeat and fun. Royal Bangs consists of Sam Stratton, Ryan Schaefer, Chris Rusk, Brandon Biondo and Henry Gibson. Intersections talked to vocalist and keyboard player Ryan Schaefer in anticipation of the band's gig this weekend.

Can you give a basic introduction of the band?

We have two guitar players-Brandon and Sam, and Chris plays the drums. I play the keyboard, sing, and do electronic stuff. And Henry plays bass. Chris and Sam and I went to high school together and played in some bands beforehand. We met Henry and Brandon two years ago, and they had a band. We found out we had some musical things in common, and eventually they joined us in 2008.

What is the songwriting process like for you guys?

Usually there’s demo with guitar parts or keyboard parts and we bounce it back and forth and put lyrics and other things on it. We try to spend a lot of time on the production whenever we record. Then at the live show, we just try to replicate that as close as we can. We try to put the live shows together so that one song really goes right into the next.

You just released an album called “Let it Beep” last year. How does it differ from your previous work in “We Breed Champions?”

We have been playing together more like a live band and touring together more. I think on the first album it was more just me writing the songs. I think we probably work together a little more now. The last record was the first one we’ve done at a studio too, so we’ve really had the chance to use a little more of the equipment and the extra instruments, whereas we recorded the first album at home. This one we just kind of slept in the studio and knocked it all out at once. The first album was done over the course of a couple months.

The tagline on your website is “Royal Bangs Are Destroying Your Mind.” What are the concepts behind how you want your music to be perceived by people?

We want people to be involved when they come to our shows. We want it to be in your face, and not just background music for people to drink to. We hope it’s engaging and upfront.

What are some of the albums or bands that you’re listening to now?

Between five of us there’s a lot of different music. But I really liked the last Dirty Projectors record and as far as new music, the Neon Indian album is pretty cool. And then a lot of the time we just listen to weird older stuff.

What are your favorite venues to play at?

The Pilot Light in Nashville Tennessee is kind of our home place. The place we were playing today, Brooklyn Bowl, was really cool to. There’s also a place in Brooklyn called Death by Audio, which was really great.

I like venues like that because they’re pretty small and so you’re two or three feet away from people. I think it’s always fun when you can turn it up really loud and be that close.

What is the most memorable performance experience you’ve ever had?

We toured with the Black Keys one time, and we played with them in Ohio at this outdoor ampitheater. That was huge, and I think it was the biggest scale of a show that we’ve ever played. It was the closest I’ve ever felt to being in a peak band I think. And last week we played at this place called the Bijou in Knoxville, which was a historic old kind of theater, where a lot of notable people have played.

What are you guys doing now? Do you have any plans for the future?

This week we’re playing headlining shows. In a couple of days we’re going to start a tour with a band from Scotland band called We Were Promised Jetpacks, and we’re going back to Europe to do a tour in April. In between there we’ve started recording our next album a little bit at home, back at our practice space.

What is the show at Terrace going to be like?

We’ve never been there before, but we always like playing college shows. At least when I was in college everyone was usually broke, so I always really like it when we can play a free show. I think its nice because people are more inclined to check out something new.

Royal Bangs will be playing at Terrace F. Club Saturday at midnight. Pterodactyl and Rebels Eat Apples will be opening for them.

Interview conducted, condensed and edited by Lisa Han '13

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