Interview: American Royalty
photo: Nick Walker
Los Angeles and soon-to-be New York based American Royalty are bringing the rock back to electronic music. If The Black Keys and Vitalic had a love child, you would get American Royalty. Genre-wise they fit on the outliers of straight-up rock and roll, experimental and modern-day pop. They combine hard synths with drawn out psychedelic verses. American Royalty consists of singers Marc Gilfry and Billy Scher and drummer Mat Ungson.
They’re the band you want playing if you have a bunch of friends who are into different kinds of music. It is party music in its truest form. Hot off the release of “Matchstick” and an accompanying remix EP the band is back with a new single “Honey & Queen.” The song has a huge psychedelic vibe to it combining wavy synths with a simple yet compelling beat. It is the first song off their new 5-song EP that will be coming out early February.
I sat down with singers Marc Gilfry and Billy Shcer to talk about their recording process, their new EP, and what bands inspire them. We also talked about their move to the east coast and their plans for the foreseeable future.
So how did you guys meet?
Marc Gilfry:Just mutual friends. Billy and Mat were in a band called L’eau Life and I saw them play many times. I really liked their stage presence and thought they were talented and I had this electronic music idea that I was working on.
Cool. What is your recording process like?
MG: Well we kind of accepted the fact that when we bring in a demo it is going to come out pretty different than what we started with and so the process now is kind of like, start with an idea and see what happens.
Billy Scher: A lot of the stuff we send to each other via the iPhone voice memo. It has been coming really handy lately. We have a lot of ideas on the go. Try to throw a few of them together. See what sticks. It is really nice because it is a mental voice pad. Will and I also pass back and forth Ableton sessions and iPhone notes and build upon each other’s ideas. I don’t know, every song is kind of different.
Would you say the track comes first or the vocals?
MG: I would say it really differs. Usually there is some kind of really basic track and then the vocals come. Sometimes it is literally just like me singing into my phone a lick and then building off of that.
You have this kind of interesting rock and roll sound combined with electronic music. What are some of your influences?
BS: Right know I am all about Tame Impala and Matthew Dear. Pretty much anything Matthew Dear touches I am all about. I just love Matthew Dear.
MG: I agree with all of those. Also been listening to a lot of more experimental on-the-fringe dance music. I am really digging right now a label called Night Slugs out of the UK. I feel like that is where a lot of the sonic experimentation comes on. These guys are really progressive dance producers.
You guys obviously do not fit into any kind of genre, but if you had to classify yourself where do you think you would fit?
MG: I would say we lean more towards art-pop stuff like Matthew Dear and Tycho. Less ambient, though. We are very much rooted in our rock and roll and blues and that kind of brings us away from that kind of music.
BS: I would agree with that as well. I feel like since our music is very song driven and not jam driven that we have more of an art-pop sound then experimental. I would like to say that we are psychedelic to a certain extent.
Tell me a little bit about your new song.
MG: “Honey & Queen” came together from Will and I sitting in our practice space and whacking on some drum pads and looping some precisions that we stole from another song that we won’t name. I have this little toy that my parents gave me last Christmas. It is this little sound toy that when you sing through it pitches up your voice like a fifth.
BS: It is a fourth.
MG: Thanks Billy. Yeah we were just jamin on that and this song came out of this. This little red cheap megaphone.
Tell me a little bit about your July residency at the Echo?
BS: It was a lot of fun. We were able to have a different vibe each night. Our support network is amazing in Los Angeles. Everyone came out and partied. It was a fun kind of hang-out spot for the month. It was really cool for us because we got to dive into a lot of different tastes. Both musically and visually. It was really cool—we were working with a lighting and video team that we were able to iron some things out with. We also tried to have a different art exhibit each week.
MG: We got to try out some new music. Each night we tried to make it a little unique and cater towards a certain crowd. One was kind of a rock/ punky night, we had a freak night, we had a raver night. It was all a great time. We brought out some of our friends from New York who brought out some really forward thinking DJs.
I recently sat down with Tycho at FYF and he was talking to me about the importance of incorporating his visuals into his live show. How do you guys feel about that? And when you have your next bit of live shows, are you going to be thinking about doing some sort of visual aspect?
MG: Yeah it is definitely on our minds. From having a full-on production to not having any makes a huge difference. I mean we went on tour and were not able to bring our production team with us. We came back home and had lights again and it makes such a huge difference. The visual component makes it so much more of an experience for the audience. With all of the lights you can kind of get lost in all of it and become part of the show.
BS: I think it is really important as well. I agree with that to an extent. When we have the lights and we have everything going it is a certain vibe and a certain experience. On the other hand, when we are playing like at a bar in Cincinnati with no production that brings a whole different vibe. It is much more raw and rock and roll. Both vibes are great and they both bring something different to the table. We can cater our sets towards what type of night it is production-wise. Bottom line is we like to try different things and always keep changing up our live experience.
So what can we expect from you guys next?
BS: We are actually as a band making a transition. We are all moving to New York City. So that is the big thing going on right now. I am actually back east right now trying to figure some stuff out.
MG: I am hoping to move out by mid to late January. We are doing our holidays at home and then jetting over to the other side of the country. We are releasing the full EP sometime in February.
Billy also has a DJ residency in February at the Ace Hotel where he promises to be spinning some great deep house and garage. From talking with him about it, it sounds like something not to miss. Check out “Honey & Queen” below.
Follow Kevin Camps @kpcamps.