Published on September 28th, 2012 | by Ballard Lesemann0
Royal Teeth are a Natural Act
The boisterous and gleeful music on Louisiana-based sextet Royal Teeth’s new mini-album Act Naturally is synth-driven, upbeat, and twisted. It draws from classic pop styles and bundles everything with a modern indie-pop twist. In the months since its release on Dangerbird Records this summer, Act Naturally made a splash in the rock underground.
Singer/guitarist Gary Larsen and his bandmates — Joshua Wells (bass), Nora Patterson (vocals), Josh Hefner (drums), Stevie Billeaud (guitar), and Andrew Poe (keys/percussion/programming) — actually recorded the collection right here in Charleston at Ocean Industries (on James Island) with owner Eric Bass (of Shinedown) and his full team at the mixing board.
Larsen and his bandmates are eager to return to the Lowcountry for an all-ages show at the Sparrow in Park Circle on Saturday night. They had a blast at the venue back in May. Metronome spoke with Larsen this week.
Metronome: Royal Teeth has been together for two years, but these last few month seem like they’ve been your busiest by far.
Gary Larsen: We never really toured when we first got together. This is really the first time the whole band has traveled and worked together like this. It’s not too difficult for us all to get together. Nora and I live in New Orleans, and we just drive a couple of hours over the Lafayette where most of the other guys live. We huddle together, write songs, and record demos there.
Metronome: You’ve listed yourselves as New Orleans/Lafayette-based group. Who’s stationed where?
Gary Larsen: Initially, a lot of or songwriting was done by e-mail, which might seem kind of strange, but it worked well for us. I’ll record something basic and send it out, If the guys like it, they load it to their computers and add parts to it. It’s gets going from there. It’s very collaborative. These days, we create in the same room together more than by the internet.
Metronome: Do you ever get tagged or listed inaccurately as a “New Orleans-style” band?
Gary Larsen: I doubt that people automatically think of New Orleans when they hear our music. New Orleans definitely has that jazz and blues history, but right now, the scene there is so diverse and full of all sorts of musical acts. It’s a wide variety. It’s a very musical city with so much to offer. We might have a little bit of the city’s party vibe going on, actually.
Metronome: Did y’all live up to the title of this new EP and act naturally as you made it?
Gary Larsen: We were kind of nervous about the songwriting process, to be honest. We thought it would be hard to get out of our own protective little bubbles and share with everybody. We were able to allow ourselves to be vulnerable and put our ideas out in the open. I think it got the best out of everybody. The process actually felt very easy and natural.
Metronome: How did a young band from Louisiana hook up with the local team at Ocean Industries?
Gary Larsen: Josh, Andrew and Joshua had previously been in a band called Oh Juliet, and they met Eric Bass years ago on the road, before he was doing the Shinedown stuff. Eric recorded their band at Ocean a few years back. When Shinedown came through Louisiana, Eric invited them and their new bandmates to the show. At that time, we’d only done a few little demos. We chatted with him, and he said he’d have enough free time between tours to have us in the studio. We just were in the right place at the right time, and it turned out to be a great experience. Eric Rickert and Jeff Leonard were assisting, and they were such awesome guys to work with.
Metronome: Ocean is in a warehouse situated at the end of an industrial road — not the most scenic spot in town. Did you and the band get a chance to get out and about while you were recording here?
Gary Larsen: We had a few chances to get out to the beach, and we took one night to go out downtown all together. Now that we know some people in town and know our way around, we always look forward to coming back and checking out more of the Charleston area. It has become one of our favorite places to visit. It’s such a beautiful and unique place. I’ve actually become a big fan of the Muddy Waters coffee place [on Folly Road], which is where Eric Bass likes to get his coffee.
Metronome: The music on Act Naturally is very rhythmic and textured with rich dance beats. It’s very percussive, from the drums to the guitars and vocals.
Gary Larsen: It’s so difficult to define your style. You can say pop or indie, but those mean so many different things. We always joke that we should categorize ourselves as ‘Afro-Hugstep’ or ‘Kansas-core,’ just to be silly and make fun it all. But the drum thing is just something that built up as we wrote the songs. We love to have a heavy rhythm going. On stage, we have a drummer, an auxiliary drummer who also plays keys, and I even have a drum next to me. It drives the music and create a pretty big sound.
Metronome: Describe you own musical background. What were you into as a budding musician?
Gary Larsen: I was based more in a folky rock with a heavy dose of classic power pop, R&B, and British Invasion. I still like to listed to really old pop music, like the Kinks and the Beach Boys, and Motown stuff like Ben E. King. There’s something about the vibe and how stripped-down those songs are. And the great melodies — I love drawing from that and using big melodies in what we do.
Metronome: What do you and the band hope to accomplish this season?
Gary Larsen: Our main goal when we’re performing live is to present the energy that the album gives off. We’re able to make it sound as big as the recording, and we put our heart into it. We’re constantly moving and constantly interacting, and we’re really trying to establish a connection with the audience. It’s a challenge, but we always try to think of what we can do to push things in the right way.
The Royal Teeth shares the stage with Cusses and Heyrocco at the Sparrow in North Charleston (1078 E. Montague Ave.) at 9 p.m. on Sat. Sept. 29. Admission is $8 (all ages). Check out royalteethmusic.com and facebook.com/thesparrowparkcircle for more.
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