Royal Bangs

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Unless you’re Ernest Hemingway, moving to France wouldn’t be the obvious career move for aspiring American creative types.

But Tennessee five-piece Royal Bangs found success just when they thought a move abroad had ended the band for good. The band’s 2008 album ‘We Breed Champions’ was supposed to be a parting gesture before heading to Gallic soil, lead singer Ryan Schaefer explains. “I was getting ready to leave…we figured that that was kind of the end of it, we’re not gonna do the band anymore, we should just document these songs. We made, like, a hundred copies, forwarded them to people and that was that.” Thanks to one lucky MySpace mouseclick, ‘that’ wasn’t that at all. Royal Bangs cofounder and Schaefer’s high school friend Chris Rusk added Audio Eagle Records as a friend on MySpace; label boss and The Black Keys’ drummer Patrick Carney like their sound so much, he signed them.

Schaefer returned to Tennessee to find a record deal and a tour waiting: the band hasn’t looked back, touring the US extensively, including opening for The Black Keys themselves. There’s only one drawback to such good luck. “We seem to be destroying all the other good bands in town because we keep stealing people away from them!”

Schaefer laughs, mentioning that both bass player Henry and guitarist Brandon were in other Knoxville bands before the demands of touring forced their other projects to break down. The Knoxville music scene’s loss is our gain. ‘We Breed Champion’’s dense mixture of heavy riffs, electronic, drum machines and surprisingly sweet melodies recall Animal Collective and Pavement colliding with DFA 1979 (minus the sexual menace). ‘Broke Calculator’ lollops with countrified insouciance; ‘Brother’ kicks and screams, building fierce waves of guitar alongside insistent, impatient vocals. Or, as Schaefer puts it, they sound “like a bunch of middle school kids trying to write a new soundtrack for Blade Runner - and then just failing really badly, probably…”

Expect something different on the new album, recorded at the Audio Eagle studios. Schaefer is returning to Ohio for mixing this week, with a tentative August release date earmarked. “It’s probably more electronic…but not a dance-electronic type of thing,” he explains, “there’s a lot more electronic drumbeats mixed with real drums.”

Hot off several shows at SXSW, expect to hear the new sound soon on City Slang, their European label. If the credit crunch abates, or at least plane tickets get cheaper, keep your fingers crossed for UK tour dates - maybe even a few festival appearances. Schaefer promises they’ll be over “definitely this year”. They have every right to be as “really excited” as they say they are.

Words: Lowri Jenkins

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