(Backstory) Back in my Audio Perv days (RIP), I did an interview with a band I feel is going to be huge in the coming year. When the site ended, it was never posted, so therefore, with permission, I’m taking it here (since I’ve already posted about them a while back) to share with fans and friends alike!
I have had a bit of an infatuation with new to the scene, New Orleans band Royal Teeth since she saw them open for The Kooks in May. I got the chance to talk to lead singer and guitarist Gary Larsen of the band, and our conversation literally covered everything you need to/would ever want to know about the band. From anticipation of a full length, to their energy on stage and those confetti cannons, to Nola and their inspirations, to David Bowie night, to weird quirks and perks and having a birthday on the road. So much information was revealed that Gary even became speechless for a minute over a question.
Read the in depth scoop about a band you definitely want to get to know! And find out what stumped Gary.
Hey Gary! How are you?
Hey, I’m good, how are you doing?
Good. So how have you guys been doing? Are you on the road right now, or no?
We’re not on the road currently. We did ACL just the other day and we drove straight back home, so I get about, maybe a week or so at home before we start playing a few more local shows, leading up to Voodoo Fest and then we have a short break after that as well.
That sounds like a good little rest.
Yea, we’ve been touring a lot throughout the past few months, so it’ll be kind of nice to catch our breaths and figure out what the next move is.
So what have guys been doing on your time off?
Writing mostly. We really haven’t had much time off. The tour hasn’t been constant, in the past few months, we’ve hopped on a few different tour runs. But, the small amount of time we did have at home we pretty much been just writing really, we’re trying to work out details on when we can get in the studio, get with the producer, and really start working on the full length, because right now we only have the EP out. So we’re hoping that by, early next year, probably around the time of SXSW, we’ll have a full album finished and we can have it out. To make sure that we can make that deadline that we’re trying to set for ourselves, we’re pretty much spending all the time we have writing and coming up with ideas and getting as much material as we can, so when the time actually comes, we’re prepared and we can really just get in the studio. We’re really anxious to get into the studio, so that’s kind of where we are I think.
What’s the production and status of the full length? You haven’t headed into the studio, but how many songs do you have prepared or how have you been writing them?
I think we probably have about 40 songs right now. We’ve been writing a lot. I think our motto has kind of been like, “don’t stop being creative and writing stuff,” even if it’s kind of like a basic idea, or anything really, let’s just see what we can make out of it. So yea, we have a lot of ideas. And it’s kind of funny because a lot of people who know us, really only know us by those five songs on the EP, now. But we have a ton, really. The thing about prepared, there’s definitely a few that stand out that we feel pretty confident that will make the record. And everything else we’re just being very open to. A lot of our off time, Nora and I would meet up with different people and different writers and kind of get other ideas and different people’s perspectives to keep the ideas fresh and interesting. It’s been a lot of fun though. We like writing and it’s kind of the first time since we started the band that we’ve actually had the chance to write together. When we first started, a lot of us were split in the state of Louisiana from Lafayette to New Orleans, which is about 2/2.5 hours away so a lot of our songs were actually written through email. And it’s very different when you’re sitting in a room starting from scratch together, which I think is a lot of fun.
You have some older songs and the songs that are on the EP, are any of them going to make it on the album, or are you just starting from scratch and what you’ve been writing?
I definitely think we’re definitely going to use “Wild,” that’s for sure. “Wild” has gotten probably the most attention of all of the songs we have, so we’re looking at that song right now to be kind of a first release, probably with a music video, single to be featured for the full length album. The other songs we’re kind of open to. I think the most important thing is that we want to be able to have a product, that, from start to finish just really makes sense with each other, and really blends well. We’re kind of open to maybe another song or two off the EP making it, but we have a lot of written material as well. I think the only thing we know for a fact that we’re going to carry over will be “Wild.”
You guys are a really drum heavy band, how did you decide to use so many drums? And who writes the drum parts?
Our drummer Josh Hefner is an excellent drummer, actually. I used to go to watch his, well, our drummer Josh Hefner, our bass player Joshua Wells, and our keyboard player Andrew Poe used to be in a band together for years. So for me, it was really great starting this project, because they’re so tight, and they’ve worked together for so long, that it was very easy to kind of getting started with them. But I used to go watch their band play around town, and I used to admire them a lot. Our drummer’s just got great ideas in terms of rhythm, our music’s just very upbeat and he’s very creative about trying different things. And when we decided that we wanted percussion to be a very big part of our band, I think it was very easy for him to kind of put some ideas that I could do. I guess I got lucky, I have kind of a natural ability to play. I don’t really consider myself a drummer, don’t put me in front of a drum kit or anything like that, I’ll probably be terrible, but if I just want a simple drum to hit in front of me, I can keep a pretty good rhythm.
So, I don’t think when we started the band, it wasn’t initially as drum heavy as it is now. I don’t think I even wanted to play the drum at first, and I think just from messing around he kind of suggested that that could be a cool thing to try, and we just, it kind of just kept growing. He likes a very simple drum kit, he doesn’t like a lot of pieces, so our keyboard player decided to do auxiliary percussion and have extra toms on stage and when it became more apparent that I could play, they gave me one, and Nora’s been the most recent one with the drum, she got a little jealous that we were all playing drums and she requested a drum for herself. So, I think, looking back at it all, I’m really glad we do that, because I feel like it’s a little bit.. it’s something that people can visually see and really hold onto when they see our live show. And we want the beats to be loud and big, and we want you to really feel the rhythm and percussion of it, and what better way than to have, especially since we have 6 band members, to have at least 4 of them at some periods of time to play drums together? So I think that makes for a pretty cool live element.
Yea, it definitely makes you guys stand out! Jumping on that track, I’ve seen you play for 20 people, and I’ve seen you play for 2,000 people, and both times you’ve had so much energy. Where do you guys get your stage presence from, as a band, and you personally?
(laughs) Well, I think that probably being from the south has something to do with it. We’re split between New Orleans and Lafayette, it’s much easier to tell people we’re from New Orleans, because more people know New Orleans than Lafayette, so I think just, the characteristic of being from the south and the spirit of New Orleans is what we carry with us. I think the general stereotype of the music from this area isn’t necessarily what we sound like, but I think there’s a character to the city, and a presence, and a really positive upbeat vibe that it just gives off. I feel like we have that when we play, our music’s very big and very fun to play, so it just kind of comes natural that we have fun playing it, we’re not really faking it. Even if I’m really completely exhausted when I’m on the road, once we start getting into our set, no matter how we’re feeling, we just kind of let go on stage and it just really comes out.
I think me personally, it’s just kind of the same vibe. I think, we can’t play the kind of music we play and not get into it, it just really doesn’t make sense. I feel like we would be faking it more if we tried to hold back our energy and our excitement. When we are playing, we are generally happy to be playing and we really don’t want to take anything for granted this early in our career, or ever really, so I don’t care if we’re playing for 20 people or we’re playing for 2,000 people. I mean, the fact that those 20 people are there to see us, you know, we want that to be 20 more people that really leave feeling like they saw a great show. So it really doesn’t matter who we’re playing for, we still want to be able to give you the same show. And hopefully the next time we come back there, maybe 20 more people will be there. (laughs)
Is that kind of what your mindset is before taking the stage? Like, do you have any rituals or anything you’re thinking of?
That’s the thing, the whole thing with the band is that we take our musical lives so seriously. We definitely are very, very into what we’re doing now and we want to make sure everything we do is the right step to take and we always want to make sure we’re moving forward. We’re dedicating our lives to this, we quit our jobs and this is our lives now. But at the same time, I think the best approach to have is to take everything as it comes and don’t take it too seriously to the point of ruining the moment. So even when it comes to being on stage, we want to make sure to tell everybody to have fun, don’t get too caught up in anything, just really let go. So we just do a couple fun things before we go on stage, just to kind of loosen the tension, or maybe get some of the nerves out. We’ll get in a little band huddle and we’ll sing Lady Gaga for a second, and then we’ll sing a quick moment of, I forget the name of the song but Nora will sing the (he really did sing here) “I don’t want to wait, for our lives to be over” we’ll sing that together really loud. And then we yell “have fun” a few times, and we’ll hop on stage after that, just to kind of loosen up, laugh. And I think having a bit of a carefree attitude toward being out on the road and doing all of this stuff really helps you enjoy it more, and it really helps you have more fun. And we’re having so much fun the road. Those are just little things we do, just to kind of prepare.
(laughs) Alright, so whose idea was it for the confetti cannon?
Oh man, I don’t remember which member. Gosh, we started doing that a while ago, so I can’t even, I mean I’m not going to take credit for it, because I know it wasn’t me, it might have been our drummer’s idea to do that. When we started doing that, our idea was to, we were kind of fooling around, and we were just doing local gigs at the time, so we were kind of like what can we do to stand out? And it’s so hard to stand out, especially in a musical area, where there are so many bands and you haven’t really made a name for yourself yet, so I think one of our first things, that I like to still think we carry with us, was, “Alright, well we just have to have a very powerful live show, we need to stand out live because all of these bands are coming out with music.” We thought it was going to take a lot longer to catch on. I’m really shocked at how fast everything happened with the band. We kind of just decided, what can we do live that will be more fun? And then we kind of had the idea, you know, go in to the crowd a couple times, get in their face and really make them close to you and intense with them. We used to do balloons every once in a while, we’d blow up balloons and drive to a venue, and we’d go to the second story of a venue and drop them down, we’d get a couple friends to drop down balloons on you.
And the confetti cannons, we found them at this little store, they’re really hard to find actually, we got really lucky, there’s one place in Lafayette that sells a ton of them and we buy them by the boxes. And they’re just disposable, one use only, but they have so much power and we found them at this place in Lafayette, so we bought a couple just to test them out, and it was so awesome that they kind of became a standard. Especially in a song like “Wild” where it’s got a moment at the end of it, and it’s so big, and we’re like what better way than to shoot off confetti on everybody? I feel like, visually it really compliments the music and really makes kind of a special moment. We definitely want people to really feel like they experienced a show rather than they just saw a band. A lot of people can just go stand around, talk to their friends, and hear music in the background, but we don’t want you to, we want you to really be a part of the show and really experience something special.
What’s one of your favorite tour memories?
I think one of my personal favorite tour memories came from our last tour actually, which is really surprising because, I thought, I personally thought that being able to open up for The Kooks and to tour with Fitz and the Tantrums were kind of like dream come trues, and those were some really, really amazing shows. But actually, this past tour run, we did mostly headlining dates. We went back to a couple of the markets we had passed through. I was kind of shocked at how good some of the shows were. Norfolk, Virginia, for example, we played there at a place called The Jewish Mother, and it’s a smaller club, you could probably fit like close to 300 people in there, and we were getting a lot of good buzz that the show was going to do really well, but we’re not from there, we’d only passed through there I think once, and we weren’t really sure how it was going to do. And the show sold out, and everyone that was there was there to see us. And we headlined, and by the time “Wild” came on, the whole place lost it, and everyone had such a good response. We never really had there before, being kind of a new band, just everyone was really there because they know your band and they like your music, and they’re familiar with the song, and the entire place was singing along and moving. And that was kind of, one of the more special moments I think I’ve ever had.
We had a similar situation in Boston, where I don’t think as many people initially knew who we were, but I think by the end of it we really won the crowd over and the place was packed. And they actually encored us, they were chanting for us to come back, and we didn’t really prepare an encore at all, we pretty much played our set and we had nothing else to play, and I kind of walked back on stage and said that, I was like, “We don’t really have anything.” And everyone started chanting “Wild” again, so we actually played it a second time, played it again. I think that was one of the weirder things, I don’t think any of us expected to go on and play that song again, but by the time we played it a second time, the crowd was even more amped up than they were the first time, and the entire place was moving. Those were a couple really, really special moments that I don’t think I’ll ever forget.
I’m glad you said Boston, because I was at that show! (Read my review here)
Yea, that was crazy. We really, we’re going to have to start preparing encores for some of these places. We were backstage kind of going, “well?” Cus we’re not the kind of band that’s going to wait for that to die out, if the people want us back, we’re going to go back and play some more songs. We were like, we have no idea what to play, so that was pretty awesome.
You guys cover Queen’s “Under Pressure” and you’ve kind of made The Knife’s “Heartbeats” your own, what made you choose to do those covers?
“Heartbeats” was kind of random, actually. We were very new when we decided to start playing “Heartbeats.” We were only doing local gigs and we thought it would be fun to have a cover song that some of the local crowd would be familiar with, kind of like when we were talking before about ways to stand out, locally live. We thought a nice cover in there would be a good thing to do because no one knows our music, and what better way to get people familiar than to hear a song that they like? And we didn’t want anything too, too familiar, not an obvious cover that you hear all the time. And I thought, locally around here, no one was really playing “Heartbeats,” so we said, “This might be a fun song to do.” I think our bassist Joshua kind of came up with it. It was actually between that and a U2 song, which is kind of funny. I actually heard a live version of The Knife performing it, where it was a little slower. So I was like if we kind of make it like this, but just really kind of a little bigger, I really think we can kind of change it up and make it real fun. So we kind of took it from there and our keyboard player Andrew Poe made a really cool sample to it, and yea, it kind of just made itself. We brought it into the studio when we recorded our EP, we brought in just basically everything we had and at the time we probably only had like 11 songs. And our producer had never heard the song before, he had never heard the original, so he didn’t know that we didn’t write it. He was a big fan of the way we arranged it, so when we told him it was a cover song, he was pretty adamant that we use it anyway, he said this is great, unless you guys have a problem with this, I think we should record this. And we didn’t, and we thought it would be a great idea, so it was kind of fun recording it because we really didn’t approach it referencing the original at all. He had no idea, he never even heard it, he chose not to listen to it until we finished recording it just to approach it like it’s our song basically, and see what we could do to make it refreshing and new.
And also, with “Under Pressure,” in New Orleans, they have these shows at this venue called The Republic, and they’re called “Throwback,” and they basically theme the whole night to a specific theme. There’s anything, there could be “MTV Spring Break” throwback, and you have to dress up in beachwear, or “Toy Story” throwback, it’s like silly stuff like anything really. And ours, we performed the night that it was “David Bowie” throwback, so we all put on goofy looking make-up and we figured “Under Pressure” would be a perfect song to play because it has two singers in it, and we thought we could kind of make it funner. And that was really the only reason we chose that song. And we played it and it went over great, so we kind of kept having it in our back pocket, so anytime we would play headlining shows, just for fun we would play it. It kind of just stuck, people started responding to it and when we would not play it, people would request it or ask for us to come back and play it. So now on tour we thought it would be a great opportunity to just keep it going. That’s kind of the only reason we still play it. So it’s funny, we really only prepared it for that one night, but it kind of just stuck with us, and we still just play it for fun here and there.
People found out and they were like, “Oh hey, you guys aren’t getting off that easy.”
Yea, exactly. Honestly, I have so much fun playing that song. Obviously it’s an amazing song. I know it’s been covered a lot, but you know, we really, like I said, we kind of just did it with the intention of playing that night. But if people enjoy it and they want us to play it, I am more than happy to play it whenever, because it’s still, I really feel like it’s a special moment live and I feel we have such a good time playing it, and it’s fun to kind of sing back and forth with Nora being Freddie Mercury and I can be David Bowie. So it’s not very often I think you can play a song like that and do it justice. We’re very, I’m one of those people sometimes that’s very careful about their cover songs, you don’t want to quote unquote ruin it or hurt it, and I was actually shocked that we didn’t do that to “Under Pressure” because it’s such a great song, I definitely didn’t want to ruin it. But people seem to really enjoy it, so I feel very lucky that we can play that song.
You guys are playing Voodoo Festival and I know that’s kind of a big deal, hometown show for you guys, you guys have anything planned for that, any special surprises?
Do you mean planned as in? What do you mean exactly in terms of anything planned? I mean, I think we’re.. Nothing in particular, I think we’re just really excited to play. I mean, we’ve never played a festival in Louisiana before like that. We did one in Lafayette not that long ago that was really fun. I’ve been to Voodoo and we’ve been to Jazz Fest and things like that. We used to say it’d be really cool if we could play these things, but we didn’t actually think we’d get the chance to this soon. And ACL, it’s such an amazing festival and to be able to play that. So all these things are happening very fast for us and it’s very kind of overwhelming but in a very great way. I think we’re going to take this week to kind of rest up and I think we have a show in Lafayette kind of leading up to it that we’re going to Halloween theme it, and kind of get ready. And then we play on a Sunday at 12:30 I believe, and we’re just really, really excited. I don’t know exactly how else to explain it.
We played a similar time slot at ACL this weekend and there were a lot of people there, so I think we’re kind of lucky to play that time slot, being so new at the festival, because it’s earlier so the bigger acts aren’t really out there yet, so people are looking for some of the newer bands. We got a great crowd this past weekend and that was so much fun. I’m really hoping that the same happens this weekend. Truly, we feel very honored to even have been asked to play, so we’re going to be that band smiling really big and happy to be there. And I’m hoping that in the process we can get to watch some of the other great bands. I think Jack White plays that night, so I’m going to be freaking out trying to catch his set after we play.
Stay Tuned for Part Two of the interview!
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