Dirty and Sunny: A Conversation with The Royal Concept

Smile - The Royal Concept

RIYL: Maroon 5, Foster The People, KONGOS, Phoenix, Passion Pit

Swedish indie rockers The Royal Concept came back into our worlds in high ‘fashion’ last month with the release of the five-track Smile EP (8/21/15 via LAVA/Republic Records), the band’s first offering in two years. As discussed in Atwood Magazine’s EP review, Smile finds The Royal Concept deviating from their indie pop, Phoenix-like roots in attempts to establish a sonic blend that is wholly and unequivocally their own. They are still very much the same sunny, ‘flashy melody’ and ‘catchy beat’-driven band the world knows them to be, but The Royal Concept have developed a few new tricks in the last two years.

On Smile, the band confidently spread out their arrangements, experimenting with Mark Ronson-esque funk rock patterns and going to Queen-like extremes of vocal harmony. The music is tighter, yet far more relaxed and cohesive than The Royal Concept’s debut EP Royal. Lead single “Fashion” provides a familiar taste of the catchy, earworm hooks that sent The Royal Concept spiraling towards international success, while showcasing a colloquial lyricism that engrains The Royal Concept and this new EP into the modern canon:

I dress like shit, call it fashion, but your fash is the shit
I never think twice in life but it’s time I realize.
Lovin’ you ain’t easy I’m not gonna leave ya no, no, no
I said yeah yeah yeah yeah.

Listen: “Fashion” – The Royal Concept

“Fashion” is easy and relaxed, yet wildly driven by passion; these guys are clearly having fun, and they obviously love what they do. Such is the overall aura of Smile: The Royal Concept know how to write a catchy pop tune – they it proved on *every* song off their last EP – so at this juncture it seems the band’s main concern was not so much in crafting hits, than it was in shaping tone and finding themselves. After all, Smile is the band’s first effort after tasting success: They had the opportunity to finesse their writing and their sound, finally recording the songs that became Smile over twelve days with producer Tony Hoffer [M83, Phoenix, Depeche Mode, The Kooks], the perfect choice for a band of their style.

After a long wait, The Royal Concept today announced their return to American stages with a three-week fall tour that will take them through the country’s major cities, starting in California on October 21 and ending in New York City on November 10. The tour will bring The Royal Concept to mostly 300 and 400-seat capacity theaters, making it very likely to sell out and, if we’re lucky, increase demand for a second round of touring next spring.

Smile is proof enough that these Swedes can and will forge a distinctive path for themselves – one that is identifiably “The Royal Concept” and musically their own – and we cannot wait to catch them on this newly-announced 2015 fall tour! Atwood Magazine sat down with The Royal Concept’s vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist David Larson to dig into the light behind the band’s Smile.

The Royal Concept - Press Photo

A Conversation with The Royal Concept

What did you guys do over the past year while you weren't on the road?

David Larson: In between playing one-off shows here and there, we’ve been in Los Angeles working on new music. The reason why it took some time is because we had to figure out what we wanted to do first. There are so many ways you can go so to actually make a decision took the longest time. When we cracked the code we wrote and recorded kind off fast. 12 days in the studio.

How would you say The Royal Concept has grown, as a band and artist?

DL: We’ve definitely grown older, it’s terrifying to soon reach our thirties. But we meet new people and get new influences all the time. Over the years we have discovered that we actually have something together that’s worth caring and fighting for. First of all, our friendship but also our music. So I think we just started caring about each other, our listeners and our music. The fact that we just appreciate doing this so much, more than ever, makes us feel like we’ve grown.

What were your influences while recording this new EP?

DL: We get inspired from all around, so it’s hard to point out something in particular. There’s tons of music we all listen to, real life experiences we have, and in the end, it all kind of blends together and we get inspired from it all. What we tried to achieve for this EP was getting a sound we could have fun with and enjoy playing live later on. 

I feel like there's some pretty heavy 80s dance/pop overtones on the EP, what are your thoughts on this?

DL: Heeeeey, if you feel like it you’re probably right. Our drummer Povel is a heavy Prince fan so we’re always trying to please him a little bit. 

From where do you primarily get song inspiration?

DL: From people we read and books we meet. 

What we tried to achieve for this EP was getting a sound we could have fun with

What was the hardest song to write on this EP?

DL: “Just Wanna Be Loved By You.” Or, it was easy to write but hard to put out there. There are no jokes to hide behind in that one, just an honest confession. When you’re putting music out there you know that some people will hate on it. It’s painful enough to be 100% honest. But the fact that some people tweeted it’s the best song we’ve ever written made us very happy.

There’s a shadow hanging over me
Like a dream that never was to be
It’s the only thing that I still see
‘Cause I’m trapped inside a memory

There’s a shadow hanging over my head
The smell of your perfume in my bed
I regret all the stupid things that I said
And sometimes I wish that I was dead

The color of your heart is so cold

And I just wanna be loved by you
And I just wanna be loved by you
You know I’d rather be alone and lonely
Than with someone else
‘Cause I just wanna be loved by you

“I Just Wanna Be Loved By U” – The Royal Concept

If listeners had to focus on and really listen to one track on this record, which would it be and why?

DL: We’d love everyone to dig deeper into “Smile.” It was the song that really cracked the code for us and we love playing it. We wanted it to be dirty and sunny at the same time. 

Listen: “Smile” – The Royal Concept

What would you say the biggest differences are between Royal and Smile?

DL: We played a lot more stuff on Smile together, live in the studio. To us Smile feels more alive, but it’s a question of taste. We like Royal too you know, but after two years of touring and constantly playing those songs it feels really refreshing to start something new.

Do you feel that Smile marks a new direction for The Royal Concept?

DL: Yes. But don’t think that this is how we will sound forever. Constantly changing…full speed towards anything! 

We wanted [“Smile”] to be dirty and sunny at the same time

Getting a little bit more personal now, what, for you, is the best thing about being a recording artist?

DL: Songs are falling out of the sky all the time and the fact that it’s our thing to catch them and put them out just makes our job the best job in the whole wide world. Music is our way to get to travel and to see the world. It’s given us so many friends and experiences. We’re very grateful for that. 

Have you had that 'a-ha!' moment yet, as a band? If so, when was it?

DL: We used to tour behind other artists, Robyn for example. This was a few years ago, but after playing a headline show with her on one of the biggest festivals in Europe we returned home and played a small basement show in Stockholm as TRC. There were maybe fifty people there at the most, but it was so much more fun than anything else. So we left all our other jobs, schools and just started focusing on TRC. It was a big aha moment to realize that we’d rather play our own songs in front of 50 people than someone else’s song in front of 100,000.

What song of yours has had the biggest influence on you? (interpret however you will)

DL: We gotta be honest with ourselves and say that the song “On Our Way” really opened doors for us. We’re grateful that people loved it and that it put us out there.

Listen: “On Our Way” – The Royal Concept

What was your best experience from the last tour? Are you excited to get out on the road again soon?

DL: We’re stoked! The last tour we did was in Japan actually so we gotta pick a Tokyo memory. Okay, first thing that happened when we went out of the hotel was that a guy stopped his bike just in front of us. He had a small monkey sitting on his luggage carrier and we couldn’t believe that this guy was biking around with his monkey pet. Those things happen in Tokyo. 

One of your previous tours (about 1.5 years ago now) was with American Authors and MisterWives, both of whom have had some pretty big releases since then. Have you kept in touch at all? Would you consider going back out there with them?

DL: Absolutely, they’re both great! We talk to MisterWives a lot. They’re literally the funniest band we’ve ever met. It’s definitely not impossible that we will tour again. They have a bigger crowd in America than us so they’ll have to bring their fellow Swedes on tour. The Authors are really talented and nice guys too.

When it comes to the music you make, do you have a preference - do you make the music for the record and the recreate the record live, or is the record more of a reflection of the live show? Or are they separate?

DL: Our first album, Goldrushed, was a tricky one to develop into a live show. We used a lot of synths and just tracked things on top of each other so we had to strip down the arrangements to make it sound good live. It took a while to get it right. This new EP was a lot easier to play live. The songs are written for a quartet and we recorded them playing live, the four of us, in the studio.

What has been your experience as a Swedish band playing indie/alternative pop, English-speaking music?

DL: You know, first of all we’ll never be Bob Dylan. But, we put a lot of heart into our lyrics and people tend to sing along, so hopefully we’re doing okay =) 

What other music have you been listening to lately - who else should our readers be checking out?

DL: Debussy.  

If you could perform or record a piece with one out-of-genre artist (so basically not alt-pop), who would it be?

DL: We’ve actually all gone to jazz college so maybe a jazz record with like Melody Gardot could be cool? If she’ll pay us we can be her band. Our jazz chops are well worth the money!

Thanks so much you guys! Hopefully we can do this again soon, in person! Best wishes and congrats on the new release.

DL: Thank you very much!

Listen: “Just Wanna Be Loved By U” – The Royal Concept

:: The Royal Concept Tour Dates ::

10/21/2015 – Costa Mesa, CA – The Wayfarer
10/22/2015 – Los Angeles, CA – Club Bahia
10/23/2015 – San Francisco, CA – Neck of the Woods
10/25/2015 – San Diego, CA – The Irenic
10/26/2015 – Scottsdale, AZ – Pub Rock
10/28/2015 – San Antonio, TX – Paper Tiger
10/30/2015 – Dallas, TX – Dada
11/01/2015 – Jacksonville, FL – Jack Rabbits
11/03/2015 Atlanta, GA – The Vinyl
11/07/2015 – Pittsburgh, PA – Cattivo
11/08/2015 – Washington, DC – Black Cat
11/09/2015 – Boston, MA – Café 939
11/10/2015 – New York, NY – The Studio @ Webster Hall

Smile – The Royal Concept

Learn more about The Royal Concept online at www.theroyalconcept.com

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Mitch Mosk

Mitch is the Editor-in-Chief of Atwood Magazine and a 2014 graduate from Tufts University, where he pursued his passions of music and psychology. He currently works at Universal Music Group in New York City. In his off hours, Mitch may be found songwriting, wandering about one of New York's many neighborhoods, or writing an article on your next favorite artist for Atwood. Mitch's words of wisdom to fellow musicians and music lovers are thus: Keep your eyes open and never stop exploring. No matter where you go, what you do or who you are with, you can always learn something new and inspire something amazing. Say hi here: mitch[at]atwoodmagazine[dot]com