by Kevin Crowe
Royal Bangs can be downright friendly. Heck, they'll even put up with some pretty bizarre geeks all in the name of making good music. To wit, the Mae Shi, a highly computer literate outfit from Los Angeles, once crashed at Ryan Schaffer's house after a gig at the Pilot Light. Schaffer, just like any member of Knoxville's own Royal Bangs, can play any instrument you put in front of him. He's also a gracious host. â“Do you want a beer?â” he asked. â“No,â” his guests said in unison, jacking into their headphones and opening their MacBooks to continue work on their latest album. The drummer wandered around aimlessly, holding a juicer. â“My juicer,â” he called out, his words directed at no one in particular. â“Where do I put my juicer?â”
â“I told him, just move our juicer from the juicer nook and put it thereâ. They left a suitcase at our house with an audio interface, a microphone, some quarters and a big, huge pair of black jeans. They were like, â‘Can you please send that to us.' And they told us to insure it for, like, a thousand dollarsâ. We need to start selling souvenir pants,â” Schaffer muses, never afraid to follow a wild strain of thought. â“You just take them off and then we sell them at the show.â”
â“Real Royal Bangs crotch sweat!â” drummer Chris Rusk chimes in.
â“All we have to do is sell one pair for a hundred bucks. We don't have to sell a lot, just one pair. I'm also gonna sell Chris Rusk autographs, it'll be my day job.â” Shaffer and Rusk laugh, a loud, hearty guffaw. Nothing is taken too seriously, or so it seems. There's a tattoo on Rusk's left bicep of a hotdog. Written above, it says Rock 'n' Roll . That sounds about right.
â“One day, I had a dream,â” Schaffer says, still laughing, â“and I woke up. I was just like, â‘I got hotdog fever!' We all love hotdogs, so we try to eat as many as we can. On our last tour, we ate a shit-ton.â”
It's Bedlam each time these Royal Bangs step onto the stage. MIDI devices, laptops and other high tech wizardry are scattered about, strewn together with little rhyme or reason. There's enough electronics for some pretty weird science to take the sound in unexpected directions. The quintet, which also includes Sam Stratton, Danny Sale and Jason Campbell, is known for its energy, always switching instruments throughout the set. Never staying in one place for very long. The result is a nerd fantasia, a roborhythmic onslaught of heady drums, incongruous synths and more keyboards than they know what to do with. Sometimes everything comes together beautifully. Sometimes it comes close to disaster, an aural trainwreck that nevertheless sounds like it's spot-on, even when it slides into pure technological chaos. No matter what, the music usually comes across much simpler than it actually is.
â“We have too much shit,â” Schaffer says. â“I just bought a wireless keyboard, so I can go wherever. I'm trying to put straps on it. We have two drum sets and a separate PA for the drum loops. See? Too much shit.â”
â“We got a lot of stuff,â” Rusk confirms. â“We're trying to clean it up. It doesn't always work.â”
â“Now it's working,â” Schaffer retorts. â“Since I've come back, I got the new laptop. We got a whole new system, new outlook on life.â”
Last fall, Schaffer hopped on a plane and headed across the pond to spend a couple semesters in Lille, France. He left not too long after the release of a delightfully pingy and synthy CD entitled We Breed Champions . â“It took two months to do,â” Rusk says. â“Out of all the CDs we've done, it took the shortest amount of time. It's turned out to be our best one as wellâ. We didn't care as much, and it came out pretty awesome.â”
As fate would have it, with much thanks going out to the giant networking website we know as MySpace, the Bangs happened to befriend Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney. â“I didn't think anything of it, really,â” Rusk says. â“[Carney] messaged back and said, â‘I want a demo.' Three days later he messaged back and said, â‘The album's really good.'
â“I actually didn't realize that it was the dude from the Black Keys at first. I just thought it was a little label in Ohio.â”
Carney wants to pay for at least two Royal Bangs albums. The first, a remastered version of We Breed Champions , will be released on Carney's Akron-based Audio Eagle, if everything goes according to plan, which isn't too bad for a band that once geeked-out by sporting the moniker Suburban Urchins. â“It was stupid,â” Schaffer says. â“So we changed it.â”
â“So we changed it to another dumb name,â” Rusk adds. â“I think it's less dumb. Also, make sure that you write something about the â‘The,' because â‘The' doesn't belong at the beginning of Royal Bangs.â”
â“Whenever you put â‘The' in front of it, it sounds like a band from Nashville,â” Schaffer says. â“We just alienated anyone coming from Nashville.â”
WHO: Royal Bangs w/ Diacon-Panthers WHEN: Friday, June 8, 10 p.m. WHERE: Pilot Light
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