After spending the better part of 2011 on the road in support of their magnificent fourth album, Flux Outside, the Royal Bangs have been relatively quiet so far this year. Popping up only for an occasional Pilot Light set (including a February show premiering new material and the lineup addition of Persona La Ave’s Dylan Dawkins) and isolated regional shows, the members of Knoxville’s most prominent national indie-rock act have mostly been hard at work preparing their Glassnote Records follow-up to Flux.
After writing through the spring, the band spent three weeks at Nashville’s Haptown studios recording with engineer Roger Moutenot (Yo La Tengo, Sleater-Kinney) and Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney, whose label Audio Eagle hosted the Royal Bangs through 2009. Though the title and release date are TBA, frontman Ryan Schaefer is currently at Haptone working on a final mix, he says —“Or at least [Moutenot and Carney] are mixing it, and I’m drinking coffee and occasionally suggesting places to put phaser on everything,” he says—and seems confident the record will be out before the end of the year.
Those who’ve seen the Bangs play in recent months can attest to a surprisingly organic shift from the synthy freedom-prog of Flux Outside to a self-possessed, song-focused pure rock band. Sitting on a record that reaffirms that transformation—much of it recorded live together in the studio, a relative novelty for the band given the arrangements on Flux and 2009’s Let It Beep—Schaefer is obviously enthusiastic about the choices they’ve made.
“On the last album we were experimenting with a lot of sounds, trying to make it a really big, strange album,” he says, describing a process that saw the band working out Flux Outside’s songs during sessions at Knoxville’s Elk Gang studio. “I’m really happy with how it turned out, but afterwards there was a relief in having taken that as far as we could go with it, and it seemed like we could move on and try something different. So now we decided to experiment more with the writing process, changing up the way we assemble songs and think about playing together. We spent a long time making demos, working on arrangements, choosing sounds, and then went in and tracked them with everybody playing together in a pretty short period of time. So this time, we could concentrate on what was working and what wasn’t when we all were in the same room playing together. It feels better, and it’s definitely more fun to work that way.”