Atlanta rockers Royal Thunder recently released their third album “Wick”, a gritty atmospheric album full of hard rock tunes and a blend of melody powered by the voice of Mlny Parsons. Despite being compared to such heavy acts like Baroness and Mastodon, Royal Thunder are really a different beast altogether as their influences suggest which we found out in our chat with guitarist and founding member Josh Weaver recently while the band were on tour in the U.S.
Andrew: I understand you have been doing shows with Brant Bjork, I’ve chatted with him a couple of tmes and he seems like a cool, chilled out guy.
Josh: Yeah they’re all awesome people and the shows have been great man, such great performers.
Andrew: Awesome! Well you have just had the new album come out called “Wick”, I’ve heard a few songs from it and it’s quite grungy and gritty sounding which is cool stuff. Tell me a little about how this album came together.
Josh: Well as a band I always felt that we are very much a live band, we live to play live and a lot of that forged us as musicians over the years. There’s no experience like playing live on the stage, you can sit home and practice all day and you don’t gain experience on a stage so I think from “Crooked Doors”, our last album to now, just having that more time and this experience of being on stage and living life and all those influences thrown together just brings out what “Wick” came out to be.
Andrew: That experience that you talk about, do you envision when you sit and write these songs how these songs would translate to the live stage?
Josh: No not really. I think everything we’ve always done as a band has usually been very organic, we don’t go into the studio trying to have a specific sound. A lot of it is just what comes out, comes out.
Andrew: I’m curious about the album title for “Wick”, where does it come from? I watched the video for “April Showers” and it’s quite dark and moody and I feel the album title captures that quite well.
Josh: Yeah I think Mel (Mlny Parsons, bass/vocals) had put it kind of like a wick of a candle but almost like you have that and you have the flame on one hand and the candle wick on the other and it’s just waiting to be lit.
Andrew: What was the inspiration for the video “April Showers”?
Josh: That was a treatment that Mel had wrote and we worked with a guy named named Justin who did the video and it turned out really well. I mean she wrote it and it kind of went along with the lyrics and the story of what the song was about which we kind of let her have creative reigns on the lyrics and they’re open for interpretation.
Andrew: Is the writing process quite collaborative between you guys? How does that all work?
Josh: Yeah it’s always been up until recently when Will (Fiore) joined the band, it’s always been and still is the same, we might come up with a part or a basic riff or a basic idea and then bring it to the table, bring it to the practice room and everybody throws in their own parts if they write their own parts, just a basic structure. A lot of times we don’t even talk about it, just do it and it comes out and everything just forms up and everybody adds their own spice to it.
Andrew: And for you personally how does that work creatively? What inspires you to come up with a melody or a riff or an idea?
Josh: Usually it’s just me sitting down with my guitar and putting my fingers over the strings and seeing what comes out. Maybe it’s just a lot of how I’m feeling that day or what I’m going through, just trying to find something that matches the way I feel. That’s kind of the process for me for sure.
Andrew: I hear references to the band being compared to Mastadon and Baroness and I hear a little bit of that as well but what sort of bands do you compare yourselves to? What kind of band do you consider to be closer aligned to or do you think Mastadon and Baroness are pretty accurate?
Josh: I don’t think that’s very accurate. I think someone in the media got locked in to that kind of category because we’re all from Atlanta and we were all on Relapse Records at one point so it’s easy for people to…we’ve been called a metal band in the past and we don’t see ourselves as a metal band – and it’s easy for people in the media to just go, ‘Oh they’re this or that’, because one person says it from a big outlet and all of a sudden we’re a metal band because someone from a big outlet tagged us as a metal band. I think we’re just more of a rock band, maybe alternative rock is what I would definitely call us.
Andrew: Yeah and I hear a lot of grungy sort of southern rock in there as well so definitely more rock than metal for sure. What’s the music scene in Atlanta like these days?
Josh: It’s always hopping! There’s always something you can do, there’s always music playing every night of the week in the city. So it’s very thriving, there’s a lot going on all the time.
Andrew: And you guys have never been to Australia? Never down to this part of the world?
Josh: No we definitely look forward to it man! Yeah we haven’t been there yet.
Andrew: Yeah we would definitely love to have you here. What have you got as far as touring plans? Where will you be going?
Josh: Right now we finish up this US tour, after that we got some other dates that are shaping up and definitely planning to hit Europe this year. Just tour as much as we possbly can on this album.
Andrew: Yeah obviously touring is a big part of a bands life. How do you view touring these days because it’s a major part of what bands need to do these days to survive. Do you enjoy touring?
Josh: Yeah we love touring, it’s what we live to do. It’s absolutely crucial, it feels good to write an album and actually just get out on the road and get to interpret these songs live. It’s always a little bit different than the album, you tend to change them up and make them interesting.
Andrew: So like improv kind of stuff on stage?
Josh: Yeah definitely on some of the songs for sure. There’s a couple that we will do full on just like jam parts.
Andrew: And with setlists which is something I tend to ask a lot of people as well, as putting together a setlist can be difficult sometimes when you have a lot of songs that you want to play. Is that something that you guys talk together about what songs you want to play live or do you have a set kind of thing for a tour?
Josh: No we definitely try to cater the set, we want it to be very similar to the albums. We definitely want there to be an ebb and flow and definitely want there to be almost like a story from beginning to end, for there to be ups and downs and contrasts through out the set just to make it interesting and also to mix up old songs and the new songs
Andrew: How are the new songs playing out to the crowds so far?
Josh: Great! People have been really into it man, I think a lot of these tunes translate so well live. I almost want to say that they translate a little bit better than some of the past albums, it’s just more straight to the point and I think what we did on this album as musicians, we kind of knew what we wanted a little bit more of. Our skills have been sharpened through the years and playing out live has really formed us.
Andrew: I want to ask you about some of your influences and where some of you guys took your inspirations from. You personally as well, where did those influences come from and how did you get into music in the first place?
Josh: I grew up in a house where I had an older brother who was into rock music and was just always around music, my mom was always into music growing up. I remember the first band really that…I mean I even remember having the Michael Jackson “Thriller” album and that was mind blowing as a kid, I loved that album. But the first band that really inspired to actually start playing was Nirvana, that was the one that grabbed my attention and I was like, ‘Man that’s exactly what I want to do’.
Andrew: Yeah Nirvana was one of those bands where I certainly grew up listening to that stuff and they were hugely inspiration for a lot of bands out there so it’s not surprising that you were influenced by Nirvana as well.
Josh: Yeah that and I also grew up listening to The Cult and The Cure, those were definitely huge influences. Through out the years I got into punk rock, I got into metal and indie rock and witnessed a lot of the awesome stuff that came out during the 80’s and 90’s.
Andrew: Was there any particular musician that really sort of helped shape the way that you play?
Josh: I thought about this the other day, I think the first band that really opened my eyes to song writing was just listening to Fugazi and realizing how everything was so thought out musically and just seeing that. That really opened my eyes to song writing and how a band like Fugazi writes a song that has such movement to it.
Andrew: Well congratulations on the new album, from the songs I have heard it sounds fantastic so congratulations on your success so far as well. Thanks for your time today, really appreciated and hopefully we will see you down in Australia some time in the future.
Josh: Sounds great man, thank you so much!