DS Interview: Nat Rufus of Blacklist Royals on the band’s (finally) new 7-inch, booking a tour without a band and more

DS Interview: Nat Rufus of Blacklist Royals on the band’s (finally) new 7-inch, booking a tour without a band and more

If you’re a fan of Nashville’s Blacklist Royals, you’re no doubt aware that the band have had their second full-length, “Die Young With Me,” done and ready to go for quite some time now. Songs from the new album featured heavily in the band’s set on recent tours with Face To Face, Teenage Bottlerocket and Riverboat Gamblers. The music business can be a funny place however, as the full length has yet to actually find itself a release date.

We caught up with BLR frontman Nat Rufus to talk about the band’s upcoming self-released 7-inch which features two tracks from “Die Young With Me” (“Righteous Child” and “She’s The One,” for the record – click here for details) as well as their upcoming tour with Swingin’ Utters, and when we might finally get to hear “Die Young With Me” once and for all. Click here to check it out.

Dying Scene (Jay Stone): First and foremost, congrats on the new 7-inch. I know you’ve been sitting on this new material for quite a while now; must be gratifying to have it finally see the light of day, right?

Blacklist Royals (Nat Rufus): It is, I’m really excited for it actually. We were in this weird spot because we’ve been playing mostly new songs live but then selling our old record, so we figured while we were waiting on the new full-length to come out we should at the very least do a new single before this Swingin’ Utters tour (editor’s note: click here for dates).

These songs were written and recorded quite a while ago, and you played them quite a bit on recent tours with Face To Face and Riverboat Gamblers (and, I’m assuming, on your upcoming tour with Swingin Utters). Has anything changed (or do you wish there was anything you could change) now that you’ve got them worked out live?

We recorded these songs a year ago and had to basically rework everything to do them in a live set. The recorded versions have quite a bit going on, so to do them as a four piece you kind’ve have to pick and choose what parts to play. We’re hoping to add a touring key player again in 2014, but I’d say we do a pretty good job of keeping the songs true to the recorded versions working with what we’ve got.

You’ve talked elsewhere about Die Young With Me being essentially a concept album or a theme album. What made “Righteous Child” And “She’s The One” seem like a good fit together?

It was a tough call for which songs to use since we didn’t want to release something that was possibly going to be the lead single for the actual record. Since we’ve been doing so much touring over the last few months we had the luxury of knowing which songs were going over the best live, so that influenced the decision as well. But the two tracks definitely fit together lyrically, in terms of where they sit on the Die Young With Me and also I think on this 7″.

Speaking of the concept album idea, tell us a little more about what prompted that. Was that the goal from the start, or did it turn into a concept album once you saw how the songs were turning out?

It just kind’ve came together that way. When Rob and I started pooling our songs together they were all revolving around the same period and people. Rob is a cancer survivor and that was something we never really touched on lyrically or topic-wise, but when he brought what later became the title track of the record to the table, we just decided to go all in and get as personal as possible, to embrace things that in the past we’d kind’ve steered away from. It takes a lot to write in a literal sense about your life or people you care about, but the hope is that even if the listener can’t relate specifically that the tracks will strike a deeper chord in them. So the record is in a sense a concept album, it’s kind’ve a journey from that period of our lives up through today.

Pardon my ignorance, but what was the lineup that you actually recorded the songs for Die Young With Me?

The lineup was basically just Rob and myself at that point. The band had really fallen apart, we’d toured the world in 2011 and had basically nothing to show for it. We went in to start recording the new album last July and everyone was just over it. Not only that, but they were also not thrilled with the direction we were trying to take the band. It was definitely a make or break moment, or it was actually past that point. It had broken, and we were left in a position of either walking away or trying to pick up the pieces and give it one last shot. So Rob and I played everything along with some friends (Trever from Face To Face, Robbie from Ann Beretta, Buddy and JR from Less Than Jake, Greg from TSOL, and Matt Drastic who recorded the album) who helped out here and there… it was definitely a rough period.

2013 seems like it’s been a pretty good, or at least a pretty busy, year in the BLR camp. Does it seem like things are moving in a positive direction for the band again?

Things have been going really well for us over the last few months. We have a great team together backing us who believe in what we’re doing, which has been pretty validating since like I said, it looked like things were all over for us, and we had basically the entire band walk away and give up last year.

You and Rob have obviously been the nucleus of BLR since the start, but what have the new recruits (Dirk Mathews on bass and Brad Blanco on guitar) brought to the table?

Most people don’t know this, but the four of us only rehearsed 3 times before we left for the Face To Face / Teenage Bottlerocket tour we were on earlier this year. We actually confirmed that tour before we had new members of the band. We had known Dirk and Brad for a few years, and Brad had flown in to Nashville to try out, then he suggested having Dirk try out on bass as well. I was playing an acoustic show in Arkansas (because we didn’t have any other band members) and we were going to Oklahoma City the next day to rehearse for the first time. I got the call with an offer for the Face To Face tour, confirmed it, then looked at Rob and said “god damn I hope this works”.

It was pretty wild, because as far as everyone else knew everything was totally fine, I mean I confirmed an eighty day tour when we didn’t even have a band to play the shows. I think that in and of itself is a testimony to what Brad and Dirk bring to the table. They were friends and fans of the band before they were in it, and we literally couldn’t have pulled any of this off without them. It’s basically a new band, or what we’d always wanted Blacklist Royals to be. It takes a lot to play in a band at our level, we’re touring constantly, we’re not making any money, it’s hard, especially when you’re walking in to something that was already in motion. But those guys had faith in us when a lot of people didn’t, they helped pick the pieces of this band up and put it back together, at this point I can’t imagine doing it without them.

There’s been talk of a pending release for Die Young With Me for a couple months. Why the decision to self-release the 7-inch now?

We’ve played something like 90 shows in the last 6 months, and I think all four of us started feeling the need to put one of these new songs we were doing live out for fans to buy. We decided to self-release because it just seemed easier, since the 7″ is essentially a teaser for the new full-length. After our tour with Riverboat Gamblers it became clear that Die Young With Me probably wasn’t going to see the light of day until 2014, so in the interest of forward momentum we decided to release this in the meantime.

While we’re at it…any way we can tease news on Die Young With Me? Must be frustrating to have a full, quality (my personal opinion) album in the bag that people can’t hear yet.

It is incredibly frustrating, but that’s just how things have always worked for us. We recorded Semper Liberi in 2009, it didn’t come out until almost 2 years later. Gears turn unbelievably slow when our band is concerned for some reason, but DYWM will be out next year, hopefully early in the year, and we’ll be doing support tours both in the US and overseas, I can guarantee that.

This might be jumping the gun a bit, but with DYWM in the works for song long, have you continued writing ahead for whatever comes next too?

We’ll honestly probably have our next release written by the time DYWM comes out, I’d really love to have DYWM out in early 2014 then put something else out, an EP maybe, before Christmas, but time will tell…

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