If you aren’t familiar with the Blacklist Royals at this point, it’s hight time you get acquainted with these Southern punk-n-rollers straight out of the backwaters of Tennessee.
The band is releasing their debut Paper + Plastick Records album Semper Liberi today and Nat, the singer for the band, was kind enough to take a few moments to answer some of our questions. We cover a lot material ranging from the usual (new album, the recording process, etc), to the unusual (inspiration for “weed shine“, skinheads with nasty breath) and last, but not least, Lucero. Click here to read the full interview.
DS: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us today, Nat. Lets jump straight into it; The Blacklist Royals have their new album, Semper Liberi, coming out soon. What can fans expect from this album compared to your first EP “Six Strings”?
Nat:There was definitely a lot of growth as far as the musicianship and performances go. Songwriting-wise on “Semper Liberi” we were trying to blend what we’d been doing with a lot of our older influences, like 60’s music and old country. Our goal was basically to try and make the songs as catchy and relatable as possible while still making them interesting and fresh. I think anyone who liked “Six Strings” will dig the shit out of “Semper Liberi”, and if you don’t have our old EP you should grab one!
DS: How was the writing and recording process different this time around? How’d it go working with producer Matt Drastic?
Nat: Matt functions incredibly well for the amount of meth and heroin he does on a typical day in the studio. In all honesty, Drastic made this record what it is and has helped our band out more than almost anyone, we wouldn’t be where we are without his help and belief in what we were doing. And when I said “In all honesty…” I wasn’t discrediting the meth and heroin comment. Recording at Drastic Sounds is like living in the movie “The Doors”, the good parts of it at least, before Val Kilmer gets fat as fuck and grows a beard. If you’re reading this you should record there.
DS: Hah, Sounds fun. Describe the writing process. Where do you find inspiration for your music?
Nat: Well like I said a lot of the influences for “Semper Liberi” came from 60’s music, punk rock, old country, etc. We have a pretty wide spectrum of influences. We actually recorded “Semper Liberi” about a year ago and are already in the midst of writing for the follow up, but our main goal on that end of things is always progression. When we were writing for “Semper Liberi” we tried to take the songs in a focused direction and bring elements of things that weren’t there on our previous release into the mix, we were just trying to make a feel good rock and roll record that was fresh and that people could relate to, and we plan on moving forward from where we were at when we recorded these songs into a different and more stepped-up direction on the stuff we’re doing now. Progression is the goal in our band on basically all levels: writing, musicianship, and live.
DS: What’s up with your Weed Shine recipe? Pretty intense!
Nat: Yes, Weed Shine is totally intense. It was actually my buddy Tony’s idea (who runs The Fest) to post that when that song leaked on 4/20, I guess it’s just lived in infamy ever since Weed Shine made it’s way to Gainesville.
DS: Well we enjoined posting it. One of our editors tried it and nobody’s heard from him since. What’s the story behind the songs “Tennessee Blues” and “Drive On”? Both are definitely fun songs, “Tennessee Blues” is probably my favorite song on the album.
Nat: That rules, I think the piano part on that song is probably my favorite part of the record. Tennessee Blues is just kind of about traveling around and not wanting to come home after tour, and Drive On was actually a song we were just kind of joking around with that we recorded live in the studio and it ended up making the record. Both those songs are just upbeat, feel-good, drunken anthem kind of tunes, and I feel like there’s always a place for a few of those in your life now and then.
DS: One of the things I’ve enjoyed about your music is the instrumentation. The piano/keys add a very unique dimension to the music. Why did you guys decide to incorporate the keys into your songs?
Nat: We actually threw some keys on 2008’s Six Strings EP, both songs on the B-Side of that 7” had keys, and they both ended up sounding so much more interesting, so we kind of just decided we needed to have it as a full-time thing. Alex (who plays keys in the band now) actually joined up about a year ago, which is nice because we didn’t have a key player when we recorded the album and I was afraid we wouldn’t be able to pull a lot of these songs off live. Alex rules, and he’s mother fucking Liberace when he wants to be, curly hair, flamboyant tendencies, the whole bit. Greg (who played keys on Semper Liberi) did a fucking amazing job and is a better musician than I will ever be, but I’m stoked to have Alex on the new record. It’ll be nice to have a real band in the studio next time around, because when we did Semper Liberi it was basically me, Rob, Eric, and Drastic with friends helping out.
DS: You played a couple of festivals last year, and throughout the years, including Warped Tour, Harvest of Hope, South By Southwest, and other local festivals. What was it like being on the road with other great bands such as Pennywise and Circle Jerks?
Nat: It’s always insane because I’m a fan and not a peer to these people, at least that’s how I see it, and I’m usually just stoked to get into a show for free and see these amazing bands. I mean the fact that the drummer from Teen Idols recorded our album and the drummer from Less Than Jake owns our label is fucking crazy to me, the “Loosing Streak” cassette was rocked constantly in my mom’s car for years and I used to be able to play the whole record on bass, it’s actually weird knowing these kind of people now. I’m a huge fan-boy, I always will be, and I don’t give fuck to say it.
DS: We know the feeling. You’re playing with Coffee Project and Greenland is Melting in May. How’d that come about?
Nat: Both those bands were planning a tour, and since our album release was scheduled around then they just let us jump on. I’d seen Coffee Project before and just got to see and meet the GIM guys at Harvest Of Hope. Both bands are awesome and all the guys seem nice as fuck, I’m stoked for those shows and everyone should come out!
DS: When you’re on the road, what’s been your favorite venue to play at?
Nat: My personal top three are: 1982 Bar, White Water Tavern, Low Key Arts. Awesome people work there and the vibes are just great, I wish they were all in Nashville so I could hang there all the time.
DS: What’s one thing you never leave home without? I’ve driven cross-country before and without a doubt, the driving can get pretty boring. What do you guys do to keep yourselves entertained?
Nat: I never leave home without my glasses, my sunglasses, my hat, and mouthwash. I’ve become very O.C.D. about my breath while touring since there’s so much close-talking at venues due to the loud music. It was actually an experience I had where this skinhead was talking to me at a show and his breath literally smelled like something died in his mouth, that shit scared me man. Usually everyone keeps themselves entertained on the road by sleeping while Eric and I drive, unless it’s after a show, then the usual entertainment is the drunk people annoying the shit out of the sober people, fun times!
DS: When I hear your music, this ‘punk n’ roll’, it reminds me of another tennessee group, Lucero. You guys played the same festival together a couple of weeks ago. Do you guys know each other?
Nat: I met Ben Nichols once randomly at one of our shows in Arkansas, he was totally wasted and we talked about Tom Waits and The Boss for a few hours. I’m a huge Lucero fan and he was a super nice dude so I take any comparisons as a compliment.
DS: Do people compare your sound to an early-era Lucero? How do you feel about those comparisons?
Nat: We’re from the same area and have a lot of the same influences, so while we don’t really sounds like Lucero, there are definitely some similarities. Their drive and the fact that they pushed through a lot of bullshit to get where they are today has always impressed me, and their new album was great. We don’t know those dudes, but I’d love to tour with them. Hey Lucero, take us out on tour!
DS: What can we expect from Blacklist Royals in 2010? Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans?
Nat: Everyone can expect lots of touring, LOTS of touring. Anyone out there who’s a fan, please come out to the shows, bring your friends, and hang out with us, because we love you!
DS: Thanks so much for talking with us today, man!
Nat: Thanks so much for the interview, thanks everyone for reading, Dying Scene is fucking rad.
If you haven’t already heard the tracks on their MySpace page, make sure to check out their album now!
Thanks to Tony W. for hooking me up with the this interview.