The Royal Streets are reppin’ for Kitchener/Waterloo, as they travel around the province and country. Their debut release Kings & Queen was well received, and their newest EP Story Weekend, has taken the band in new musical directions. You can hear them live, at their upcoming shows around Ontario:
June 11, 2015 – eBar, Guelph
June 12, 2015 – Rum Runners, London
June 17, 2015 – The Rivoli (NXNE), Toronto
June 20, 2015 – Maxwell’s Concerts & Events, Waterloo
We had a chance to interview the band, and hear their thoughts on The K/W scene, advice for emerging artists, tour food, facts about The Big Nickel, and much more:
Are you all originally from Ontario? How did you guys come together as a band?
￼Most of the band is from Kitchener/Waterloo. 5 of 6 members went to the same high school! Our keyboardist, Julia Bannard, is from Kingston.
We formed as a band just over 2 years ago but some of the friendships between members go way back to elementary school. A few of us performed at coffee houses and school gigs long before we had the idea of starting an official band. The Royal Streets started to take shape on a quiet weekend in my (Al, vocals) mothers basement. Eric, Michael and I happened to all be home around the same time one summer and we were messing around with a bunch of Michael’s recording software that he’d been messing around with while at school in Halifax a year or so before. After a weekend of recording, Eric took off back to uOttawa and Michael asked if I wanted to try writing together. Whole Soul, Pillowcase Suitcase, and You Girl. These are 3 of the songs we started performing at open mic nights, just as Jillian joined to help me share the stories vocally. Having two voices at the front draws a whole new section of listeners, I find. After some kind and reassuring words from listeners we decided we wanted to make a go at this. Eric eventually moved back home to pursue this crazy idea we were running with and the 4 of us completed our first 2 tours with that lineup. Sam joined on drums between the second and third tour and Julia joined on keys/synth just before Osheaga last summer.
Tell us about the music scene in Kitchener/Waterloo, and how The Royal Streets fit in to it.
We’ve had some really cool experiences playing shows in Kitchener-Waterloo. Since the first shows at Maxwell’s Music House when 15 people would come if we were lucky, we have developed professional relationships with a couple venues and promoters that have helped us grow and put on the shows we have always wanted to.
What Ontario landmarks, cities, (people?) have influenced your writing the most?
Whenever we go on tour, we always come back to Waterloo with new stories and new ideas for songs. But when we’re at home I think the inspiration for our songs comes through personal experiences. The people who surround us like our friends and family, and also random events. It’s hard to say landmarks that inspire us, but perhaps the waterloo night-life? Another landmark that inspired a lot of writing was when we stayed at Catherine north Studios in Hamilton while recording our album and EP. The energy there is amazing.
You recently released Story Weekend which is a three-song EP. Why did you choose a short format vs. a long format release?
￼I would like to say there was more strategy involved but really we’ve had those 3 songs in the live set for a while and wanted to make them available for people. We felt that of the new songs we were playing at the time those 3 were all similar in ￼theme/style and worked well as a collective. Choosing to release a them in a 3 song EP format we were able to keep costs low, give fans some new material to sink their teeth into, and it gave us a chance to gauge fans reactions to the songs. The song writing and sound of Story Weekend has a different vibe than Kings and Queen, we wanted to test the waters. The response has been very positive so we are excited to get into the studio and fully realize this next chapter with a new record.
What is the latest project for the Royal Streets? Tell us about any upcoming releases, tours, etc.
There are no major tours in the works right now. We plan on doing a handful of shows on the 401 circuit in June so stay tuned to the website for dates for that. We are pumped to get back to Maxwell’s on June 20th for a home town show. We have an incredible amount of support at home and we can’t thank friends and fans enough for making our Waterloo shows so special.
The main thing on the horizon is studio, studio and more studio. We have dates booked that pretty much consume our July, August, and September to track this new record. It is mostly all written as we finish up the pre-production over the next month or so. No specific release date set but it will be early months of the new year!
Tell us about some of the people on your team, who does your booking/management/PR?
Up until the end of 2014 we were booking our own shows, but in the early months of this year we started working with Paquin. So far it’s been a good experience working with them – they’ve got a pretty impressive roster and we are excited to be a part of it.
The band is still self-managed and even though it is a lot of work, we value and have enjoyed the experience of learning the industry first hand.
In terms of PR, we worked with Kimberly Sinclair at SpinCount (Nova Scotia based firm) for the release of Kings & Queen. She’s put together a great team out East and helped us develop some good radio connections. We are currently searching for a company to handle the release of the new record. There’s some really solid PR firms based in Toronto, so we’re going to take the time to see which we feel has solid connection with the album as it materializes.
￼What is one of your favourite spots to play in Ontario?
￼Waterloo! It’s such a good time playing here. Being our hometown we have a ton of support here and the turnouts have gotten bigger and bigger every show. Paul Maxwell, owner and operator of Maxwell’s Concerts & Events, has been a big supporter of the band. We have done a lot of our shows at both of his venues, and ￼have also had the opportunity to play some other great events like Rocktoberfest, ￼and played a few other small clubs like The Wax and Cork Hall.
Tell us about the instrumentation in your band? What is your songwriting process?
￼The instrumentation in our band reflects all of our biggest influences. We each bring a certain style and craft it so it works as a whole. This is very noticeable when working on new material. Our songwriting process starts with an idea that one of us ￼will bring to the rehearsal space to perform for the rest. From here we get an idea for the mood, intensity, and rhythm. Most of the time, we’ll each choose a section, or specific note or rhythm of that original idea to elaborate on and develop our part from there. Sometimes members will go out on a limb and try something that ￼technically shouldn’t work but sounds beautiful. That is the best part about music. Even if an idea goes against what technically should make sense, it can still sound great.
You recently performed at the Burdock Room for CMW 2015, tell us about that experience.
￼It went well! It was our first time playing, so it was a bit nerve wracking. With events like CMW you never really know what to expect, but we ended up on a bill ￼with some cool bands. The festival stage crew was organized and overall the show went well. Looking forward to hopefully playing again next year!
Do you listen to music in the tour van? What are some of your favourite van jams?
￼Whether were on tour or just on the way to an out of town show, we always have music playing in the van. We usually go through phases of artists and listen to the same album over and over and then move on to the next. Some artists that have come into that routine are July Talk, Hannah Georges, Half Moon Run, Bright Light Social Hour, The Pick Brothers, and many more great artists!
Tell us about a random act of kindness you experienced on the road.
￼We’ve had so many good experiences on the road it’s hard to name just one! We are ￼so thankful for the countless warm meals, showers, beds and even floor space to ￼crash on given to us by friends and family across the country. This past fall we were ￼out west passing through Kamloops and stayed with an aunt and uncle of Michael’s and had such a blast. The food was outstanding – his cousin introduced me to putting peanut butter on pancakes which has changed my life for the better, and they took us on this beautiful hike. It’s always a bit embarrassing to reach out and ask for a hand when you’re out on the road but it’s unbelievable how generous ￼people can be, and we’ve been very lucky and very blessed.
What’s your favourite Ontario oversized landmark?
The Big Nickel was built to commemorate the discovery of nickel, which before its discovery in the mid-18th century was called “The Devil’s Copper” (because everyone thought it was a weird type of copper that wrecked their copper-refining equipment and just generally caused a big hassle), so based entirely on how great that name is I have to hand it to the Big Nickel.
What’s your tour life guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
When I’m on tour I try to avoid eating anything that isn’t a Tim Horton’s pretzel bagel.
Tell us about your first album Kings & Queen; how has the band evolved since then?
￼Kings and Queen was done in a bit of a transition phase for us. We were moving from a 4 piece folk band to adding drums, electric guitars and making our sound ￼more full, which is something we always wanted. Since then we have stuck with the ￼mix of electric and acoustic guitars, added a keys player and some synth on the low ￼end. We have the sounds and band writing capability to write songs and fill them out as we have always wanted to do, but had never had the means to do so. Also like with anything the more you do it and practice the better you get. I think that comes into play with the songwriting and arrangements you’ll hear. We are going for a full and more driving sound. We learned a lot over the first couple years thanks to trial and error. Now that we are settled in our sound there is a purpose and steady direction to the new material, which has a fresh feel, but it’s definitely still The Royal Streets.
How did you fund your first album?
We actually crowdfunded it through IndieGoGo, which ended up working out really well. We knew it was going to cost about $5000 start to finish, so that’s what we asked for with the expectation that we’d make some of it and have to cover the rest ourselves, but if I remember correctly we ended up raising a little over $7000, which I didn’t expect in the least. It’s a useful funding model for something like a record for a bunch of reasons, presuming you have the nerves for it – waiting for weeks to find out if you get to actually produce your record or not is terrifying. Infinite thanks to Nathan from Latent Image Studios for basically running the whole campaign, too.
Who are some Ontario artists that have influenced your musical career?
There was a band from Kitchener years ago called Battle Creek, I’ve been spinning them a lot lately and they were phenomenal. Then you’ve got July Talk, Decades, Rural Alberta Advantage, DFA1979, etc, coming out of Toronto and they’re all great. George Pettit’s (Alexisonfire) new band Dead Tired is pretty unreal too.
– Sam (Drums)
What advice would you have for Ontario artists starting out in the music biz?
When we were first starting out, we played whenever and wherever we could. We spent the first 2 summers playing countless backyard parties, bar gigs, support slots at local small clubs. 80% of the time we were playing for free, but we made fans and friends that still come out to shows and bring more and more people. Our radio debut was thanks to Amanda Putz at CBC Ottawa – she heard us from her house down the road playing at a friends backyard kegger on Canada Day a few summers ago and walked over to get a copy of our EP. We didn’t get paid for the gig (other than a few free beers), but the connection we made with Amanda and CBC is still proving beneficial today. We’re still figuring out the music biz for ourselves, but in terms of advice – put all you’ve got into it and make sure you’re having a good time. Search for opportunities and don’t be scared to take a few risks.
Answers by various members of The Royal Streets.
For contact info, concert dates and more, check out http://theroyalstreets.com