Photography by Kevin Griggs
Atlanta’s Royal Thunder debuted with 2012’s CVI, a colossal record touting grooving Southern riffs and the pristine voice of frontwoman Mlny Parsonz. With the band set to drop their sophomore album, Crooked Doors, on April 7th via Relapse, we talked with songwriter and guitarist Josh Weaver about his experiences in the band, his inspirations for the new record (which doesn’t sound anything like the last one), and transcending the limiting label of “metal band.”
Royal Thunder’s sound is distinctly Southern, and you could say the same about your Georgia contemporaries Baroness and Mastodon. What do you think it is about the South that keeps the soul of the blues alive in your music, even in 2015?
You know, I’ve given up on trying to figure out what it is. There is definitely something to it. I guess maybe the South just being such a distinct place on the map, you know, Southern culture, maybe all that has got something to do with it. It’s very interesting. It’s hard to say what does that.
It sort of comes naturally to you as a musician from Georgia.
Oh, yeah. I think that everything I’ve written has definitely just been what’s come out of me, so, yeah, definitely.
Personally, where did Crooked Doors come from for you?
A lot of it came from being on the road and traveling and you know, just living life and seeing a lot of the world. Just traveling and playing, you know. You get a lot of inspiration from being on stage almost every night. We all became much better musicians these past couple years just from traveling so much, getting much more comfortable under our own skin as musicians.
Do you remember the sort of headspace you were in this time last year while you were recording? What was going on at this point in your life?
I knew I just wanted to make a great album. That was definitely what I wanted to do, you know. We didn’t even have the whole record written. I think we probably had only like a third of it even written, maybe a little bit more when we entered into the studio. We just went in there, and the headspace was definitely like, “Hey, let’s make the best record we possibly can.” And I’m really excited and really happy with the way it turned out.
In a recent interview with Stereogum, Mlny said that Royal Thunder is sort of transitioning out of even being considered a “metal” band anymore. Would you agree about Royal Thunder shedding that label?
I think so, and I actually hope so, because I never considered us a metal band. I think we had metal influences. And what people hear, you know, that’s fine what their take is on us, but I never considered us a metal band. I always considered us more of a hard rock band. But yeah, I think that this album is a lot more of a defining album for us in the fact that I think that it really captured more of who we are as a band sonically. I love CVI. It was a different time. CVI turned out being more a heavy album than we expected it to be. It was a time where I was experimenting a lot with my fuzz pedals and stuff like that. So, sonically, it came across a lot heavier of an album than we expected, which is cool.
We don’t ever go into a studio or into songwriting going, “Hey, we wanna write a song that sounds like this or like that,” so it’s cool. I love CVI, and it is a heavier album. I’m very proud of that album as well, but I think that this album is a little more defining. We took a lot more time with the tones and the sounds on the album. It really just showcases what Royal Thunder’s about.
Do you think the album would have sounded any different if you had recorded in a major recording studio rather than at Joey Jones’ [of Aria Recording Studio] house in Marietta?
Sonically, probably yes. We don’t really have any plans to work with anybody but Joey because we just have such chemistry. We refer to him as another band member just because he’s so on the same page. He gets it, man. He’s very patient; he’s very meticulous in the work that he does. We’ll sit there and get right all the different sounds and the mic placement ’til we’re all happy. I feel like 99 percent of the time we agree on it once we get it right. I think Joey is an invaluable member to Royal Thunder. And not to say any other recording studios couldn’t do a better job out there, but I think Joey, when people hear this record, they’ll see how talented he is as an engineer and producer.
I saw Royal Thunder play Bonnaroo in 2013. What’s it like playing at a festival that’s very selective with their heavier acts?
I love any opportunity to play. We’ve played the heavy music circuit for so many years. We’re so grateful for all of our fans that are into metal and all the bands we play with that are metal bands. But it’s exciting to play in front of an audience that’s something different to what we’re used to playing in front of. It was a great opportunity, and we’re always looking forward for new opportunities to play in front of any crowd that’ll have an open ear to us, you know? I love playing in front of crowds that we normally wouldn’t get to play in front of. It’s very exciting.
Did you guys have a good SXSW a couple weeks ago?
Oh yeah, it was great. We had a really good time. That whole festival is so wild. It’s so crazy. I feel like every time we play it, like, every time you try to prepare for it, by the time you’re done playing, you’re so exhausted. But it’s always a great opportunity to go out there and play.
Josh, I can’t thank you enough. I hope everything goes really well with the album.
All right, thanks so much, man. Take care!