MUSIC INTERVIEW: Royal Republic
A band who “don’t believe in guilty pleasures, only pleasures,” Swedish quartet Royal Republic are about to set the world alight with their new album Club Majesty. We caught up with guitarist Hannes Irengård ahead of the release to talk about the new record, their iconic red jackets, a new addition to their live show and more.
Hello Hannes! You release your new album Club Majesty very soon, what is the feeling within Royal Republic right now? Are you excited? Nervous?
First and foremost we’re super excited to release the album. We’re extremely proud of it and how it turned out. It sounds great and we’re super happy with the songs, but obviously there’s always a slight feeling of anxiety in there. You’re taking your little baby, something that you worked your ass off making, you put your heart, soul, time and money into it and you’re about to show it to the world. Nowadays you get people’s reactions straight away, straight up in your face. Comments all over social media and YouTube. So you kinda need to be prepared for all sorts of reactions, which is obviously a little nerve wracking at times. But no, overall we’re super excited and we’re happy. Actually I’m pretty sure that people are going to dig this album.
Well we’ve already listened to the album a few times and we’re really enjoying it.
You’re welcome. It has a very eclectic sound, for example in the likes of Fireman and Dancer we pick up hints of Queen, in Flower Power Madness we even get a bit of Tom Jones in the vocals, but at the same time it’s very fresh and feels modern. You’re a band who struggle to label yourselves, but if you could sum up Club Majesty in five words, what would they be?
Eclectic, I guess that’s a proper way of putting it. Putting it into five words I guess that would be rock n’ roll, disco, sex, dance and groove. Those would be the five words to sum it up. I’m happy that you mention all of these different influences, I know that goes for all of us when I say we’re very proud of our open-mindedness so to speak. For us there are no guilty pleasures, there are only pleasures. So we take what we like, that might be Tom Jones, that might be Earth, Wind & Fire, or Nirvana, or Ramones, or Mozart, you name it, mash it up and turn it into something we all like and that sounds like Royal Republic. So I’m happy hearing you mention all of these different influences.
That follows on nicely to our next question, because we love that you don’t feel confined by any genres. Is that something that you always set out to achieve when you formed in 2007, or is it something that happened naturally over time?
Well it kinda happened naturally, I mean we all come from different musical backgrounds. We basically only have one thing in common when it comes to music, and that is that we love good music. Whatever kind of music that might be. It could be pop, hip-hop, rap or death metal, it doesn’t really matter. But that’s the thing with Royal Republic, collecting all of these different genres, we kind of grew into that. When we started out we were mainly just a band that was trying to make fast rock n’ roll music with lots and lots of energy, and we kinda managed to pull it off with the first album, but then I think we realised that there’s more to this band than just the fast rock n’ roll and punk music.
Between the four of us we have so much to put into this whole thing, and we shouldn’t leave it out for the sake of leaving things out. Or for the sake of a record label telling us “so if you put this album out, it sounds like this and it works out, do the exact same album again so we can make our money,” we never wanted to do that, we wanted to evolve like our heroes did. Like The Beatles did, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young y’know? To keep it fun, keep it interesting. So we kinda grew into that whole thing, and now four records in we know it’s actually doable, that we can actually pull it off. I think that’s one of our strengths and we’re very, very proud of that. I think a lot of bands, they draw themselves into one corner and then they’re stuck in there. Whether it’s them making the move, the record label, the management, but they’re kinda stuck in there, and one of these days it’s not going to work out anymore and there’s basically nothing they can do about it. So I would rather just break the chains from the get go, break the rules, the walls and the boundaries and just do what we love, because that’s the only way it’s going to turn out good in the end.
Absolutely, you should be proud. We fully respect you for that! Can you tell us a story or fact about the album that we might not already know?
[Pauses for a while to think] Erm, a fun fact that is not such a fun fact is even though it might come across as a joyful album, which it is, it turned out that way in the very end, it was actually a very hard process. It was a struggle. It’s always been like that with us. We really struggle to get these songs written and recorded. It’s never like we show up in the rehearsal room and just make things happen. It’s usually that I’m at my place, Adam is at his and so on, and then we get together and try and make these embryos of songs. So it’s kind of a struggle, it’s a difficult process but in the end it usually turns out very, very well and I think the joy that is in there all along, because there needs to be joy, comes across very well in the end.
So you released a video for Fireman and Dancer not too long ago, it looked like it was a lot of fun to film. One of the things we love are the amazing red suit jackets that you wear, did you guys pick them yourselves?
Yes, we picked them ourselves and I guess Google picked them for us [laughs] we pretty much just Googled ‘jackets’, ‘red jackets’, ‘black jackets’, ‘nice jackets’, ‘ugly looking jackets’. We searched everything and we came across these red jackets and it was like love at first sight. So I think they will be with us for quite some time now, we feel very comfortable in them.
We always think it must be quite difficult to play instruments in jackets like that though? Or is it not? We’ve never tried!
You kinda get used to it, but we did this photo session a couple of months ago wearing these red jackets and usually when we’re on stage we have them open so we don’t button them. Then we showed up for this photo session and I was like okay let’s do this! And the rest of the guys said “but you need to button up your jacket…” and I was like what the fuck! Nobody told me I was supposed to try and close this thing [laughs] So I had to go through the whole photo session like [makes impression of being in pain breathing in] I had to keep my tummy in so that made it kind of difficult. If you look real closely you can actually see me struggling a bit, but I’m fine with that [laughs].
Haha we’ll have to keep an eye out! So the album you released prior to Club Majesty was in 2016 and the music industry is very fast, a lot changes. We would say in those three years streaming has become more prominent, for example. Have you faced any challenges between now and then because of these changes?
Well the streaming thing was already rolling so we didn’t notice a drastic change in that sense. But I can tell that there has been a change obviously and we can tell when we’re on the road and speak to a lot of bands, we talk about this stuff. Things have changed and especially in the sense that bands nowadays cannot rely on the actual album making the money for them. Back in the day if you released a successful album you could go and buy your house and hang around in swimming pools sipping mojitos all day, but now the album is just a vehicle to be able to go on the road to tour, to make money through touring and merchandise. So that’s obviously a big change.
Then there’s the whole social media thing. I kinda like it in a sense, you get to come close to the people you admire, you get a lot of cool information and see a lot of cool stuff, but on the other hand the mystery has sort of gone. I remember back in the day when I was like the biggest Guns N’ Roses fan on earth, I was sitting in my room actually writing mails, with a pen on a piece of paper, to the Guns N’ Roses fan club in Hollywood, Los Angeles, you know? Getting a response, mail in your bloody mailbox, that was Christmas Eve times ten. But it’s all give and take. Streaming and the Spotify thing is unbelievable, it’s amazing. It’s crazy how you can walk around and have all of the music in the world in your pocket.
It is great how accessible it is, but I completely agree it does take the shine off things a bit. Back then you wrote fan mail, now you can message a band on Facebook…
So you play Download Festival in June and then you come back to the UK in October for a headline tour. Are there any songs that you’re most excited to play from the new record?
Yes there are a couple of them actually. Stop Moving and Anna Leigh, I’m especially looking forward to playing those because Jonas, our magnificent bass player, has just bought a brand new keytar, so we’re looking forward to that. He picked it up recently when we were rehearsing and it looks so fucking stupid in a brilliant way, I love it. So he’s working on his keytar parts now, it doesn’t sound great as we speak but I’m sure it’s going to sound great so I’m really excited about trying that out live. I think it’s gonna be kickass.
Amazing! You have been a band since 2007, when you started out what is one piece of advice you wish you’d been given?
That is a good question.
Sorry for making you think so much!
[laughs] I guess my advice to myself ten years ago would have been to make sure that you, and this is a total cliché but it’s true nonetheless, make sure you stop every now and then and just try to take it all in. Give yourself a pat on the back every now and again, and say well done. Look at what we’ve created, look at how far we’ve come and enjoy these things, because once you’re in this wheel that the business sort of sets for you it’s really easy getting caught up in the next thing, then the next thing, bigger, better, faster, more, y’know? The four of us never actually had a release party, we never sat down and had a few beers and said “hey, look at all of these accomplishments, isn’t this unbelievable?” It just keeps rolling, so I guess that would be my advice to myself ten years ago.
Very good advice. Well thank you for taking the time to chat to us today, do you have any final words for our readers?
We’re super excited, it’s gonna be good. We’re looking forward to coming back to your beautiful country, I’m sure we’ll have a good time. Don’t miss out on the shows and don’t miss out on Jonas’ keytar playing, that’s the main point!
Thank you again and good luck with everything – we’ll see you at Download!
Interview by: Hannah Gillicker
Royal Republic will appear at Download Festival next month, followed by a headline tour in October. Dates are as follows:
Sat 15th – DONINGTON – Download Festival
Fri 18th – NORWICH – The Waterfront
Sat 19th – NOTTINGHAM – Rock City
Sun 20th – GLASGOW – The Garage
Tue 22nd – NEWCASTLE – University
Wed 23rd – HULL – The Welly
Thu 24th – LEEDS – Brudenell Social Club
Sat 26th – MANCHESTER – Academy 2
Sun 27th – BIRMINGHAM – O2 Academy
Mon 28th – BRISTOL – Trinity Centre
Wed 30th – SOUTHAMPTON – Engine Rooms
Thu 31st – LONDON – Electric Ballroom