This back and forth with two parts of the quintet known as Broke Royals starts in a place that felt weird to us all. From there we dove into accepting a new form of reality, and what went into making their July 2022 release, ‘Local Support.’ Broke Royals also placed the image of Kurt Cobain singing Limp Bizkit in my head. Find out why that came up and more below, and don’t forget to check out ‘Local Support,’ out July 15th.
Kendra: So you drop ‘Saint Luxury’ in 2019 and then well, 2020 comes and just knocks the wind out of everyone’s sails. Were you able to do what you wanted with that album before the world decided to take a drastic turn?
Philip Basnight: We actually ended the last leg of our Saint Luxury tour at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn on February 29, 2020. I stayed in New York a few extra days and, by the time I left, COVID cases had been reported in the city. I walked from Central Park to Penn Station to catch the bus and people were avoiding each other on the streets. It was the opposite of New York City; lonely streets in the busiest part of town. In hindsight, that walk feels like a tunnel between the before times and the rest of 2020 and beyond. I know we had more planned for 2020 but I’ve largely forgotten the specifics. We had to learn how to start over. That was actually a big theme for us on ‘Local Support.’
Kendra: I can imagine that as musicians, and live music being one of the first things cut in early 2020, you had to have been sucked into a pretty dark vortex for a while but you’ve noted that everything pushed the band as a whole to start over in a way, and connect more. You started to check in more with one another. Was it texting more, actually picking up the phone, what?
Philip Basnight: It’s true. In the summer of 2020, we all upgraded our home recording equipment and started a weekly songwriting livestream series called ‘Alone, Together’. It gave us a chance to connect and really revamped our writing process. Our drummer, Colin, is a genius engineer/producer and he helped us get up to speed. It really gave us the confidence to write and record individually when we couldn’t be in the same room. That series was a lot of fun and it actually resulted in a few new singles like “Goldbrick Champion,” “U + Me + WWIII,” and “Hard Year.” It also inspired an early version of the first track on ‘Local Support,’ “Revivalism.”
Colin Cross: It’s true. It helped break us out of the writing mold we’d fallen into over the years and gave us a whole new approach. ‘Alone, Together’ was kind of like playing the game “Telephone” with a song. Philip would send a song idea then we’d each add something to it without hearing what the next person did. Then we’d all get on a livestream and listen to it live for the first time. While it was undoubtedly a hard year (+), I have really fond memories of sitting in our guestroom catching up with the guys every week and hearing what they all brought to this new song. And we’d always end up getting on early and staying on long after the call just catching up and checking it.
Since we’re on the subject of starting over, while ‘Local Support’ is technically the third album – you’ve said it feels more like a debut. What did you notice about writing and recording ‘Local Support’ that mirrored your 2017 self-titled?
Philip Basnight: Broke Royals started as a studio project that would occasionally play live. That’s where LP1 came from. Over the years, we’ve been able to tour extensively and our lineup has grown. On our second album, ‘Saint Luxury,’ we were learning to capture the full band sound but still basically writing the songs the same way we did as a studio project. On ‘Local Support,’ we changed that completely. The songwriting process became much more collaborative and the songs were all honed as a full band before we got in the studio.
Colin Cross: Definitely agree with Philip on this one. This album is also the first time we’ve ever tracked entire songs live in one room together. In the past, we’ve followed the traditional one instrument at a time approach- but we wanted to capture that live energy on this project and the best way to do that was… well…live.
Kendra: So before I read through everything I listened to “Revivalism” and in my notes wrote down “80s rock.” Then I saw a bit of inspiration came from the passing of a legend, Eddie Van Halen. Does that vibrant rock sound play out throughout the rest of the record as well?
Philip Basnight: So cool that came through! ‘80s rock loved to pair big power chords with explosive declarations, like “Shout at the Devil,” or “Jump.” That combo isn’t exclusive to ‘80s rock but fun, on-the-nose rock songs are truly a hallmark of the era. Since the ‘90s, many of the biggest rock bands have been more brooding and often intellectual, or pseudo-intellectual, in their approach.
Thinky music can be great and dumb songwriting definitely doesn’t need a champion but at the end of the day, it’s about getting out of your own way. If it feels right to sing “my un-heart attack” then leave it in. David Byrne said it well in his book ‘How Music Works,’ “Words can be a dangerous addition to music — they can pin it down. Words imply that the music is about what the words say, literally, and nothing more. If done poorly, they can destroy the pleasant ambiguity that constitutes much of the reason we love music.”
Kendra: Of course, after the hair bands of the 80s came grunge, which led us to the hyper-aggressive nu-metal, and then eventually we all got sad with emo. What do you feel is the next big wave of rock?
Philip Basnight: Nu-metal got back to the on-the-nose lyricism of the ‘80s through the prism of the ‘90s grunge aesthetic. I’m painting in broad strokes here but think about Kurt Cobain singing “I did it for the Nookie.” It’s not impossible to imagine but his version would have been an ironic takedown of the music industry or something. Emo is the most divisive genre amongst us as a band. Some can’t stand it and some used to play in Emo bands.
I’m in the middle but I listen to it most as an observer, similar to modern country. That’s not exactly relevant to your question but maybe it’s an interesting aside. I’m inclined to say that in the internet age we’ll never experience another monolithic musical wave like the ‘90s, however, I’d love to be proven wrong. Rock’s not dead, it’s just fractured into many smaller communities that can grow, thrive, and possibly even burn out online. Little waves of rock can have full life cycles, and some pretty significant success, without being thrust into the mainstream music machine. A band like Primus couldn’t have two platinum albums these days but they could definitely find a big community.
Kendra: Time for a side note – with it being summer, I’d love to know your go-to summer anthem? Like what song must you listen to when the weather is perfect and the sun is out?
Philip Basnight: ‘Anti’ by Rihanna is a perfect album for a hot summer day
Lastly, with ‘Local Support’ out on July 15th, are there plans for a summer tour? Because I know you’ve got a date set for October already…
Philip Basnight: We have a few upcoming shows announced: June 23rd at Quarryhouse in Silver Spring, MD, July 22nd at the Camel in Richmond, and October 29th at Songbyrd in DC. Plus more coming soon.