Nashville, Tennessee: the heartbeat of American rock n’ roll and one of music history’s bastion cities. Steeped in tradition and iconic figures, its landscape is the home of some of the most memorable moments in music history. From the prominence of homegrown country music to rockabilly and traditional rock, the denizens and artists who ply their craft within its borders continue to be some of the most passionate in the nation.
The Blacklist Royals are a fine product of this Nashville brewery; distilled in rock n’ roll’s rich history and sharpened by punk rock’s sneer, they are both the present and future of this past. We recently spoke to drummer and founder Rob about their recent touring, their terrific album Semper Liberi and what their city’s (and genre’s) history means to them as they continue down the rock n’ roll highway.
How was the tour, crowd reception good?
Rob: The tour was great! It was our first tour in Canada, and it went really well. We were out with Orphan Choir, who are an amazing band and dudes, so it was a blast. Toronto, Montreal, and KOI Festival had great crowds and we met a lot of really cool people.
What were some of the best memories of the recent run?
Rob: The memory that will stick with me the most is from our day off in Toronto, a crazy drunk girl at The Bovine Sex Club beat the shit out of this girl who worked our show the night before, then attacked Nat and Alex as well! Part of me wanted to stop her, and part of me couldn’t help but want to watch some random maniac drunk bitch try to fight everyone in the bar for no reason. I think what started the whole thing is that Alex told her she was pretty, haha! She chased us all the way back to the van! Canadian girls are intense.
Did you guys all get along?
Rob: We get along great most of the time, regardless of our different personalities and the obvious tensions of being on the road constantly. Alex can definitely get a little wild sometimes, and since Nat and I are twins and have lived/played music together our whole lives we can get into it the way brothers do. But we all love each other and love being out on the road experiencing life and getting into all kinds of fucked up misadventures together, so it works out well. Right when I think we don’t get a long I watch other bands we tour with interact and realize we are a lot closer than most.
Semper Liberi is one of our favorite records of 2010. In our review, we said, “It’s all about the feeling, the essence, and the movement of what made the likes of Johnny Cash, Elvis, Chuck Berry and their kind so memorable.” Your city of Nashville is steeped in such a rich rock n’ roll culture, how much does rock n’ roll history influence your songwriting if any?
Rob: We are definitely students of rock and roll history, and it is a bigger influence on us than anything else. Nat and I grew up on 50’s and 60’s music, and moved to Nashville years ago in hopes of connecting with the things that made early rock and roll so great and real. So I definitely agree it is all about feeling. Semper Liberi was honestly kind of a concept album to us, an attempt to make a punk rock oldies album, but still keep it relevant. Classic rock and roll has been and will always be our bands compass, no matter where we go from here.
AUDIO STREAM: “Howling at the Moon”
Blacklist Royals – Howling at the Moon (from the album Semper Liberi)
What are some of the important topics you consider as influential when it comes to writing the songs?
Rob: We write a lot about what we know, like life on the road and of course love songs. But we also had some songs about social issues on Semper Liberi such as “Jolie Blonde” (a re-working of the unofficial Cajun national anthem about hurricane Katrina), “Church Bells are Ringing”(about a mining disaster in my home state of West Virginia) and “American Hearts”. For the next record we have been writing much more personal songs, which are a little different from the straight forward rock and roll lyrics on Semper Liberi but still completely Blacklist Royals.
What is the natural progression for all of you now after Semper Liberi?
Rob: Well like I said, we are trying to get more real with our songwriting, more personal. We tried to make the songs on Semper Liberi more general so they were more accessible, but now we want to really take it to street level and sing about topics that we weren’t ready to cover with that record. But at the same time we want the songs to be even MORE hook oriented, and I am really excited about what we’ve been coming up with so far. Jamie, Alex, and Eric bring a lot of different influences and ideas to the table, so I expect our next record to be a real step up.
Paper + Plastick are a relatively new label- although Vinnie is no stranger to this- was it a natural choice for you to sign with them?
Rob: Definitely. Matt Drastic (who produced out record) is Less Than Jake’s tour manager, and turned Vinnie on to the band. Those two dudes have believed in us more than anyone ever has, so I couldn’t imagine being in better hands. They’ve really done a lot for us and P+P is becoming a really awesome label as other labels seem to be dying around them, so I am stoked to see what the future holds.
You guys are playing The Fest next- do you prefer these massive festival settings or do the open roads and endless rock n’ roll halls appeal more to your sensibilities?
Rob: It depends what time slot we get at the festivals, haha! They can be really amazing because we get to play to audiences that maybe haven’t seen us, or that generally wouldn’t go out to a show we play at a random shitty bar on a weeknight in their towns. So festivals are great, The Fest especially! It is always my favorite weekend of the year, and I have no doubt anyone who makes the trip down to FL will see us running around all night acting like idiots.
What are your plans after The Fest?
Rob: It is kind of up in the air right now. We are trying to work out a tour in November, and probably take December off. At the start of the new year there are a lot of cool things in the works including Europe, Canada again, and a Paper + Plastick tour with some of our awesome label mates. Basically we are just going to continue touring our asses off until people have no choice but to notice us.
Semper Liberi is out now via Paper + Plastick