Royal Headache is a punk rock band from Sydney, Australia. After the release of their second album, High, the band began to turn heads on an international level. Soulfully aggressive, the group has come up with a sound that is distinct from any other band that we know of. What The Sound had the opportunity to interview Royal Headache’s bassist, Joe. He told us interesting stories about the band's latest tour in the States, the punk scene in Australia versus the U.S., and more. Read our chat and listen to their music below.
What The Sound: You released your self-titled debut album in 2011. Did a lot of touring in 2012 including a fair amount of gigs in the United States then released High this year. In addition to some one-off shows, what was Royal Headache up to in 2013 and 2014?
Joe: As a band we did almost nothing, outside of Royal Headache we were all really busy people. We work full time jobs, so outside of that you've got pretty limited time to do what you actually want and Royal Headache was taking up a lot of that time, especially with things we actually didn't care about doing much. Would have only been about a year we took of between mid-2013 and mid-2014 but we had other shit going on. Law started his own business selling music gear and pinball machines, Shogun started playing second guitar in Low Life, Shortty worked and bought a house. I got married and wrote another record for my other band.
WTS: What city on all the tours that you have been on gave you the most memorable experience and why?
Joe: Memorable things tend to happen a lot on tour because of how weird the situation is. It's not normal for 4 odd guys to be living on top of each other 24 hours a day, spending most of your nights drunk and most of your days hung over sitting in a van for hours driving to the next place to get drunk. So a lot of it has little to do with the city you're in. America is such an odd place lots of the things we found strange are probably just regular life for lots of people.
First time we went to Baltimore about 5 people turned up for the show and one of them invited us to stay at his place. The next day we're getting ready to leave when we meet these older guys in his neighborhood and had the best time. One of the guys had his brother-in-law’s entire record collection and huge DJ PA set up in his basement and basically let us go through the entire thing for a few hours picking out whatever we wanted because he had a huge fight with the dude and was going to run him down in his car the next time he saw him.
St. Louis we pulled up to the hotel we booked and the 3rd floor had police tape blocking the entire floor. We loaded our shit and headed out through the parking lot where a guy was choking this girl in his car; so we went and told the manager to call the cops, which must have pissed of the choker because he came in yelling "mind your own business". Later the manager said "Wow this kind of thing never happens here!", with the police tape on the 3rd floor in sight. Then we went and had breakfast at Hooters for some reason.
WTS: Is there any ritual to your writing process?
Joe: Usually happens hungover, I guess that could be considered a ritual.
WTS: Your sound works together perfectly. When writing the songs, does the melody come first? Words? Or is it simultaneous?
Joe: Depends on who's bringing the song. Law will usually have a few different riffs that we cycle as a band and Shogun just starts making shit up on top of it. Sometimes Shogun will bring in a melody and the chords and we kind of mess around with it to see how to make it work.
WTS: Your sound is garage rock / punk, but some of your lyrics encompass this romantic vibe. Like, in “Wouldn’t You Know”, “Carolina”, and others. Most people wouldn’t put those two things together and still call it “punk”. Do you see any rule about that? Does it differ in Australia? How does the Australian punk scene differ from that of the United States’?
Joe: I don’t know, I think there's been plenty of romantic punk before - Buzzcocks, Husker Du probably the more personal bands. I would say the way Australian's write music, at least the better bands, is usually a little more honest or personal. Maybe just more willing to admit they're shit or whatever, whereas bands in the U.S seem a little more concerned with how they will be perceived. There's a million exceptions to that statement though.
WTS: What genre would you call RH?
Joe: I think we're just a rock and roll band.
WTS: Shogun expressed hesitancy in continuing with RH prior to the release of High. From the way an outsider looks at it, RH gained even more positive attention with the release of your second EP. Shogun was able to use his voice in ways that were hidden in the debut. Now that you’ve toured the album, you’re not finished with RH, right?
Joe: Well Shogun kept wanting his vocals turned down on the first record, so that's probably why they seem hidden. The recording for High was done in 2012/2013 and we kind of ditched it because we thought it was shit. But after we took that break, we went back to it and I think without the weird pressures we thought existed around the band, it sort of made it easier to just be a bit more confident with it. Like turn the vocals up or whatever, because we kind of felt like no one cared about us anymore you know? Like who gives a shit, no ones going to listen to this anyway. Who knows what we'll do in the future, we function better without planning.
WTS: Have you written new material since finishing High? If so, what direction is it headed in? How will it compare to High and your debut album before that.
Joe: Yeah we've been writing a bit, we played probably 4 new songs across the last tour in the U.S. I don’t know what it sounds like, we've always been pretty varied so I guess it will continue to be pretty varied. We're getting more unhealthy so I guess we'll be playing slower stuff.
WTS: What can we look forward to from Royal Headache in 2016?
Joe: I have no idea. We've got a couple of shows booked in Australia but that's about it. Planning another year is the last thing I want to think about. We’ll see what happens.