Royal Teeth are going places. When I first saw them play in February, their opening set stole the show. (Here’s a video). I spoke to vocalist Nora Patterson and guitarist-vocalist Gary Larsen recently, because I’m writing about the band for the SF Examiner. Their first headlining set in San Francisco is June 29 at Bottom of the Hill. (It’s a Saturday, so you have no excuse not to come). Their debut album, Glow, will be released Aug. 13 on Dangerbird Records.
Not even half of my interview will fit into my story because of print restrictions, so here’s some bonus material.
How did you settle on your band name?
Larsen: At first, there were two different names. One was called “royal something,” and the other was called “something teeth.” I think one of them was like Candy Teeth or something. There were two really bad names, and we were against the wall. And (bassist Joshua) Wells said, “How about Royal Teeth?” I thought he said “Royalty.” We like the idea of a name that we define, rather than we represent something else.
Is there a contemporary artist or band whose path to success you’re trying to follow, such as Grouplove?
Patterson: Walk the Moon. We played a show with them in Pontiac, Mich., last year. … We didn’t really know much about them at the time. To see how far they’ve come from that show, even, … it’s been really inspiring.
Larsen: It’s nice to see young bands that work hard and to see it pay off in such a short amount of time. I feel like the same thing is sort of going to happen to us. I don’t think we expect it to be moving as fast. But when we see that happen to a bunch of great, hard-working people, it really inspires you. It makes us want to work hard to get to the same level.
Larsen on his interest in basketball:
You might not like me saying it, but I’m a big Lakers fan. So I got really bummed when I realized we weren’t going to be anything this year. We got knocked out pretty quick. I’ve been watching (the playoffs), and … I don’t have a particular favorite, so it makes it kind of fun to watch. I wouldn’t mind seeing Tim Duncan retire off a championship.
Patterson on her hobbies outside of the band:
I like to garden. I do that a lot when we’re at home and have some time for relaxing.
What’s your musical background?
Larsen: Our drummer (Josh Hefner), for fun sometimes, he’ll go play with a zydeco band in Lafayette. Him, our bass player (Wells), and Andrew Poe, our keyboard player, were in a band together for five years before. They were more of an experimental rock group, and then toward the end they began fooling around with electronic music, which kind of made starting up Royal Teeth a little easier. Our guitar player Stevie (Billeaud) was actually in an instrumental band that was ambient and indie. He really knows how to add those textures onto what we do. I was always inspired by folk music.
Nora, how does what you sang before work with what you sing and write for Royal Teeth?
Patterson: When I’d sing, I’d never really sing pop songs. That wasn’t something I was interested in. I love blues music and folk music. I’ve definitely expanded my range singing songs with Royal Teeth. I can actually help with some of the lyrics and some of the melodies. I don’t play an instrument, so I try to help as much as I can. It’s been really educational for me.
Larsen: She doesn’t play yet, but I think she’ll be taking up ukulele duties soon. She’s been practicing a lot, and I’m about ready to hand that over to her.
The themes in your songs deal with exploration. Do you love to travel, or is that about something else?
Larsen: That’s a pretty big theme throughout the whole record that’s coming out. It’s very easy for us to connect to that idea and that theme, because so much that’s going on in our lives is new. Everything was a new adventure. While we were writing the whole first record, we were quitting our jobs for the first time. We were exploring the country and playing shows. We were changing our lives, and the record, in its own way, captures the good and bad of all of that. In the end it has a hopeful atmosphere about what you can achieve. “Wild” was the song that started it for us. It was the initial idea. It’s funny because the song, originally, I was writing about a girl.
I was going to ask if it is a love song.
Larsen: You know what’s funny? It was. But it’s not now, which I think helped inspire what the band does now. When I’m singing, “Don’t you think it’s time for us to make some history?” I’m talking to us, like, “Let’s do something here.” It’s pretty in-the-moment kind of material.