Royal Thunder returns with “Wick”
(originally published in Star News, with additional Q and A below)
By Brian Tucker
Royal Thunder drummer Evan Diprima said the Atlanta hard rock band’s key to longevity has been repetition and perseverance, to “just keep playing, touring, and writing. Through thick and thin. Never stop.” That resolve has gone into writing each album, sounding like the work of a sculptor crafting statues from stone.
“Our writing mainly involves us jamming on one riff repeatedly until it starts to take shape,” Diprima said of the process of creating songs, building them from the ground up, something they repeated for new album Wick.
Taking the long hard road has worked, and the songs across four consistently evolving albums reveal a unique mix of combustible, gracious, and melodically soaring material. Their hard rock sound is often seen as haunting or dark, but with each album the dynamic soundscape of them reshapes, revealing beauty in the coarseness (and the groove heavy songs).
Formed in 2004 they released a debut album in 2007 and have continually transcended the hard rock genre through sonic exploration, introspective lyricism, and a rather dynamite singer in Mlny Parsons who can be both explosive, soulful, and engaging – think Janis Joplin crossed with Tom Kiefer. Initially an instrumental act, the heads-down, hard working attitude also helped get them through the soft release of 2015’s Crooked Doors which didn’t get much push from its label.
“Each one is a representation of what we were going through at that time. Crooked Doors was definitely a big journey for us musically and personally,” Diprima said. “We spent nearly a year creating that album and I feel you can almost hear the journey we went through while listening to it.”
Now on Spinefarm Records, Wick finds the band expanding further. They show strength and passion on songs like the tribal sounding “April Showers,” the gripping “Plans,” and a catchy and emotional album highlight with “We Slipped.”
“(For that song) at first we only had the main riff (for the verses) that we would jam on over and over. After a while (guitarist) Josh Weaver brought the chorus riff into place. We decided to slow down the tempo in chorus sections just to give it a little extra pull, transitioning from the verses. This tune is pretty bare bones and focused, it came together pretty quickly and naturally.”
For a hard rock band “We Slipped” is more ‘restrained’ as a song but doesn’t lack for emotional or sonic punch (that’s easily found on the pillaging sonic nature of “The Sinking Chair”). The song’s vibe works it way through Wick, like on “Anchor,” the piano laced “Push,” or the bittersweet “The Well” with its living-in-the-atmosphere vocals. Those songs beg the question of the band doing acoustic performances. It’s not often done, though an acoustic set last summer for NPR became a powerful performance, one putting Parsons’ voice front and center. Diprima said that type of show makes songs more difficult to play, almost re-learning them. Acoustic or electric, the impact is undeniable; though don’t expect that at Reggie’s this week.
“You have to really keep dynamics in mind. To go from full-on blasting out on tour to playing a kit that is just kick, snare, and ride, with brushes can be a trip. I really enjoy playing these versions because I think it makes us better players. It challenges us and pushes us out of our comfort zones, which I think is a healthy way for any musician to expand their approach.”
What’s your favorite album by The Cult released after Love, Electric, and Sonic Temple and why?
Diprima: So stoked you asked this question, The Cult is my favorite band! Gotta be Choice of Weapon for me, this record has that bare bones sound that you never hear anymore. All the tones are real, the drums sound killer. Tempesta slays. The riff on “Elemental Light” is one of my favorites (Billy) Duffy riffs of all time. And “A Pale Horse” has such a unique groove.
If you could score or create music for a filmmaker, past or present, who?
It would be great to do something with Quentin Tarantino. He always uses great classic tunes in his movies and seems to have a great taste in music. It would be cool to write a rocker for him.
Looking over the band’s career, what facet has made you more adept at creating?
I’ve only been in the band since 2012 but I can tell you that touring and playing live constantly has made us grow together as players and beyond. I think this goes with anything, but I believe that repetition and perseverance are key. Just keep playing, touring, and writing. Through thick and thin. Never stop.
Can you share the story behind “We Slipped”? It’s a hypnotic song.
Our writing mainly involves us jamming on one riff repeatedly until it starts to take shape. Josh wrote this riff a little before entering the studio to record Wick. At first we only had the main riff (the verses) that we would jam on over and over. The working title was called “Maiden” because the galloping rhythm reminded us of that Iron Maiden-esque gallop, ha ha.
After jamming on it for a while Josh brought the chorus riff into place, we decided to slow down the tempo in chorus sections just to give it a little extra pull transitioning from the verses. This tune is pretty bare bones and focused, it came together pretty quickly and naturally.
Is Crooked Doors an album fans are still discovering given the release Relapse gave it?
I hope that new fans are continuing to discover all of our records, each one is a representation of what we were going through at that time. Crooked Doors was definitely a big journey for us musically and personally. We spent almost a year creating that album and I feel you can almost hear the journey we went through while listening back to it.
Relapse was stoked on it when we sent it to them, they have a lot of metal bands on their roster, but I’ve always felt that we are able to crossover into that world. We all came from metal and punk rock and I think that comes across in our records. Whether it be a sonic element or an emotional one.