September 2014

Heads Of State

Words: Gabriel Knowles Images: Zara Poole & Jacinda Fermanis

If there’s anything the internet excels at, it’s hype. In this digital age a band doesn’t even have to release an EP before the whole world knows about it. Royal Headache are one of those bands, with the blogging set projecting them to a whole new audience before they’d even had time to get a 7″ pressed. Fortunately they’ve got the right perspective as well as still having no idea what Pitchfork is…

“They got in touch with us and I didn’t even know who it was. So I wikipedia’d this Ryan dude and apparently he’s the head honcho there.” Drummer Shorty recounts of the four piece’s first exposure to the overtly fickle tastemakers over at the music blog Pitchfork. They might have caught the ear online, but it’s their live show and their ability to blow away all in attendance that’s hooked them up a deal with Melbourne label Stained Circles. The older half of the band including Shorty and vocalist Shogun are a little more circumspect about the prospect of someone asking them to release an album than their younger band mates. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact both have spent their fair share of time in bands on the punk and thrash scene over the years and seen deals come and go. In any case the enthusiasm from bassist Joe and guitarist Law, both just into their twenties, obviously has an effect on those getting closer to 30. “I’m really excited, it’s my dream to write an LP!” Law exclaims, setting the ball in motion with plans of how it’s going to go down.

The LP might be in the works but playing gigs at venues close to home has proved difficult of late with local publicans not always so helpful. “We were supposed to play a gig at The Glengarry in Redfern which normally has room temperature folk music so we thought they must have been up for blowing the roof off the joint.” Shogun recounts with the panache of a born storyteller and the charisma of a frontman. “But then we turned up with some amps and they freaked out! The guy was stammering ‘L-l-leave, t-t-take everything with you.’ Luckily I live 30 seconds away so my house mate suggested we just play the gig at our place. It was fucking cool in the end.”

“It was for the best, we played in the backyard that backs on to the lane way. So we pulled up the roller door and there were people hanging in the lane way.” Shorty adds. “People sitting on the roof.” Shogun takes up the story before Joe ties up the technical loose ends. “The sound was really good too, better than most clubs we’ve played at.”

That gig, and Royal Headache as they are today, would never have happened if the original plans for a female vocalist had come to fruition. “I got their tape because they were stumped for vocals, it sounded really good and it was hot, but it was screaming for singing.” Shogun explains. “I was supposed to just be helping this other girl they had lined up to be the singer and then I got excited about the shit I was making up for her so I just ended up jamming with them. I thought about putting my hair in pigtails and dressing up in girl punk stuff. Can you imagine! That’s the worst kind of cross dressing!”

So with the bloggers all exited about the track Eloise it has to be asked just who the lady that’s inspired this track is. “Honestly no one but it’s caused me some problems because this girl I’m just friends with is called Eloise and my cousin is called Eloise!” Shogun admits anti-climactically. “It just sounds like a nice girls name. I write songs based on sounds and melody, my lyrics don’t always mean something. I don’t think I’ve ever met girl good enough to write a song about so I just had to make one up.”

Royal Headache – Eloise (Right click and save to download)

You’d never guess Shogun’s scared of stages, or that the band have spent most of their time playing and recording in a boat shed, and not a garage, on the edge of Sydney’s picturesque Parramatta River. “It sounds great there, it’s got this natural reverb.” Joe says, later he admits he played in a Napalm Death cover band called Napalm Breath which reaffirms that he’s not all technical.

“I used to play in this punk thrash band called Headless Horsemen and we were touring Europe, staying in squats between shows in Germany and stuff like that. We almost played with the Misfits then. We were supporting this band who were lined up to support them in Poland but we couldn’t get a visa in time, because back then it was harder to get into Poland.” Shorty chimes in with another previous band story. He does mention that at that stage there was only one original Misfits member in the line up but the general consensus in the room is that it still would have counted.

The mention of one of the mainstays of punk music’s last big trip into popular culture gets Shogun musing. “I think punk has started to make sense again, there’s something about the immediacy of punk. In the context of music I guess we’re going through a stage where music has become quite introverted and a bit spineless so punk has become necessary again.” The Queen might have become irrelevant but punk is back.

Royal Headache play Flip Out festival at Melbourne’s The Corner Hotel on September 5

Next Article: Andrew Long – Graceful Exits