While Royal Thunder has been a band for over a decade, they’re just starting to get past cult status. Following two albums on Relapse, who also reissued their 2007 EP back in 2010, the band find themselves with a new album (Wick, out April 7th) and a new label (Spinefarm Records). After playing a four-song acoustic set at the offices of BMG last week, the band did a day of press in New York City before a show the following night at Saint Vitus Bar. We caught up with singer/bassist Mlny Parsonz and drummer Evan Diprima to chat about how they write, what kind of music they consider themselves, and whether Mlny faces any discrimination as the singer of a female-fronted band.
How did you wind up moving to a new label?
Evan: Relapse was up and we’ve known Maria [Oullette, Spinefarm’s head of international] for a while and she’s awesome. We were just approached by a bunch of just good wholesome people that really believed in the band and it feels like family already.
Were other labels coming up to see you?
Mlny: I don’t think any labels reached out to us. Relapse put an offer in.
Evan: Relapse and I think Century Media, maybe?
Mlny: Yeah, there weren’t a whole lot of people knocking on our door, I do vaguely remember that, but it was almost like we turned in this album and we turned around and Spinefarm was there.
So you had this ready before you went shopping for a deal?
Mlny: Wick? No, we turned in Crooked Doors and Relapse didn’t really do anything with it, they didn’t really promote it, so just kinda sat around a lot and didn’t really tour or anything. So that was the last album and that’s just how it panned out. There wasn’t any work to be done, they didn’t meet with us anymore so it just lied dormant and then Spinefarm picked us up almost immediately. It was a smooth transition and they were like “cool you’re with us now, album time!” So we jumped in, but we were about ready to jump in about 2 years ago.
Evan: Very happy to be with Spinefarm
Relapse is pretty well known as a metal label, and now you’re on a rock label. Did you feel like there’s any stigma, either towards you as a perceived metal band or Relapse as a metal label, that might have led you to be miscategorized?
Evan: I’m glad people are finally starting to realize we’re not a metal band.
Mlny: There was that stigma attached to us on Relapse that you’re not metal enough and then you cross over to a more versatile label and now it almost feels like, are we too metal? Because we took on that stigma of being a Relapse band, but we were never metal enough for Relapse. Not that they pressured us or anything. For where we were at that time in life it was perfect for us and it worked out the way it worked out and when we moved on to Spinefarm it was like, now what do you do with us? Because we’re not metal but we’re not.
Evan: We just play out our feelings. I know it’s hard sometimes because everyone want to call it a certain genre, but I don’t know we just never paid attention too much.
Well, when I first heard the band and I knew you were on Relapse and I knew you were from Georgia I kinda lumped you guys in a little bit with Baroness, I guess? You’re both essentially rock bands, from Georgia, they were on Relapse that are a little more melodic than what you would expect. Basically, what do you wanna be known as, band wise? What bands would you wanna be compared to?
Mlny: I can speak for all of us, I think, and say there’s nothing on our minds that we want to be compared to or lumped in with anything. It doesn’t offend us either way if we called metal or rock or pop or whatever people may call us. Something we’ll hear things and be like “that’s weird, I don’t think we’re doom at all,” or even psychedelic for that matter, but it doesn’t offend us or bother us because at this point I’m like ‘I don’t know maybe it’s alternative rock’ because that’s pretty wide open anyway. A lot of things can fit into that.
Evan: It’s hard to say too because we’re just into everything. All kinds of music.
What types of band would you want to tour with?
Evan: The Cult.
Mlny: We would tour really with anyone. You just get these bands together and have different genres come together I think those are the best shows. Especially because we live in a society where everything you get is instantaneously, so I guess having that kinda grooming and impeding that ADHD in everyone it’s like “okay I can’t listen to doom all night, I can’t listen to country all night.”It’s nice to just jump on bills or we’re the weirdos.
Evan: As long as we’re playing and we’re on the road.
Wick definitely seems a little more subdued in parts, like a little more acoustic in nature, like we saw you play an acoustic set last night, is that something that you’re gonna want to do more of in the future?
Evan: Possibly. It definitely gives you a lot of ideas playing acoustically. It’s hard to say though, we definitely like doing it.
Mlny: We’re definitely not going in that direction. Like we’re not gonna turn into an acoustic band, as far as we know. Who fucking knows what will happen to us, it’s definitely not planned. (laughs) But it is really challenging and it kinda strips you down and you either pull it off or not. It’s kinda nice to strip everything away and have “oh shit” moments.
Evan: It’s definitely harder.
Mlny: Yeah, it’s really hard for us to do and it’s really uncomfortable, but all in a good way. It’s just figuring it out and we learn so much every time we do it. It would be awesome to do it more just to feel more conformable with it because we’re pretty comfortable playing, so when we get those moments when we’re not it’s like “oh shit.”
Evan: I remember when we did the acoustic EP it was like freak out moments, I was like “what the hell? I don’t know what to play here!”
Mlny: I don’t know how to sing quiet! How do you sing quietly?
Are your songs written acoustically?
Mlny: No. They’re usually a little loose structured idea on a guitar. We’ll have like a normal practice and then someone will start playing something on a guitar, it’s usually Josh, but since Will has been with us, Will has also contributed to that. I’ve noticed typically it’s like Josh will start playing something then Evan is pretty quick to start working on the rhythm then I just kinda sit back and listen and wait until Evan finds his groove and how he wants to play it, which kinda influences how I’m gonna play the bass and Will coming in there and we’re all kinda dancing around each other. And then we’ll just stop playing and not saying anything and start tuning and go back to practice. That’s pretty much how we write.
Evan: Just jamming out until it start to come together cohesively.
What about lyrical themes on the album? I guess the last album was kinda perceived as a breakup album.
Mlny: Yeah people thought a lot of things about that, but there were so many secrets on that album though that I’ll take to the grave. There was a lot…what was that MTV show “you think you know, but you have no idea.” It’s just that whole you can interpret it however you want, but if I told the truth about some of the things on album people who be like “what the fuck?!”
Evan: I just wish people would just listen to music.
I guess we can just wait for the book to come out years from now.
Mlny: Yeah, wait until everyone is dead.
Talk to me a little bit about the press photo of you guys in bed together.
Mlny: That was, oddly enough being huge Type O Negative fans, NOT intentional.
Evan: Yeah we had no idea that Type O had a picture like that too until after the fact.
It kinda reminded me a little bit of the Fleetwood Mac Rolling Stone cover with all of them in bed
Mlny: I heard about that after the fact too
Evan: Yeah, but we have one where we’re all looking at Will’s glowing penis. (laughs) …in astonishment.
Mlny: Honestly, at the beginning of the photoshoot, Josh just got this really awesome new bed and he had this crazy looking mannequin next to it. It was just a fucking cool bed, like “hey, we should get in that bed!” it was just in passing we all joked about it and then we went and did the photo shoot and then afterwards, because we worked with Jimmy Hubbard, we were like ‘dude, let’s do the bed photos! and he’s like “alright, fuck it!” So then he set up everything, he was just dying laughing, we were laughing. It was just a fun way to end the whole photoshoot.
Evan: It was very cozy.
Mlny: Whether or not we were actually naked is our secret.
What touring are you going to be doing behind this? Obviously you’re doing this now, but what’s next?
Mlny: A ton of touring.
Evan: Yeah, we hope to be busy as hell. I know the first tour we’re doing when the record is out is a Brant Bjork tour and that starts the 9th in Sacramento, I believe, but we’re leaving a few days earlier because we’re doing a few shows on the way up, so we’re actually going to be on the road when the record comes out, which I’m pretty stoked about because I think that’s always good.
If there’s one person you could give this record to listen to to tour with, who would it be?
Mlny: Klaus Meine from the Scorpions. (laughs)
Evan: Yeah that’s, that’s hard. Probably John Tempesta from The Cult. Cause. I think the dude is the best drummer alive.
Big The Cult fan, huh?
Their first three albums are amazing. I’ve kinda fallen off my The Cult listening since then
Mlny: Electric and Love.
Evan: Give it to those dudes, that’s who I would give it to .
Mlny, when did you realize that you were a pretty good singer, because I know the band started instrumental.
Mlny: I would never say that “oh I’m a really good singer at all, cause –
Or when did other people start telling you that?
Mlny: I just realized I could do it when Josh started this band, and asked me to be a part of it in 2005. I didn’t feel good at it. Evan and any of the other band mates will tell you, I’m constantly freaking out, not as much as I used to, but, like last night before the performance – I don’t care if I’m good, I’m gonna freak out and I can’t remember if I know how to sing. I was like real upset in practices. So my voice has been just a thing I’ve wrestled with. I can honestly say that in the past couple years, I’m maybe more comfortable, like I understand it more, but I certainly don’t have it in me to just walk around thinking like ‘I’m so fucking good.’ I feel like the minute you start thinking that it…
You sort of lose it.
Mlny: huge ego, and then you fall down pretty hard And you can’t put too much talk in it. Just do what you got and enjoy it.
And do you feel like there’s more of a separation, and distinction between when the band started and now towards women in heavy music? I feel like there was a lot more of that “you’re good for a girl” kind of stuff ten, fifteen years ago. Have you noticed there being less of that?
Mlny: I grew up playing music around a bunch of dudes and a handful of chicks. Like not many, but you know as I got older I did end up meeting a lot of chicks in rock bands. Like Laura Pleasants and Stevie Floyd, you know a bunch of awesome people that are touring and doing what i’m doing and they’d be on tour and I’d be texting them and they’d be texting me. So it was cool, there was this sense of camaraderie. But I don’t really run into issues, with, like.. maybe once every few years, with some like fucking dipshit in the front.
Evan: Like that dude….
Mlny: “Do you know how to use that tuner,? you know, like, ‘no I don’t, why don’t you come up here and take care of me sweetheart.’
Evan: remember that dude that we were spitting on?
Mlny: The what?
Evan: that one dude, last year on one of the tours. Was in the front talking shit. and we were all just spitting on him.
Mlny: Did I spit on him?
Evan: We all did. Cause he..
Mlny: Oh oh.. spit towards him.
Evan: And they threw him out because he was just saying horrible sexist shit.
Mlny: But that doesn’t really bother me, and it barely ever fucking happens, if at all. Like I said, I grew up around a bunch of dudes mostly. Growing up in the metal scene, my friends that I grew up playing music with, they were always there and they were always supportive. I don’t get wrapped up in that shit anyway. Yea technically we’re female fronted, but we don’t call ourselves like a female fronted band.
This isn’t necessarily a diss against Revolver, but they have that whole “hottest chicks in rock and metal” issue and calendar.
Mlny: Oh totally, and I would jump on board with that easily, if you can use it as a platform to not show your tits and ass and actually say something meaningful. Because when I was a teenage girl, I would’ve loved to open up a magazine and see a fucking human being, not like tits and ass, and have someone awesome to look up to. I just looked up to a lot of dudes because I was like “cool it’s just dudes”, but in the 90’s you didn’t see a whole lot of girls. To each their own, but it’s just not going to be my thing to be like “here are my tits, and I’m gonna like suck on this lollipop, and put pigtails in and make a blow job face. I mean whatever, I’ll do that behind closed doors maybe with someone. (laughs) But it’s not about that, it’s about the music. Work hard and earn it from working hard, you don’t have to be a fucking piece of ass. My defense to that, not defending myself against what you’re saying, if I were to ever be apart of something like that my reasoning would be why not be the influence and jump in there and do something different?
More positive and less sexist.
Mlny: Yeah and give advice, it’s a platform to be able to give advice to young girls or guys that wanna do that in music. Maybe I could be a little chrome in somebody’s pocket. If you could only fix one person.