Watch footage of Brooklyn's The Last Royals busking in NYC subways for their "ONLY THE BRAVE" music video off their debut album TWISTIFICATION.
The Last Royals, a Brooklyn duo of writer/singer/producer Eric James and drummer Mason Ingram, formed in early 2010 after meeting and working together on a charity record with producer Mike Beck. James had at that point written and demoed a collection of songs on his own, a handful of which ultimately comprised TLR's buzzed about EP released later that fall, but was still seeking a broader personality and gravitas for the project. Upon meeting Ingram a connection seemed to click and, together with Beck, they began forging a grander collective intersection of live energy and sound. The result of their collective exploration is captured in The Last Royals full-length debut, Twistification, released in January 8, 2013.
Recorded in a series of short sessions at Beck's Brooklyn studio, the group reworked virtually all of James' original songs to create an album that infuses The Last Royals' pop aesthetic with rock and roll elements, juxtaposing brightly hopeful music with candid, evocative depth. The idea, ultimately, was to create a disc that had a narrative flow. "Musicians hold to this idea that people still listen to albums, even though they probably don't anymore," James says. "But there's something beautiful about that ideal, and it drives me as a songwriter. I believe the album has a beginning, middle, and an end. There's a natural arc of tension, chaos and finally release."
The few songs released ahead of the album, via both the three-song album teaser in Fall 2012 as well as the band's preceding debut EP, gained significant attention. "Crystal Vases" spent four-months on SiriusXM AltNation's Top 18 Countdown, and both RCDLBL and PASTE premiered "Only the Brave" with glowing reviews as single/download and video, respectively. These and many others hailed the preview tracks showcases of the group's striking ability to build buoyant, danceable numbers across a broad stylistic range. These songs marry glowing instrumentation with introspectively dark lyricism, an apt introduction to their forthcoming debut album. "The verses are quite depressing and self-deprecating, which I think makes for the best songs," James explains of "Friday Night." "It's a sad loser of a song in the form of a pop-dance number. I love the idea of people dancing along to something that's really depressing."
One element that came into play while making Twistification was the group's live performance, something that didn't necessary influence The Last Royals EP. Between recording sessions the group hit the road, performing select regional dates, supporting a tour with Lovedrug, as well as appearing as a musical guest at several events for nonprofit To Write Love On Her Arms. These shows had a direct impact on the way the songs on the albumand its preceding teaserturned out. "That's the great thing about music," says Ingram, a classically trained percussionist who studied African rhythms abroad and moonlights on a number of NYC projects. "Playing live let's you see how people respond to the music. Touring gave us a nice litmus test while we were making the album."
And it's not just about the music. James' original concept of the songs as a "soundtrack for the urban walker" remains the defining core of The Last Royals. Shimmering pop melodies are extorted from and set against the real life background of miles of NYC concrete, overpriced MTA cards, skateboarding for groceries, and a love of photography and video that captures snapshots of it all. Lifestyle and secondary passions weave a collective, almost palpable aesthetic from reality to art and back again.
The songs that appear on Twistification urge all these influences together, successfully combining pop melodies with an infectious rock vibe. They're tracks that generate both thought and movement, suggesting that pop music can be literately intelligent while still resonating with an easy-going memorability, both absorbing and reflecting the experiences and imagery of everyday life.