Ivan of Noteworthy here once again (Mondays, 6PM-8PM at uicradio.org) to introduce a band that I’ve played on the show before. Their name is Royal Tongues and they’re a fun alternative pop duo based out of Buffalo, NY. Patterns and Shapes, their debut EP, was just released in March and is a synth-filled collection of songs aimed at arena domination. I had the chance to speak with band members Aaron Bonus (pictured left, above) and Justin Gammella through e-mail and you can check out the conversation below.
Noteworthy: So how did you guys meet?
Aaron Bonus: Through a mutual contact. We set up a writing session and wrote “The Balance.” We knew we had something special.
NW: How did you come up with the name Royal Tongues?
Aaron: Lorde’s “Royals” and Joywave’s “Tongues” were both on [alternative] radio at the time. We never cared too much about the name overall. Instead, we wanted to define the name by how we sounded.
NW: What role do you play in the group?
Aaron: I mostly sing live, but recording-wise we both do a little of everything.
Justin Gammella: Keys and harmonies live. As the set grows we are both planning on playing more instruments live as well.
NW: An easy comparison to make with your music would be groups like Passion Pit and Grouplove, but you guys just recently released a cover of Alabama Shakes’ “Don’t Wanna Fight.” What other types of music or influences would people be surprised to find that you’re into and how did you decide on that cover?
Justin: I think mine and Aaron’s wide range of influences is what makes our sound. We are fans of a lot of the alternative and pop music out now but also love ’70s disco, ’90s hip hop, ’80s pop, the ’60s etc. It’s really all over the place and we try to incorporate every influence into every song but especially in the cover.
Aaron: I really loved the song from first listen. I can tell the lyrics are coming from a place of truth and [Brittany Howard’s] voice captures that. I knew I wouldn’t be able to quite get the emotion right, and besides I felt like the chorus could translate to a more disco vibe. So we did that.
Aaron: As far as other music that would surprise you: Nickel Creek, Coldplay, Neutral Milk Hotel.
Justin: For me, Brand New, Justin Timberlake and Regina Spektor.
NW: Your music is so bouncy and synth-oriented that it feels like only a matter of time before I hear a Royal Tongues song appear in a commercial. Do you have any current favorite ad placements of songs that caught your ear and eye?
Justin: I think Foster The People being in almost every commercial when their album came out was huge for alternative music being in commercials.
Aaron: The Bleachers’ Chase Apple Pay commercial was great. Even had him and the band perform in it. Good things are in the works though. Stay tuned.
NW: What’s your songwriting process and how do you know when a track is finished?
Aaron: First off, great question. It really depends. Sometimes we play it live for a while then go back and make the right changes and adjustments with feel taking the lead. Sometimes, we show a demo to our team and they go nuts over it and push us to just get that version mixed.
Justin: It depends. Sometimes Aaron has a melody that he’s been messing with and we’ll start with that or I’ll have a beat or some sort of a production and we’ll start with that. But usually our best songs, in my opinion, come when we are both in the room and start fresh and just see what happens.
NW: What were your goals going into the writing and recording of the Patterns and Shapes EP?
Justin: We really didn’t have any to be honest. A lot of the songs were written and recorded without an exact project in mind. We were just writing what we thought we would want to listen to to put us in a good mood.
NW: Would you care to explain the title and the artwork?
Aaron: The title came from “The Balance” lyrics, the pre-chorus to be exact. The cover was just a representation of the beginning. A pile of dirt and rocks. For us to build from, if you will.
NW: I saw on Twitter recently that you guys were playing Mario Kart 64. This is a potential fisticuffs inciting question, but favorite character and course?
Justin: Mario/Wario Stadium.
Aaron: Toad/Rainbow Road.
NW: Rainbow Road is indeed classic. When do you think Royal Tongues will make it to Chicago?
Aaron: We’ll actually be there May 6th with Step Rockets at Beat Kitchen.
NW: What’s one track from the EP that people should check out immediately if this is the first time they’re finding out about you?
Aaron: Well if you ask me I would say “Just Want To Live” is our favorite on the EP but “The Balance” seems to be creating the most reaction. I guess it just comes down to who you trust more.
Justin: I would say the opening track, “Rollin’ On.” In my opinion it grabs your attention and makes you want to keep listening to what else we have to offer. Which is why it’s the first track on the EP.