By Aniruddh “Andrew” Bansal
Atlanta-based band Royal Thunder started out in 2007, released a self-titled EP in 2010, and are now ready to release their debut full-length “CVI”, which comes out in the US on May 22nd via Relapse Records. The music on this album is such that it may be hard to describe or categorize, but it’s certainly easy to relate to, and that’s its best quality. An album that takes the listener through a 60-minute journey filled with blues, doom, rock ‘n roll and psychedelia, “CVI” looks set to hit the market strong, and I have a feeling it will sound even better when the band plays some of it on their upcoming tours. Today, on May 13th 2012, at 6 AM in my time zone, I spoke to singer/bassist Mlny Parsonz to talk about the album, how she started out as a singer and what she does to keep her voice in shape, touring plans and lots more. Enjoy reading the conversation below, and order the album or visit the band on the web by using the links posted at the bottom.
First of all, I have to congratulate you and your band, because the debut album is just incredible. When did you start writing these songs?
First, thanks a lot man. I really appreciate that, and we’re super excited about it. Actually, a lot of the songs on this album with the exception of may be two or three were written when we started playing together in 2007, I believe it was. I wasn’t in the band in 2007, so more like late 2007, 2008 or something like that. But yeah, the songs have been around for a while.
Right, I was kind of expecting that answer. Since you guys wrote these songs a long time ago and it took you a while to complete the entire material for the album, was it hard to fit them together?
No, not really. I feel like a lot of it flowed because of where we were at the time, and I feel like the songs are so different but at the same time they fit really well together.
Before this album, you put out the self-titled EP in 2010. While comparing the two releases, I felt that you’ve expanded your musical style a lot on the full-length. Would you agree with that?
Absolutely. I think, on the EP we were such a young band. We only really played in our hometown in Atlanta. So that’s the experience we had, the experience of how Atlanta felt about our music and how they reacted to us, which was really positive. But it’s funny because now we play a show and people would come up to us that have seen us since 2007 and 2008, and saying ‘You guys are a different band now!’ I guess when we first started, people said that we tended to sound a little dirtier, a little sloppier. We progressed from that, and I think that came from playing live. When we were playing live during the time we put out the EP, we were doing things that may be we’re not doing now. I think we’ve stepped away from those and grown into our instruments. I’ve grown into my voice and learnt so much. It’s totally different, and I think it comes from touring and playing live, and every time you do that you discover something, something that may be you are doing wrong or doing right. You find a little bit of yourself each time, so we definitely found ourselves, but I think there’s still more. In fact, I know there’s still more in there. But yeah we grew a whole lot.
That’s interesting, because often bands practice to go out on tour, but in your case it seems like the opposite, where you got better because of touring. Would you say that it made you tighter as a group of musicians?
Absolutely, yeah. I think when you tour together it’s always better towards the end, of course, because you cut your teeth so hard. It definitely played a huge role in us becoming a tighter band. Aside from playing, you have to deal with each other. And that plays into the music a lot, I think. That puts out an energy in itself, you know. Before, I think it was a little more tense when we were a three-piece. We had just started out, so we were super focussed and almost, for lack of a better word, workaholics. Now that we’ve put all the work in, we still work our asses off but we’re more relaxed and now we have different members in the band, old friends, and it’s like a family. We have such a good time, and I think it has loosened up and moved into something else. So yeah, touring definitely helped.
On this full-length, there’s one song from the self-titled EP, called “Sleeping Witch”. I like the fact that you’ve included it because it kind of links the two releases together, but was there any particular reason for including that song as opposed to any of other ones from the EP?
Yeah, we actually tried to include “Grave Dance” again too. But that lost a lot of magic. I don’t know what it is about that song. It’s very special to us of course, but I don’t know, that’s going to be another “Sleeping Witch” for us. It might end up on the next album, if I had to predict. But yeah, “Sleeping Witch” kind of took on, and it’s funny because lyrically it compares to what it actually ended up doing. It kind of took on its own persona, you know, and it kind of dominated us playing. It was like, this song is deeper than it seemed to be, and took on its own tempo. It pulls back a lot. We didn’t do that on purpose and I don’t know how it happened, but it was happening when we were playing live, and it kind of never went back to the way it was on the EP. So it grew up. It did something. It matured, and we just wanted to include it and show that side of “Sleeping Witch”.
You mentioned that you grew into your voice while performing live. So, which of these songs challenge you the most?
You know, it’s funny because all of them challenge me. I’ve only felt that I had something in me, and I still feel like there’s something more. I’m just discovering that, and I feel like I was discovering that person on this album. It was to the point where the second guitar player that we have now, he came in originally because I was like ‘Look, I shot myself in the foot on this album.’ I didn’t know if I could play this shit and sing, and match the album. I didn’t know if I could do it. I was actually freaking out after we made the album. I kind of wasn’t excited. I was like, ‘Fuck, now I’m gonna have to do this live!’ I took a lot of time on it. I babied it, and explored a lot of myself that I didn’t know was there. So we actually brought Josh on as the second guitar player. He was going to play bass and I just wanted to sing. So he came to practice, and we tried it out. He’s an amazing bass player, but I would go to show him parts on the bass, and every time I did something, he was like, ‘No! You’re not leaving me.’ Then I was just like, ‘Dude, I’m sorry. You can’t play bass. You play guitar.’ And that’s how it happened. It was really challenging.
Well, it comes to me, and that is my voice for sure. It’s who I am, and I love doing it because it makes me feel like who I am. It’s definitely an expression of myself, but to take care of it, it’s a bitch. It’s a huge bitch. I’m a meat-eater. I eat anything, I love food and I think it’s incredible. But when I’m on the road, I’m a strict vegan because I try to keep mucus off my vocal chords. I don’t really talk that much on tour, and I have to warm up an hour-and-a-half before we go on, and then I’m mostly silent. Then I’ve to warm up again ten minutes before we go on, and after our set I have to cool down. So it’s a huge challenge, it’s a huge bitch, but it’s worth it. And if I don’t do those things, then I can’t make it, you know. It takes so much voice care, and I feel like an asshole because I want to talk to people after I play, but I need like 20 minutes just to chill out and take my voice back to a speaking voice. It’s really tough but it’s worth the sacrifices that I make to do what we do, you know.
Right, exactly. I was reading an interview you recently did, and you said that you started singing when you were a kid. What was the kind of music back then that actually inspired you to take up singing?
I sang as a kid, but I would sing for my family and they were just .. no one was into it. It wasn’t good because I was trying to imitate Whitney Houston, and I was such a little kid, I didn’t know how she was doing her thing. The way I was trying to imitate it was ridiculous. I was doing things to my voice. It was cute, I guess, but the music that subconsciously influenced me wasn’t the stuff that I was popping in, but the stuff my mom was listening to. She’s from Spain, so she was trying to learn English and she would learn English from music. She would listen to stuff like Rod Stewart, Prince, Whitney Houston, George Michael, and stuff like that. My dad listened to rock ‘n roll, and I think I heard that but I didn’t really pay attention to it. I think the stuff that resonated with me is more of the R&B style. Tina Turner was a huge thing for me. But then I got older and started choosing my own music, which was metal. I went straight to metal.
Obviously, Royal Thunder has toured with a lot of great bands. While you were on these tours, were there any singers that you particularly talked to about singing live, preserving your voice and stuff like that?
No, it’s actually the opposite. I get a lot of people asking me, ‘What the hell are you doing? What’s that noise you making?’ I admire the fact that they don’t have to do that [the warm-up noise] because these are people playing heavy music and really, really straining their voices and pushing out really fucking hard. And then they’re walking around talking to everybody, and then the next night they’re doing just as fucking phenomenal as the night before. I admire that, and I wish I could do that. I don’t know, I guess it’s because I’m not as seasoned or whatever. But no, I haven’t met any singers like that. I wish I could meet somebody like that. It would be awesome to go on tour with somebody that I could share that stuff with. I know I will, I’m sure I will. But I haven’t met anybody like that yet.
I’ve never seen you guys live, but when you play live, how do you approach some of your longer songs? Do you play them exactly or is there some kind of improvisation that goes on?
No, we try to make it to where it’s almost like you’re listening to the album and we hope that it’s better. I think when we play live, I feel like it sounds just like the CD but you’re getting the energy live. When I’m up there, for me it’s something I never experienced when we were doing the album. I feel like I’m picking up on everything going on around me, and I think that changes it. It’s a little more honest. I think it’s a little more raw, but I feel like it’s pretty close to the album and we don’t improvise on it. Not at all.
I believe you guys are going to be on tour pretty soon. Could you just briefly talk about the plans you guys have?
We leave for the tour on June 9th, and we come back at the end of July. We’re going out with a band called Valient Thorr, and there’s another band as well called Holy Grail. They kick ass. So it’s us and three other bands and we’re doing to do a US tour together. This was the first thing that came up, but after this I’m hoping to tour with some awesome bands. We’ve talked privately to a lot of other bands that we really like a lot. There’s stuff in the air for sure, but that’s the only thing written in stone, pretty much.
That’s a very cool lineup. The last question I have for you us, you guys have this 70’s hard rock thing going on, and the style of music is pretty organic. Do you think more and more bands these days are taking up this kind of approach of going back to the roots? I think that rock music is coming full circle again.
Yeah, honestly I don’t feel we’re a part of it, not intentionally anyway, but I do know what you’re talking about. I do see that coming out. I honestly think that, like you said, it’s where people come from. The things that influenced them when they were younger, I think they are coming out. I don’t even know if that’s a conscious thing for them. It’s just like a natural thing for us what we’re doing, and I think it’s a natural thing for most bands, hopefully. I’m not about being intentional. I don’t try to sound like anything, and I think there’s a lot of bands that are doing what we are doing. They don’t try to, but they’re falling to that category, and they’re incredible. When a band takes you back to a place where you couldn’t have been because you weren’t born back then, I think that’s incredible. I can appreciate it, I love it, and I’ve heard bands do it. I’m like, man .. they’re on it! I feel like I’m in another world and it’s a beautiful thing. I see that trend for sure. I think it’s a good and a bad thing. It’s good when people are genuine about it, and I think it’s bad when people try to do it. But that’s just my opinion.