Five Minutes With Royal Headache
We talk High, breaking up and dealing with anxiety.
Photo by Luke Stephenson
After fooling most people into thinking Royal Headache was over by mid-2014 they came back last year with their second album High and blew everyone away with what they cooked up. Consisting of Shogun of vocals, Law on guitar, Shortty on drums and Joe, who were able to interview, on bass we got an inside look on a band who manages themselves and how they deal with anxiety ahead of their appearance at St Jerome's Laneway Festival.
What have you been up to recently Joe?
I sort of run the label side of things, Distant & Vague Recordings, and sort out the shipping of records. I also organise the shit we’re about to get up to with Laneway on the horizon. Other than that man I don’t know, sitting on my arse.
So does that mean you’re part of management as well?
Well we just do everything ourselves, we manage and release our records ourselves.
And how is that?
It’s easier, we don’t pay someone else to ignore their e-mails. It’s hard enough to get the band to respond to my e-mails let alone someone else. I might as well just do it for free.
To talk music is there a statement behind High?
I think ultimately we wanted to do something that was honest and a bit more vulnerable than some other bands allow their records to be. We wanted to do something that wasn’t covered in production techniques because we knew it would hide the emotions.
Is that what the rest of the band would say?
I think so, we can’t really get up and do a song and dance. No matter how much we try to be a band it always ends up being us.
You are talking about not pretending to be something?
Yeah and generally I would hope we’re not because egos is what breaks bands apart so we try to keep it as far away from the music as possible.
And what was the experience of putting out High in comparison to your debut?
This was probably more work because it was recorded at the end of 2012 and we sort of didn’t think it was very good and… there was a lot of stuff going on that year. We were all probably way too neurotic but we did the recording. Then we had two years off where we didn’t do anything and we came back in 2014 and listened to the record and we thought it sounded better. Then we spent some time mixing and working with the vocals. The first album was recorded in one weekend, this one was recorded in one weekend but we spent some time mixing to make it better. It was weird when High came out as we were halfway through a tour in the states. Although it was cool because you could see more people were coming to the shows and caring about us.
During the time you guys took off there was this interview that Shogun gave to Mess & Noise where he said the band was over. And throughout this period people were confused as to what was happening. Where did you stand on all this?
Well in 2012 we started with this band thing which was a bit out of our comfort zone and it got too intense so we needed a break from it to be honest. We were doing bigger shows but it was like, “What’s the point?” Doing The Black Keys shows and having 20,000 people hate you and tell you, you are shit…we don’t have the best confidence in ourselves most of the time so you just have take time off if that happens. And Shogun wanted to play other stuff so we all did our own things in other bands. We took it easy, not that we were massively popular but it goes to your head and we needed to take a break. So it was nice to come back with no one thinking we were a band and jam without having any pressure. It helped us realise not to care so much.
I suppose the pertinent question then is, what’s to say it won’t happen again?
Nothing (laughter) We could break up next week! We don’t do the band as a full-time thing, we do it for fun. If it isn’t fun, ultimately your in a band to make good music, then why would you do it? I think from now on we will do things at a more reasonable pace but hopefully we will be more productive.
As you say you do it for fun but it becomes more than a hobby when you are booking flights, shows. That would take a big chunk of your life.
That is when the balance of things can change, it can start to be a drag but I like organising things so I’m happy to fill that role. It takes the pressure off and people can think about whatever. There is no real pressure to continue doing shows, we play when we feel like it and ultimately the most important thing is that we enjoy playing music. That is all we want to do.
Of course. You guys are also going to hit the road with Laneway, are you excited for that?
Yeah, we’ve never done something like this before but we got offered to do these shows and we thought, “Why not?” It’ll be cool and we’ve been trying a different set up live where we have a keyboardist. So where would normally go all out it gives us more room to do slower stuff and take it easier.
And does that play into what you said earlier about doing at your own pace?
Yeah sort of but at the same time I don’t want to get too relaxed. It’s just an attempt not to play shows all time because when you do, you end up rehearsing for the shows and I think we all just want to write.
And are you guys working on new stuff?
Yeah we probably have 10 new songs or so, we are always writing stuff. It comes in bursts and eventually we will probably decide we have to record again. And then it’ll be another five years before we put the next one out (laughter).
To talk shows; how was it playing with The Flaming Lips and especially with that act that seemed like a Northern European entrant into Eurovision?
(Laughter) Yeah it was pretty weird, it would have been weird for the audience as we didn’t really experience the show as I left afterwards. I heard they were like the Scandinavian Wiggles.
Yeah pretty much.
Ah anyway the show was cool, it was probably the most relaxed we’ve been in that kind of setting i.e. a bigger show. We were sort of able to approach it in a different way by doing slower stuff and played some new stuff. It was a different experience as you’re playing to a crowd that is 50 metres away from you, normally we’re used to having people on top of us. For some reason it works for us and I guess that is what it’ll be like for the next few festival shows.
I also remember on stage Shogun spoke about if you have anxiety or something is wrong it’s always best to tell someone. Can you expand on that?
I can’t remember what he said there but he was probably just talking about being more honest about whatever is going on. I don’t know what it’s like for all people but definitely when people get reserved about how they’re feeling it can be bad. People should just spend less time doing that and this getting caught up in this made-up idea about the reality of an internet life and what their friends actually think. It isn’t based in reality and it creates this weird paranoia. People should just relax and have fun. Not that we can relax and fun but we should try.
But I suppose it’s easier said than done?
As you said at the beginning of the chat you guys aren’t managed etc. so how does it feel working with the industry for shows and such like Laneway?
Often the people that run those shows are just nice music fans so generally it’s pretty easy. In terms of having a manager if you can answer an email then you don’t need a manager (laughter) but most bands can’t answer emails so… It’s not too much of a difference working with people like Laneway as they would have grown up putting on shows.
You also said music wasn’t your only career so how else do you support yourself?
I quit my job because we were going to America and I would be away for too long. I don’t have a job now because I’ve saved enough money for the time being. Ultimately with the band you often lose a lot of your personal life organising shows and jamming but it’s good at the moment. It’s nice not worrying about work. I guess we could try and make this band thing into a full-time career but you have to realistically play enough shows and do shit you don’t want to do like being on the road most of the year. We’re not that kind of band or people. Who knows what will happen though.