Southern California based electro garage rock trio, vocalist/multi-instrumentalists Marc Gilfry, Billy Scher and drummer Mat Ungson, known as American Royalty have chosen an unconventional approach to their creation of music. Not to be confused as another group of artists riding the coat tails of America’s current obsession with all things related to electronic dance music, American Royalty’s foundations are built on rock music while the electronic aspect serves as an effortlessly layered component to their sound. “I was one of those sticklers for a while about anti-electronic music and all this dance stuff, but then I started to get pretty into it. Part of it was the whole vibe and the ideas that Marc wanted to try and get into that were pretty cool,” says Scher. Though citing rockers Tame Impala, Radiohead and The Black Keys as a few of their key influences, they also are inspired by EDM producers. Gilfry adds, “In our mission to progress and evolve, I think we heavily look to electronic producers and beat makers.” It is the trio’s incomparable background, edgy garage riffs and drums combined with their injection of electronic synths that will set them apart from other acts in 2013. Here, Life + Times debuts the band’s live set of their newest single, “Honey & Queen,” performed at The Echo in Los Angeles. We also had the opportunity to talk to Gilfry and Scher about the unique methodology behind their new EP to be released in February 2013.
Life+Times: Did you guys initially start out as DJs?
Marc Gilfry: No, not really. I would say that we were all mainly rock musicians that wanted to DJ, but decided that standing behind two turntables just not doing anything was kind of boring. So, we came up with a way of fusing the two. We had a former drummer that was definitely a DJ. He would DJ all the time. He was part of the initial group. Will [Billy] and I have really picked it up over the years and really have gotten into it. It was like a studio project where you just try things out and I think that’s where we fell in love with the idea of mixing electronic sounds with rock.
L+T: Was there a specific instance that made you guys think, “Wow! This is what we want to do and be known for mixing in electronic with rock?”
Billy Scher: It seems to me that there were a lot of options in regards to what creative direction we could go in. There’s really no kind of boundaries.
MG: There was no specific instance. It was really kind of natural. Our tastes started evolving. Being in a rock band and really appreciating rock n’ roll and going to a rave and seeing people lose their shit over pre-recorded music, which I totally get it now and I’m totally into it. That experience is like, “What the fuck? This guy is not really doing much deejaying.”
BS: I think it definitely came from that desire to see more movement on stage and to feel like there’s a bit more of a human element in music. There’s an opportunity to fuck up. There’s that risk involved with live performance. That’s what’s entertaining about seeing a live band. The more and more we got into electronic music, the more we appreciated what it is and how it works. It wasn’t necessarily the direction we wanted to go in.
L+T: What I particularly noticed about your set at Tammany Hall during fall’s CMJ Music Marathon is the fact you guys were strapped to your guitars as you were actually playing on some of the electronic equipment. Tell me about the structure of your music process from lyric composition to deciding what instrument will play the melodies.
BS: Lyrics just kind of come out of thin air. We’ll stay in the recording studio until the 13th hour trying to finalize stuff. We’re very, very picky about it. We’ll have these really good ideas and get stumped on one or two lines and then we’ll forget. I think this is really where we give credit to having a little voice recorder in our pocket at all times – whether it’s an iPhone, any other phone or another device. If an idea pops in all of a sudden in your head, you can have it locked in, in terms of the idea. A lot of times you’ll have ideas and forget them. It’s nice to be able capture those moments.
MG: That also kind of leads to awkward situations. There’s times when we’ll be driving in a car and I really want to get an idea down and I’ll just start singing random stupid things into my iPhone. It’s a little embarrassing, but that’s definitely a big part of the writing process for me and Will. You try and capture the idea as it comes.
L+T: In regards to your backgrounds, have you all been involved in some form of music since childhood or did you get a late start in your 20s?
BS: Well, we’ve both been playing music since we were kids. My dad taught me how to play and everything. I definitely grew up as a guitar player.
MG: I was raised in a very musical family. Everyone in my family sings, everyone plays instruments. My grandfather played mariachi music all of the time at home. He was a great guitar player. My other grandfather was a band leader in the Navy. My grandmother was a choir director. My mom teaches choir at the elementary school where she teaches kindergarten. My dad is a professional opera singer and so is my sister. I have cousins professionally play the violin and cello. I was raised in classical music. I followed my dad around the world as a kid as he was singing in Europe, around the U.S, just everywhere really.
L+T: That’s an extremely eclectic background! What can we all look forward to from American Royalty in 2013?
BS: Well, we’re releasing a new EP called Prismatic. I think it’s coming out in February. We just released a single from it called, “Honey & Queen.” We’re working on getting a remix package set which is one of our favorite things to work on where we find these underground producers and DJ guys that we love and look up to. That will come out maybe a month or two after. We’re moving to New York by the end of January. We’re all feeling good about it in terms of creativity.