Seven months ago I had been sitting at a bar, scribbling some questions for an interview I was about to have with Gary Larsen and Josh Hefner of the band Royal Teeth. Tonight, the scenery has been appropriately altered to provide a more glamorous, albeit risky environment. One that matches some news the band wanted to share with me. I’m at the Masquerade bar inside Harrah’s Casino, and the bartender places my drink on a napkin that reads, “Come out and play!”
If you don’t know, Royal Teeth makes music for adventures. Gambling at the “Party Gras” slots with Royal Teeth will be no different.
In comes singer Nora Patterson, bassist Joshua Wells, and the familiar co-vocalist Gary Larsen – who along with their missing counterparts Josh Hefner, Andrew Poe, and Stevie Billeaud, can be seen online as the quintessential “good times” pop band. Recent promo shots display the members at a birthday party, having their cake and eating it too.
Larsen: The main idea is just to make every show as fun as possible. If people are taking their time out to come see us, we want to make them have as good of a time as they can have. We’re always rehearsing ideas to make our live set more interactive.
Ariane: You’ve spoken before about some of those ideas being spur of the moment. Can you give me an example of when something was off-the-cuff, but executed well enough, that you’ve kept it as a natural thing for the show?
Larsen: Like the texting incident we previously spoke about. That guy said he had such a good time. I’ve made a habit of taking people’s phones now. Give them a better perspective of what we see from the stage. I don’t really consider anything anybody does as that original, just stuff that I didn’t plan on doing, that I just kind of did.
When we played SXSW, we went from playing a pretty nice stage, to the last show not even having a stage. It was just a floor and we were eye-level with everyone. Every live show is a fun challenge. With the kind of music we play, it’s really easy to make every situation fun. I’ll always find a way.
I hear Wells to my left, “Oh shit, we’re going all in!” He’s playing the dollar slots.
Wells: People who have seen us multiple times are expecting these things from us. It’s become a thing. We feel like we have to fulfill that at every show now. I feel like if we didn’t do that we would let our fans down.
Ariane: Is that a scary concept for you? Always having to outdo yourselves?
Wells: We will always have to improve it.
Ariane: What could be the plateau?
Wells: Something absurdly interactive. I recently saw The Naked And Famous, and there was this whole LED fixture behind them that would animate with their show. That’s gonna be like the next step we have to take to get people more involved with the show. If we can make them feel that it’s more a theatrical event, I think the better we’ll be.
Ariane: That’s an interesting choice of words there. Having things be theatrical. Right now the music lends itself to supplying a party atmosphere. If Royal Teeth is around for ten or fifteen years, could you imagine there being some kind of concept album where you go off the deep end and have a morbidly theatrical performance?
Wells: Absolutely. I hope so! I would like that to happen.
Patterson: I don’t know if the confetti and balloons will always be the way that we do it, but there will always be a fun element to it. I don’t necessarily know about dark. We’ll have a different theme, I’m sure. But that makes me think of My Chemical Romance, how with every record they have a different theme. That’s something that I’d like to go for.
During our last meeting, Larsen told me, “Things with the band just happen really fast.” I think at that point the band was nine months young. At the end of our conversation he was all sealed lips and coy smiles. Add eight more months, and now he’s ready to talk.
Ariane: What’s the reason we’re here tonight? What’s the big story?
Larsen: We are now signed to Dangerbird Records. We’re super excited. I think last time we had held off with you, we were getting a lot of interest, which is how it always happens with bands when they’re hot, y’know? They’re young and get all this industry interest. But we were overly careful not to get too excited and just let the stuff happen. We wanted to do SXSW and see how everything felt. In the end, we met Jeff (Dangerbird CEO), who came to see us at Halloween, and we really liked him. We had been talking to him for awhile. He really seemed to give a shit.
Wells: The guy’s not faceless. He owns his label. He makes all the calls. He was very enthusiastic and was planning from the beginning on how to develop the band. We waited, and we made the right decision. They’re doing a lot of cool stuff for us.
He seems to really care about the music and the people on his label. Like Dangerbird is a whole family type of system. Like everybody who works there and the bands are all best friends. And we want to be part of that kind of community.
Ariane: Did you turn down any offers because you felt like this would be a better home?
Larsen: Possibly. It’s one of those things where time is essential. There’s a lot of stuff we probably could have done. You really don’t know. In no way do we feel picking Dangerbird was a lower grade of anything. If anything, we picked the best possible way to introduce our band out there. We think we can go the farthest with them, than with anybody else.
Ariane: Who on their roster really got you stoked to work with this label in particular?
Wells: Immediately we were all fans of Silversun Pickups.
Patterson: Yeah, and Minus The Bear!
Wells: And right now Fitz and The Tantrums is just killing it!
Larsen: I think DangerBird is really getting hot and a lot of their acts are really growing. They show that they care and they give a lot of attention to their roster. You can remember during our last interview we were so antsy about everything. We really wanted to make sure the next step was the right step with our band.
Patterson: When we met him, he had a really good idea of what we wanted and where we wanted to go, and that he could get us there.
Ariane: What did you tell him in that interview when he asked you where you wanted to go?
Wells: “What do you guys wanna do?” That’s exactly what he asked us. We were very hesitant with our answer. Ideally everybody wants to have a career. And he just spitballs all these ideas on a day-to-day basis. The guy’s been a genius with his label. He’s helping us basically start a business. He’s good at that.
Larsen: First, let’s be realistic about what we can do. Let’s not waste money we don’t have to, let’s be smart. If we can plan everything out the right way and be tactful…in the end it was another reason to sign to an indie.
Wells: And the guy’s a man of his word. As soon as we signed he got Tony Hoffer (who recently remixed M83) to mix our single “Wild.” Got it back to us in no time, set an official release date for the re-release of our record on Dangerbird.
Larsen: Within days his team was already setting up our tour dates.
Wells: The dates are now booked. We’re going on tour with Fitz and The Tantrums. We signed our contract in the green room at The Republic. We could have signed it sooner. We had our contract in our email and kept forgetting to print it! Of all things a band could do! So I go to Nick Thomas (The Republic Talent Buyer) and ask if he has a printer in his office. He prints it out, we pour six shots of honey whiskey, sign the deal, and go on stage like, “Hey, we’re musicians now!”
Larsen: Stevie had the best signature ever!
Wells: It was amazing. It was so classic.
Patterson: He said his signature belongs on the Declaration of Independence. And it does.
Right about this time, we’re interrupted by a drunken, stumbling gambler, a guy named Randy who chimes in, “Can I ask you a question? What’s the name of your band?”
Wells: Royal Teeth
“What kind of music do you play?”
Wells: Indie pop music
Randy tells us he’s drinking what’s called a “walk me down.” I ask what’s in it and he can’t answer the question, just that it has seven different kinds of liquor. Stronger than a mind-eraser. He turns to me and says, “They’re feeding you a line of bullshit.” I say “How so?” He says, “Every way so. I’m really not that stupid, you really shouldn’t be that stupid as well.” Randy parts on a confusing, albeit entertaining note.
Ariane: Unlike a lot of bands that are trying to leave New Orleans and tour as much as they can, last we spoke, you guys were pretty confident in the fact that you hadn’t left this area and still garnered a lot of attention very quickly. Now that you’re going to be touring pretty consistently, what are the new goals with grabbing new fans?
Wells: A lot of bands kill themselves going broke because they didn’t do that initial step to really get their music out there. You have to get a legitimate producer. You have to have someone who can put your material in the right hands. Otherwise it’s not going to work out. We didn’t want to wait around and tour aimlessly waiting for someone to discover us. We made a decision. We made a real record. We did our best.
And that’s how Chapter 1 comes to a pretty sweet end with Royal Teeth. They may not be closing the book on a Happily Ever After ending just yet, but they’re sure having one hell of an adventure writing it.
P.S. We won our money back on the way out of the casino at a blackjack table. Go big money!