ABOVE: U.S. ROYALTY. PHOTO COURTESY OF EVAN PERIGO
It had been a while since U.S. Royalty slowed down. The Washington, D.C. natives, John Thornley, Paul Thornley, Jacob Michael, and Luke Adams, relentlessly toured the U.S. over the last few years without pausing to reflect. That all changed when John and Paul’s father passed away and the brothers returned home to get a new perspective and take a break from the road. The result is U.S. Royalty’s sophomore record, Blue Sunshine, which takes on a ’70s sound infused with folk, rock, and distinctive percussive elements. The band goes down a different road this time, channeling the likes of Cold War Kids and Mumford & Sons. In the case of this album, it was all about starting over.
We’re excited to premiere U.S. Royalty’s second single from Blue Sunshine, “Lady In Waiting.” The track is a great representation of their record with a heavy use of percussion reminiscent of Led Zeppelin and the more recent Wolfmother. John Thornley’s vocals bring back rock-‘n’-roll in a big way.
We spoke with John and Paul Thornley about leather jackets, loss, and their new musical beginning.
ILANA KAPLAN: What can we expect from Blue Sunshine?
JOHN THORNLEY: We took our time with this one to get input and make songs that were really important to us, not just write songs and start playing again. We were moving and coming back to a city that we hadn’t been in for a while, where we were from. Our father had passed away while we were on tour, and it’s kind of all in there on the album.
ILANA KAPLAN: I’m sorry to hear that. The other night you wore this awesome leather jacket that said “Blue Sunshine” on the back of it. Did you come up with that concept for the jacket or did someone gift it to you?
JOHN THORNLEY: We have a good relationship with SCHOTT leather jackets. They’re out of New Jersey. It’s our go-to for when we’re traveling. I was talking to them about our album cover. I was talking to our drummer, and he was like, “What if I just got it painted on a leather jacket, you take a picture, and it becomes the cover?” It was an extension of what was already on it.
ILANA KAPLAN: Nice. I know last night I was saying I was hoping you would play “Every Summer,” but you said your sound has changed a lot since that song and Mirrors. How has your sound evolved over time, and how have you grown as a band?
PAUL THORNLEY: We started out playing a lot on the road, and that gave us the ability to read each other on stage. We were able to go with the flow a lot of the time. I think that developing to where we are now, we’ve really tried to hone in on more studio writing as opposed to live show. We are able to make a statement with what were doing in the studio. We’ve been growing in that process. The next record is a step in that direction.
JOHN THORNLEY: With “Every Summer,” it’s a simple, three-minute song. There’s not a lot of excess in “Every Summer.” When we were first writing it, we were on the road and were just writing songs we could play live. We were trying to find out what we were doing. On this new one, we try to give each song something extra and make it better. With “Into the Thicket,” you might wish it was a little bit longer, but you can go back to the beginning and hear different things. That’s what we wanted to do with it: you finish the song, and go back and listen to it again.
ILANA KAPLAN: We’re premiering “Lady In Waiting” from Blue Sunshine. How did you guys come up with this song?
JOHN THORNLEY: It started out as a primal and thunderous sound. I started out one night to pound it out on drums and the keyboard. I came up with some lyrics and the guys responded to that primal urge in it. It started out as a demo. Everyone started adding their own things. We’d jam on it for hours. We were trying to find a groove for it. Some songs we played and we’d say, “This sounds good.” This one took a lot longer. The live version took a little longer. We were trying to keep everything straight and to the point and adding layers you could pull away. That’s what we’re going for.
PAUL THORNLEY: Right. I think the song is thunderous, in a way, because of the percussion. Every instrument is replicating a percussive element. The bass is hitting on the drumbeat hit. That percussive element really helps it hit hard.
ILANA KAPLAN: Cool. What is “Lady In Waiting” about? Is there a person, or theme you’re trying to represent in the song?
JOHN THORNLEY: I think it’s more about certain feelings. It’s not necessarily a story. It’s about consciously stepping away from the picture other people try to paint of you. People always have their impressions. It’s kind of taking that conscious step of not hanging in the background and other people painting a picture of you, it’s stepping up and not just saying what you think, but it’s what you do. It’s those actions that speak for themselves. It’s contributing and doing things. It’s telling people what you’re about and doing something important, not sitting in the background like a lady-in-waiting.
BLUE SUNSHINE COMES OUT JANUARY 21, 2014. FOR MORE ON U.S. ROYALTY, PLEASE VISIT THE BAND’S WEBSITE.