The Royal Affairs
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The Royal Affairs

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"Lansing Noise/ The Royal Affairs"

Perseverance.

That's what separates the wannabes from the bands that hit the big time, claims Royal Affairs guitarist Larry Thornsbury.

About a year ago, the Interpol-loving Lansing rock band changed their name from Disposable Villain to the current moniker after their drummer left.


In two years - regardless of their name - they've polished a grungy and dark style of rock with lyrics exclusively by singer Justin Johns, 27, who penned everything on their first EP, Please Forgive Us during five months in England.

And just like Interpol, who sometimes craft slightly dark sonic landscapes, the RAs also delve into some of their own. Johns wrote all the lyrics in seclusion. He said he can't describe what the songs are about in just a sentence or two because they don't focus on money or women.

"I just tap into something (when I'm) alone in a dark room and that's what comes out," he said over coffee at a local diner.

The raspy-voiced singer's raw vocals and lyrics are just what Thornsbury and fellow band founder and bassist Jim Brown, 28, were looking for.

That and Johns' commitment to succeed.

"Any band that expects to go anywhere, a major theme of their story is finding the right group of guys to stick with it. That's 99 percent of it," Johns said.

"It's hard to keep it together. I live, breathe and eat rock 'n' roll. It's hard to find a group that is like that," Thornsbury said.

The group plays a succinct style of raw rock far away from the emo genre. Thornsbury wanted to create a rock vibe mixing late '80s pop with a little Brit-punk '70s thrown in.

"I think emo is like the Warrant and Poison of this era. It's oversaturated," he said.

"When I listen to Fall Out Boy, all I hear is a bunch of rich kids that grew-up on the nice side of New Jersey and had everything handed to them. To me, rock 'n' roll is about a bunch of outsiders that get together and weren't cool in high school."

Fittingly, drummer John Heger, 26, was in the marching band in high school.

And while some bands place an emphasis on vocals alone, The Royal Affairs utilize all the instruments to produce a distinctive "sound," Thornsbury said.

Please Forgive Us is a spirited, rhythmic victory throughout; a confidently executed effort that assures modern rock denizens there is substance in the local scene.

The group delivers chunky bass lines and slivers of underground punk rock swagger, revealing a taste for The Stooges and late '70s Ramones. No fancy augmentations weigh down the tracks, which are driven by guitars and sleepy rhythms. The five songs on the EP cull from other kings of the punk and rock sets like Dinosaur Jr. and MC5.

The RAs are looking for a label and plan to relocate the band to Detroit in a few months. They're also hoping to polish up some of their tracks. So far they have about eight originals, but refuse to play covers.

"I think it's cheesy as hell when a band covers a song and puts it on an album. Rarely do bands do the songs justice," Thornsbury said.

So while its name may have changed, the Royal Affairs' philosophy hasn't.

"Lots of bands play and disband when they get really good," Thornsbury said. "I think we have a lot of integrity in our music and I fail to see that in a lot of bands."

- Lansing Noise: Christian Czerwinski


"The Royal Affairs Kick Out the Jams on New Year's Eve"

“We’ll have to figure out a way to fill those cages up.”


These are the words of Justin Johns, singer of Lansing’s The Royal Affairs, when informed that the venue hosting his band on New Year’s Eve still houses go-go cages.


The soiree will attempt to ratchet up Lansing’s party economy by giving birth to a union between the Impulse II, a Frandor bar that has taken a noticeable hiatus from hosting live music, and JDlive Promotions, the new vehicle for former Temple Club booking agent and promoter Jerome White.


When White was in the market for suitable acts to kick in the New Year, he immediately turned his attention to the Lansing band best known for kicking out the jams.


The Royal Affairs, formerly dark-rockers Disposable Villian, are Lansing’s answer to classic Detroit garage rock. They just released an album recorded by Jim Diamond.


Diamond was an early producer of the White Stripes and just about every other Detroit band in the garage rock resurgence in the early 2000s.


The Royal Affairs carry with them all of the requisite credentials necessary to turn out any rock ‘n’ roll party, even one on New Years Eve.


The party, which is set to last until 4 a.m., will feature a bevy of attractions including a desert bar, pool tables, Dick Clark’s incredibly resilient and well-preserved presence on plasma screens, DJs making sure the dance floor takes a beating and a free champagne toast at midnight. However, it is the company on stage that Johns is most attracted to.


“I was really happy when I heard that Vega was added to the bill,” Johns says of the other band that will be playing. “They are definitely one of the best up-and-coming bands in the area.”


While Vega’s atmospheric take on music will set the ambiance for the night, the members of the Royal Affairs, which, aside from Johns, consists of Larry Thornsbury (guitar), Jim Brown (bass), and John Heger (drums), realize that it’s their band’s obligation to send the party mood over the top.


Considering that the band’s main focus is on keeping things simple and having fun, the band should have no problem keeping movin’ and groovin’ well into the first hours of 2007.


“When we changed drummers and changed the band name to the Royal Affairs, our main focus was to keep everything as raw as possible,” Johns says. “We’re all big fans of bands like The Clash and The Stooges and they never really needed to do anything fancy to make great music and put on great live shows,” he explains.
“That’s what we strive for.”


The Royal Affairs look for 2007 to be a big year for the band now that its five-song EP, “Please Forgive Us,” is on the shelves. With an impeding move to Detroit on the horizon, the band expects the New Year’s performance to serve as a catapult into some serious momentum.


With that fact established, you can expect The Royal Affairs to bring the raw, dirty, hedonistic rock n’ roll into the new year and beyond.

- Lansing City Pulse: CALE SAUTER


"Real Detroit Weekly/ subbacultcha: The Royal Affairs"

“We are a Lansing band that feels we have seen all there is to see in Lansing and are in the process of transition to Detroit,” The Royal Affairs' Justin Johns said. “Currently, some of us live in Lansing, some in Detroit. We have been together for almost two years, just under one with our current lineup.”

But The Royal Affairs aren’t all from here. “Everyone is originally from Michigan except drummer John Heger, who is from San Diego but was living in Las Vegas when we convinced him to move out to this shitty weather; obviously he is not the intelligent one.” The band, who sound sorta like snotty post-punks with a healthy Joy Division appreciation — but aren’t annoying, have opened for We Are Scientists and Electric Six in the last year.“

“We have definitely been inspired by the Detroit garage rock scene,” Johns said, “but at the same time we’re not a knock off of any genre ... we draw influence from several eras, including ‘70s punk, late-‘80s Sub Pop and modern rock, as well.” They recorded their just-released EP, Please Forgive Us, with Jim Diamond. The Royal Affairs play Nov. 30 at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor and Dec. 2 at Paycheck’s in Hamtramck. More info: theroyalaffairs.com. | RDW

More info on Keith: keith@realdetroitweekly.com.

- Keith Dusenberry


Discography

The debut EP "Please Forgive Us" filled with dark, dirty rock and roll was released in November 2006. It was recorded in Detroit, Michigan with Jim Diamond (The White Stripes, Electric Six, The Von Bondies). Selections from this EP can be heard at myspace.com/theroyalaffairs.

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Bio

About The Royal Affairs:

The Royal Affairs are a downtown streetfight in the middle of a snowstorm. They are led by the cutting guitars of Larry Thornsbury who is the brains behind their unique sound. Thornsbury's background is somewhat of a mystery, but it is rumored that he grew up on the streets of Paris playing guitar for food money with his only source of shelter coming from the Parisian women of the street.
After losing their original drummer to heroin, The Royal Affairs looked westward to Thornsbury's childhood friend, John Heger, to fill the void. A San Diego native, Heger was currently residing in Las Vegas, Nevada hustling cards on the outskirts of town and living with a 19 year old dancer named Claire. Heger flew to Michigan for a tryout in a South Lansing garage on a snowy night, and it was clear that he possessed exactly the raw, powerful drumming and amazing technical skill that The Royal Affairs needed.
His rhythm section partner is a man by the name of Jim Brown who was already a prominent figure in the Lansing bassist community. Brown emerged from a decade of drug induced meandering with the creation of an unconventional wheelchair that would revolutionize the wheelchair world. He does not remember exactly when or where or how he sketched these masterful blueprints, but he now spends his daytime hours building these technological marvels.
The melee that these three men create is viewed from a dark, quiet high rise by vocalist Justin Johns. The son of an Argentine bass player and British pianist, Johns writes insightful lyrics of internal conflict and the darker the side of love. He takes his bag of metaphors mistaken for realities and realities mistaken for metaphors down to the street below to join the others in creating a brilliant sound.