The Royal Engine Company
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The Royal Engine Company

Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States | SELF

Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States | SELF
Band Folk Rock


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"The Royal Engine Company plays original tunes with a passion"

Northwestern alums Micah Patchin and Zak Stelter met their freshman year of college, but it wasn’t until their senior year that they started making music together. When Patchin’s cousin Aaron Bristow decided to move to the Twin Cities, he was added to the group and the Royal Engine Company was formed.

Though Patchin and Stelter had joked around about starting a band for several years, the idea really took shape when Stelter wrote a song he and Micah were going to use to audition for a Battle of the Bands competition. They discovered that they really liked playing together and wanted to pursue it a little more seriously. Bristow found an upright bass and taught himself to play, Stelter acquired a banjo and they began to intentionally write songs and play together. Less than a year later they play regular shows, have recorded an EP, played a short tour and have developed immensely as a musical group.

They released their first EP, Original Works of Fiction, in September. It features five original songs and is now available on iTunes.Though the recording process was very different than practicing and playing shows, they enjoyed the freedom they had as they experimented with their band's sound.

“When we first started the band we’d just get together and jam out in the dorms,” said Stelter. “We’d just have a lot of fun making music. Nobody was really listening and it was just for ourselves and the pure enjoyment of making music...sometimes once you start to establish yourself as a band you become a little more self-conscious about what other people think about your music, especially when you’re recording an album. But I think that, because we hadn’t established ourselves yet, and nobody had really heard our music before, there wasn’t any expectation to meet...[the recording process] was probably my favorite part of being in the band so far.”

As their name suggests, they find that they work well together, each man stepping into a different role within the group. Stelter works well with logistical matters and the business side, Patchin brings the artistic passion and Bristow is the glue that holds them together, reveling in and encouraging the relational part of the band.

Though they play a lot of folk and bluegrass style music, they don’t want to pigeon-hole themselves into one genre. They enjoy being able to experiment with different styles of music, though they stick mostly to what they classify as “vaudevillian folk rock,” which is was Stelter called a “tasteful synthesis between traditional folk music and invigorating, explosive passion.”

They carry that passion into their shows and hope to bring a natural and honest presence to their music. “Our motto is that we always try to do live exactly what we’re doing when we practice for the shows,” said Patchin.

He adds, “[I love] having a means to hear what is in my head manifest into actual sound...writing [music] for me is recognizing that the doldrums of life don’t cut it and express[es] that there’s more.”

Bristow revels in hanging out with the guys while working on music, as well as all the people they meet while playing shows around the area. Stelter likewise enjoys how their music brings them to unique places, allowing them to interact with people they would not otherwise have met.

Though they all have different long-term goals and don’t know where they will end up as a band in the long run, they enjoy the exciting place they are at now and are having fun simply making music.

Their next show is on Feb. 3 at the Kitty Cat Club (21+) and their Facebook page is updated regularly with new information. - Amy Overgaard, The Column

"CD review: The Royal Engine Company’s "Original Works" draws on many musical styles"

The Royal Engine Company came together in a college dorm jam session.

Zak Stelter borrowed a banjo and was joined by Micah Patchin, and then by Micah’s cousin Aaron Bristow, as the foundations for their folk rock trio were laid.

The group retains the enthusiasm of kids just having fun making music together and blends that with the sophistication that comes from increased technical expertise.

Bassist Bristow acknowledged of the group “there’s nowhere we can hide. There are no synths and no distortion. What our fingers are doing, that’s what’s going to come out.” By their own description, what does come out might best be imagined as “vaudevillian folk.” It’s a sound that draws on traditional folk, bluegrass, jug bands, skiffle and even the ’60s British folk sound of Pentangle and Sandy Denny.

The REC’s new disc, “Original Works of Fiction,” begins with a little accordion-backed prologue with a barker introducing the group a la the Beatles “Sgt. Pepper.”

The acoustic guitar strums a raucous rhythm pattern opening “A Place To Call Home” in a tale of working hard and trying to get to the promised land. While the banjo clanks out volley after volley of notes that pump the tune along, there are some celestial vocal harmonies, sloshy interludes between verses, a pungent harp solo, and a blistering racehorse ending that would put even the most ardent bluegrass ensembles to shame.

Banjo lines usher in “They Are Thick As Thieves” with an ominously sinister vibe, while accordion hovers in the air providing a stylish noir shading. The REC has an almost cinematic feel for shifts in rhythm, tempo and orchestration. From the hushed quality of a single instrumental element (like a lightly picked acoustic guitar) to expansive swelling vocal harmonies, “Original Works of Fiction” sounds like it could be the backdrop to an upcoming Jim Jarmish film.

“In Sight of a New Dawn” recalls Seals & Crofts and their gentle “Summer Breeze” ’70s style of acoustic pop-rock. The guitar’s lovely arpeggiated chordal intro gives you the feeling of majestically sitting on a cottony tuft. The text centers on the beauties of life memory and sunsets at the end of day.

Aaron Bristow said of the Royal Engine Company “we’re noble gentlemen with a little oil and dirt on our faces. We’re artists who shovel coal.” The REC is indeed a blue-collar little trio who cover a fair degree of musical acreage and who revel in the bucolic tranquility of life at its finest.

They come to town this weekend for the Duluth CD release of “Original Works of Fiction.” Check them out.

Royal Engine Company / "Original Works of Fiction"

Genre: Folk rock

Recommended if you like: Pentangle, Sandy Denny, Seals & Crofts


Label: Her Golden Majesty Records

Personnel: Micah Patchin (guitar, vocals), Aaron Bristow (bass, vocals), Zak Stelter (banjo, vocals)

Upcoming gig: 8 p.m. today at Beaner’s Central, 324 N. Central Ave., Duluth; (218) 624-5957. No cover.

John Ziegler has worked in the music industry for 37 years as a radio host, interviewer, record producer and professional musician. - John Ziegler, Duluth News Tribune

"The Royal Engine Company: Red Wing native Zak Stelter says the group has a strong passion for Folk."

As the new year sprouts upon us, new croons will bang, pop, drop and rock their way to Bill-board charts feeding eager ear drums. With constant growth of electrifying, pulse-stopping, computerized and synthesized music genres, one can forget the power of a few charming chords.

The simple finger picking on a 1930’s Washburn banjo—in perfect chorus with a father’s guitar from the 1970’s—keeping time from a seaman’s old bass serenaded with an old Scandinavian family’s heirloom accordion has created the acoustically harmonious group, The Royal Engine Company.

“All of us in the band have a special interest in folk,” said the band member and local Red Wing native Zak Stelter. “I think our natural gravitation toward that style is also strengthened by the antiquity of our instruments,” he said. Stelter serendipitously came across his undergraduate history professor’s banjo a year ago.

“Finger picking on the banjo came naturally for me and was an outlet to express music in a way that I had never known on the guitar,” he said.

Musical bonds were made with an old college roommate, Micah Patchin, and cousin Aaron Bristow, creating the emerging folk rock trio. The innovative style of musicianship comes from the simple love for traditional folk mixed with rhythmic passion and brilliant creativity, they said.

“Back in my youth, there wasn’t much for me to do except run wild with my imagination,” Stelter said. “I’m extremely grateful; now I have a wonderful collection of incredibly unique, cherished memories.”

His experience and love for the landscape of the land in combination with the small-town atmosphere fuels his musical composition because, “it forces the expression of creativity in kids.”

The trio will conclude their “Nothing Gold Can Stay” winter tour Saturday, at the Hobgoblin Music Loft in Red Wing. Another budding local artist, Anna Mae Hoffbeck, will join the band for what’s billed as a cozy musical gathering.

“We love to add a spike of passion, energy, and innovation into our acoustic serenades, resulting in a unique syle of music which seems to transcend genre stereotypes,” Stelter said. “We seem to gather following of an incredibly broad range of audiences.”

Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5 in advance and $7 at the door. Advance tickets can be purchased at
- Stacy Bengs, Red Wing Republican Eagle


'Original Works of Fiction' EP released September 2010



Ask the gents of the Royal Engine Company how, and they’ll say they were forged by good fortune, a series of coincidences just so. And in a way, such is the truth. Micah and Zak met in college, an instant friendship formed on roller skates. One day on a whim, Zak borrowed a banjo that serendipitously became his own. As the instrument inspired Zak, dormitory jam sessions inspired the three of them. “That’s when we tasted the joy of making music,” says Zak. “That’s when I knew.”

Cousins Micah Patchin and Aaron Bristow grew up in a musical shadow: Micah’s dad, Aaron’s mom, and their siblings were a travelling folk ensemble in the 1970s, an influence that gushes from Micah’s every strum of his father’s old guitar. Abetted by the trio’s penchant for picking up old instruments at estate sales and on Craigslist (the accordion belonged to a woman who only played for her children, and Aaron’s bass came from a man moving to Seattle to build ships), a sound began to evolve, and a history as majestic as the sound of vintage strings continued unfolding.

Their 2010 EP, Original Works of Fiction, was a five-month process of recording and re-recording, of carving out their own corner in the vastness of bluegrass, folk, and rock. The result is vaudevillian folk rock at it’s most charismatic, brimming with transcendent melodies, lyrics that work into your soul and settle, and an acute sense of heritage and musical tradition.

But as their name might imply, the Royal Engine Company chugs along on much more than providence. “We’re noble gentlemen with a little oil and dirt on our faces,” says Aaron, “artists who shovel coal.” The coal of which he speaks – the dilly dallies of daily life, the grit of humanity, the constant yearning for something greater – is smudged upon every surface of their music, from every joyous burst of drum and tambourine to every subtle harmony.

“There’s nowhere we can hide,” says Aaron, on performing. “There are no synths, no distortions… What our fingers are doing, that’s what’s going to come out.”

In vulnerability, a triumph.

The Royal Engine Company are: Micah Patchin, Aaron Bristow, and Zak Stelter.