Those Royals
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Those Royals

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States | SELF

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States | SELF
Band Alternative Rock

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Music

The best kept secret in music

Press


Milwaukee isn't "suburbia," but these four Wisconsin natives from beer-town have, like this writer in 1980, forsaken satellite inertia for more exciting urban life/sounds. Though they get around (see the country-folk tune, "Summer Car Vacation," on mandolin and accordion!), what they do best is a flying, seat of pants, hard pop-rock in the vein of the "Supers," Superdrag, Superchunk, Super Furry Animals, Super Deluxe, Super Friendz, and Supergrass (if not Supersuckers), with scraps of Nada Surf, Sloan, Thrush Hermit, and Visqueen. As seen on the revealingly-titled "My What a Lovely Rocket Ship," and kick-ass "I Was a Wedding DJ" and "What I Did on My Vacation," these guys have the vitality and sincerity of The Descendents, the big-drums of Hootenanny Replacements, the hooks and heroic guitars of The Skids (think "Sweet Suburbia"), and the new wave lilt of Nick Lowe. Bravo!!!! - Jack Rabid - the Big Takeover


I’ll admit it: I’m a pop-a-holic. I could talk a long, long time about good pop music, and if there’s a really great pop album out there, I’ll snag it. Pop also has the ability to stay in my CD player longer than anything else (see Welcome Interstate Managers by Fountains of Wayne). It’s safe to say I know my way around a pop song. All that said to establish some muscle behind this point: Those Royals is one heck of a pop band.

It’s always amusing when a band knows itself so well that every single part of the album works together perfectly. From their album name to their cover art to the sound to the order of songs, Those Royals conveys one single idea with Sleepy Surburbia. There are no awkward moments- no major flubs- just pure, straight indie-power-pop goodness.
The album starts off with the quirky intro “Volkswagen Commercial”, which sets up a scene of domestic tranquility: birds chirping, dogs barking, cars zooming by, a quick little synth ditty, and a clapping crowd at the end of the 48 second song. The even-keeled “Pink is the New Black!” comes next, sending out a message to all the listeners out there: “We’re unabashedly pop. Seriously. No, really, we mean it.”

And “Pink is the New Black!” is perfect for it. “Pink…” has a great vocal performance, a memorable guitar line, and a well-layered chorus. The guitars are distorted, but not so much that it’s obnoxious- like much of this album, most of the time in “Pink…” they’re warm and inviting. The vocals are a strong tenor- not pop-punkishly high, but not really low either. It’s the perfect type of voice for pop- a voice that carries insecurity and boldness equally well.
Yes, the first half of this cd is feel-good, drive-with-the-windows-down, sunshiny pop. It’s got some gruffness behind it, but mostly you can take your cues from the mood invoked by the carefree “Collecting Pinkies”- led by a bouncy, cheery synth line and ba-ba-ba-bas, the song just floats.

A quick interlude, and we’re on the second half of the album- the more experimental, darker side of the album. But never fear- the experimentation never gets too heavy, and the darker side never wallows in the emo-ness of it all.
The ‘experimental’ songs deal mostly in non-conventional song structures and instruments, as in the highlight track “Summer Car Vacation.” What sounds like a ukulele and a melancholy synth line push the chorus-less song forward- and although the landscape sounds sparse, it’s the sparseness that makes this song so great. The vocals just take off in this song, creating the most beautiful section of music on the album.

The chorusless (and yet still fiendishly hooky) “I Was a Wedding DJ” is a little more heartfelt than the first half of the songs, while “What I Did on My Vacation” is a little bit Strokes-ian in its jangly execution.
“Romance is Dead” is the dark gem here- a groove-laden, brooding track that suits the title well. Their control of mood in this song is admirable, as well as the vocal performance.

The mark of a good pop band is in two things: a) hum factor and b) feel-good factor. Even though Those Royals’ experimentation takes away from the hum factor a bit, the feel-good factor on this is off-the-charts. There’s not a bad song in the mix- which is incredible. For an album of guitar pop (a notoriously repetitive genre) to be fifty minutes long and not have bored all the listeners by the end, it’s gotta be pretty stinkin’ good. And Sleepy Suburbia is that good. -Stephen Carradini
- Independent Clauses


Rock quartet lets melodies take flight

By Bob Purvis
bpurvis@mkeonline.com
Posted: July 21, 2005

Admittedly, Those Royals know less about the royal family than their name would suggest.

"A lot of people like Prince William, but I am pretty fond of Harry," said the band's drummer and resident comedian, Michael Stewart, 21.

"I don't think I know anything about royalty. Maybe King Ralph, I liked that movie when I was younger," chimes in Jeff Grabowski, 23, the band's bearded bass player.

"Does Prince count?" joked J.D. Kinart, 27, guitarist.

Fortunately for Milwaukee rock fans, the band knows more about writing catchy pop songs.

Fronted by singer and guitarist Aaron Spransy, 25, Those Royals' sound is soaked with the angst and melody of mid-'90s indie rock acts such as Nada Surf, Superdrag and Jimmy Eat World. It's a sound that 10 years ago would have probably been lost in the flood of similar acts. But today, it sets them apart.

"I think there is kind of a shortage, to some extent, of good pop bands in Milwaukee, bands that play music that doesn't have a really heavy edge but that is still really good," Grabowski said. "I think we are a little bit different from other bands in the sense that we do have these catchy songs that aren't like emo-core or anything like that. It doesn't necessarily fit into the genre that is particularly cool right now."

But the Royals aren't afraid to sprinkle in a few of the ingredients found in more contemporary acts, dabbling in a little synthesizer and tossing in an angular guitar hook a la acts like the Bloc Party.

The band's upcoming debut record, "Sleepy Suburbia," mixes and matches songs of various styles and tempos, from downbeat, acoustic-driven odes to summer road trips ("Summer Car Vacation") to flat-out rockers ("My, What a Lovely Rocket Ship") and even the Police-esque "Romance Is Dead."

Not getting locked into one type of song was important to the band, Spransy said.

"You try not to make every song the same. I guess I would rather have people say 'I like that band' instead of saying 'I like that band's one good song,'?" Spransy said.

"I think it works well when you come to our show. There are a lot of different sounds to listen to, and when you listen to the album, it carries through nicely. You don't get too bored with it," Grabowski said.

In fitting with the name of the record and its title track, the album plays with themes of suburban restlessness, nostalgia and youthful romance. Spransy said growing up in the 'burbs gave him time to observe the less-than-picturesque reality of what lurks behind the walls of track houses.

"There is definitely a thing where suburbia is like this ideal perfect place, but it isn't necessarily. (It's) some sort of thing with, like, good and bad and pretty and dark, stuff like that," he said.

Those Royals are gearing up to play a couple of local shows, one of which will be the launch of the their CD on Minneapolis label I Ate Her Records. That show is at 5 and 10 p.m. Aug. 13 at Mad Planet, 533 E. Center St.

The band's live experience tends to be less about rock posturing and more about just having fun with the audience, Spransy said.

"I think we definitely try to have fun live, and people seem to appreciate that. We are pretty goofy," Spransy said.

- MKE


Aaron Spransy loves a good sandwich. And really, who doesn't? They have the ability to offer a sampling of the majority of the food groups in one well-crafted little package and for Spransy, they also work as a nice vehicle for describing his band, Those Royals.

So, what are the ingredients for a tasty rock n' roll sandwich, according to this Milwaukee musician?

"Jeff (Grabowski) and Mike (Stewart) provide the buns," he says of the Royals' bass player and drummer. "J.D. (Kinart, lead guitar) is the toppings and I am the cold cuts."

But for those of you who don't think in terms of lunch meats, this Milwaukee quartet could be appropriately described as pleasant and poppy indie rock without the typical jaded edge so often found in any genre that utilizes the suffix "-core."

Sometimes moody and melodic, sometimes packing a punkish punch, Those Royals have, for the past two years, crafted catchy, yet original ideas into impressively tight and well-balanced songs. They don't whine, they don't scream, and Spransy's lyrics are thoughtful, smart and definitely engaging for any local listener.

"The Great Escape" -- a track off their August 2005 debut "Sleepy Suburbia" -- reveals "When it's Friday in Milwaukee all the old folks go to fish fries," which is not only quite accurate, but also, spoken like a true blue Brew City slicker, Spransy humors us by saying -- whether he intended to or not -- "M'waukee."

The hooky "I Was a Wedding DJ," which has an especially Jimmy Eat World, dream-like vocal presence to it, is, apparently, somewhat autobiographical.

"Jeff and I were both actually wedding DJs before we new each and J.D., believe it or not, was a DJ at a strip club," admits Spransy. "Jeff got paid like $6 an hour and, as a band, there are many nights that we don't make much more than that."

All hailing from the area, except Appleton native Stewart, the band agrees that while support in this city tends to be "hit or miss," Milwaukee is lucky to have a few crucial resources, like 91.7 WMSE.

"We are in love with WMSE. It's nice to have such an outlet in a city where the small commercial market cares little about local bands."

They've played twice at WMSE as part of the Milwaukee Sound Environment Project and Spransy says they have plans to return to the studio in February or March.

"Lately it does seem as though we're getting a lot more support and interest (in Milwaukee), which is really nice," he says. "Pretty much no matter what we always amuse our selves and have fun."

You can have fun with Those Royals at the Cactus Club's "Bloody Sleeping Bags" show on Friday the 13th of January with Awesome Car Funmaker and the Willis. The show starts at 10 p.m., but the backdrop of "Jason" movies goes all night. - Julie Lawrence

- OnMilwaukee.com


Discography

Full Length "Sleepy Suburbia" Release August 2005 on IAH Records

Single - "Wedding DJ" Released on Milwaukee Sound Environment - Vol. IV,

Single - "Great Escape" - played on WMSE 91.7 and WLUM 102.1

Single - "What I Did on My Vacation" played on WLUM 102.1

"Live on WMSE 91.7" - 5 song live disk, self released.

Featured on "Entertainment Bytes" for MUTV

Streaming tracks can be found at:
www.thoseroyals.com
www.myspace.com/thoseroyals
www.purevolume.com/thoseroyals

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

“There’s not a bad song in the mix- which is incredible. For an album of guitar pop (a notoriously repetitive genre) to be fifty minutes long and not have bored all the listeners by the end, it’s gotta be pretty stinkin’ good. And Sleepy Suburbia is that good.“ -Stephen Carradini, Independent Clauses

The Milwaukee based, power-pop rock team Those Royals make delicious rock and roll sandwiches. Rock and roll sandwiches? Yes! Ingredients: two thick slices of guitar rock, a smooth spread of 80's dance, combined with smart, pop craftsmanship all on a toasted rock 'n roll. Hot and ready to be served, Those Royals are made to deliver for even the most finicky of listeners.

Sometimes moody and melodic, sometimes packing a punkish punch, Those Royals have crafted catchy, yet original ideas into impressively tight and well-balanced songs. They don't whine, they don't scream, with lyrics that are thoughtful, smart and definitely engaging for any listener. Thematically the songs explore the bright and dark sides of suburban existence reflected in the title and concept of their debut album “Sleepy Suburbia” released August 2006 on Minneapolis label I Ate Her Records.

Those Royals where formed in 2004 by Aaron Spransy (vocals/guitar) and Jeff Grabowski (bass/keys) after break-ups of both of their respective bands. It wasn’t long until Jeff and Aaron were playing together and trying out different friends in an effort to get something new together. After a few months of searching a lineup was formed including Jasen “JD” Kinart on guitar and Pat McNamee on drums. This line-up remained intact for the first year long enough to play a slew of great shows and record the debut “Sleepy Suburbia.”

After about of year of playing Pat’s schedule began to take up more and more of his time and the mutual decision was made for him to leave the band. With a new album nearly completed Aaron, Jeff and JD were eager to keep going, so the search for a new drummer began.

In January of 2005 they got lucky with the arrival of Mike Stewart: Neenah Wisconsin native, drumming wizard, Taco Bell expert. Mike added the final ingredient to the band solidified the line-up, and added a more technical approach to playing.

Those Royals have been honing their sound and fan base for over 2 ½ years and are continuously working to move forward with their music. When contacting their label to try and gain booking support for their ’06 East Coast Tour as a follow up to a successful summer including a performance on the US Cellular stage at Summerfest, they recently found that the young label has decided to close it’s doors. The band went on tour without support and is now looking for a new home to release their second album, which is already in the works.

Those Royals are a constant staple in the indie rock world of Wisconsin and surrounding midwestern states, bringing well crafted rock sandwiches to the stage with many great acts such as Maritime, The Books, Headlights, The Living Blue, Beep Beep, Bound Stems, The Thermals and Troubled Hubble to name a few. Having appeared in national publications such as The Big Takeover and The Onion, their debut disc "Sleepy Suburbia" has received great reviews.