7 Minutes in Heaven

U.S. Royalty

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We set the timer and snuggle in with our favorite new bands in the Impound’s version of speed dating with a killer-diller soundtrack.

U.S. Royalty

U.S. Royalty are a very likeable band, but their near-instantaneous charm can’t be easily traced to obvious ancestors. Instead, one picks up on a primal rock rightness and sincere affection for pop moves that strikes to rock’s fundamental appeal.

Their debut, Mirrors (self-released on January 25) is youthful and exuberant, artfully cynical and nakedly hopeful. The quartet – Luke Adams (drums), Jacob Michael (bass), John Thornley (vocals, keys) and Paul Thornley (guitar) – scrape off the barnacles and clichés to reveal the kind of rock one can pat their foot on ecclesiastically. The mood shifts frequently, but always with purpose, moving headlong, eyes locked on the horizon ahead. Mirrors is pleasurable whirlwind that will get you singing along before you’ve even figured out what the songs are about. Once it has settled in, it’s even better. Working with engineer Gus Oberg (The Strokes, Albert Hammond Jr., Bloc Party) and Justin Long, Mirrors hums along like a good movie whose twists and ultimate conclusion can’t be guessed until they arrive, and then it all makes perfect sense.

Formed in Washington, D.C. in 2008, U.S. Royalty is on a swift creative rise that recalls the superlative inducing early salvos of My Morning Jacket and Dr. Dog, each band’s that stubbornly carved out their own territory while simultaneously extending a welcoming hand to anyone willing to come along with them.

We got on the horn with John Thornley – a breakout singer with a strong, flexible, crush-ready voice – to discuss their debut and the ideas behind these new Royalty.

Why do you think you’re a musician?
I think I became a musician to do what I love. I can’t really see doing anything else. Ever since I started playing an instrument, I haven’t found anything more appealing than this.
You guys have a great name. This is not to be underestimated in an era of really, really terrible band names.
Our bassist and I are always thinking up names for side projects all the time that are tongue-in-cheek and fun, and I think he really nailed it with U.S. Royalty. If it’s on a bill it catches your eye a little bit.
I think it’s a name that speaks to the boldness inherent to rock ‘n’ roll, which has produced some of the only “royalty” in America.
There’s no royalty in America in the way it was founded. We kind of struck off the whole royalty system, which is basically at odds with itself. I hear more and more takes on the name as the band gets out there, and I’m interested in hearing in how other people interpret it.
The initial run of songs on the album – Hollywood Hollows, Monte Carlo, Equestrian – have a high gloss sheen to them in the pop culture mind. Is that an area you like to explore?
We like to travel a lot, and sometimes we write about places we haven’t been yet because we’re inspired by them. A lot of the album was actually inspired by the desert, which I spent a lot of time in. This is actually the first time a lot of us have been in this spot to be able to travel around. It’s been everything we imagined and more. But, sometimes it’s fun to write about places you haven’t been without getting too caught up in the details.
It’s a good thing to throw your imagination out there. That’s what listeners do when they press play. One of the things that caught me immediately about your music is the abundance of hooks and a real embrace of songwriting that’s just plain enjoyable.
A strong songwriting base has always been key for us. There’s a lot of music on the radio that just follows the same formula but we like to have a mix of things that stick in your head AND are musically interesting.
There’s a sense of movement to Mirrors that takes you somewhere. Where it ends is a good distance from where it starts.
Some people may listen and not want to take that journey or follow it all the way through, but you can just hop on and it will take you. We’re always trying to put on the best playlist to compliment where we’re driving and our surroundings. With this record, we didn’t want to stick to just one style, and in the end it comes out our style with touchstones like film, the desert and travel.

As we put out more material, I think the U.S. Royalty sound will become more apparent. With the first album, people are anxious to put a new band into brackets and we were anxious to avoid that kind of propaganda. The consistent thing with our album is that it’s a travel thing, gritty but melody friendly, and designed to get you out of the house to travel somewhere.

So, what’s usually going through your head right before you go onstage?
Where’s my water bottle? Where’s my beer? Where’s my amp?