The Irish guitar music scene is dominated by serious lads and ladies who make serious music. It’s arguably the healthiest it’s ever been, but it’s all very dour. If there’s anything the more folk inclined acts like the Scratch, the Mary Wallopers and Ispíní na hEireann have taught us over the last few years, it’s that there’s plenty of room for a little bit of levity.
If you love rock ‘n’ roll, and a bit of craic is what you’re after, look no further than Royal Autumn, a Dublin-based hard rock quintet who have been plying their craft long before the release of their debut single, The Bounce, and its parent EP ‘Songs & Music For The Bourgeoisie” in 2018.
Taking influence from acts as disparate as heartland rockers Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen, early heavy metal pioneers Judas Priest and contemporary prog outfit Muse, Royal Autumn can be described as a sonic throwback to the glitz and glam of a by gone era with modern perspective. While there is some serious musicianship and song writing chops on display, it’s really great fun to see and hear.
We catch up with the band as they prepare to release their debut LP, ‘Life Is Strangely Accidental’, to be launched with a showcase at The Sound House in February.
GP: Where did the name Royal Autumn come from?
Neill (Marshall – lead vocals, guitars): We were struggling, struggling, for a name. One night I was watching the national broadcaster, or it was at least on in the background and some delightful auld lady was talking about an all-female dance troupe she was a part of in 1940s Dublin called “The Royal Autumns”. I turned to my wife, Claire, and we both knew it was a potential name, for nothing else, it was a fun way to come across a name that's quite odd... but nice?
I also knew we could utilise the image both words conjure up, something we really leaned into for this album cycle for artwork and promotional material.
GP: How did the band come together?
Rodge (Moran – drums/vocals): Adam, Neill and I were in a band already for a few years called Eazy Tyger who had gathered some steam but ran out of track unfortunately. Ireland being what it is, isn’t really a market for hair metal. Them’s the breaks.
From the ashes of Eazy Tyger, the three of us spent a whole summer writing some new songs and set about finding a bass player and keyboard player so we could get gigging again.
We auditioned a few bass players; some good, and some not so good. But I knew Ciarán from college, so I gave him a call. When we saw how he gelled with us and how well he played, it was a sure thing! We had had a few keyboard players on and off, but we found Alina through a friend of Neill's.
She had seen our video for ‘The Bounce’ and was hooked! As the only classically trained musician in the band, she really helped lift our sound and bring our song writing to the next level! Here we stand, the five of us, having weathered lockdown and ready for what 2023 throws at us!
GP: Your backgrounds and influences seem disparate. How would you describe your sound and how did you settle on it?
Ciarán (Hurd – bass/vocals): The way I describe our sound is a mix of hard rock with classic elements. I think we’re very lucky in that although there is such a vast array of different tastes and influences in the band, we have several common bands -
Neill: Like LEN (of Steal My Sunshine fame – Ed.)
Ciarán: - that we all aspire to so that gives us our starting point for our sound but from there, it’s a case of trying things out and putting your own flair or stamp on it and making it ours.
GP: Your debut full-length release, 'Life Is Strangely Accidental' is due for release next month? What can you tell us about the creative process behind the album?
Adam (Smith – lead guitar/vocals): Work for the album began before the great sickness took hold in 2020, with about 10 demos being almost finished before we were forced to put the project on hiatus. When we finally got the chance to get together again and finish off the recordings, we had written even more songs and had come up with ideas and changes for the ones we’d already laid down.
We eventually had over 20 songs demoed, which we then painstakingly combed through for opportunities to correct, fine tune, and improve. Re-recording and adding/removing elements when necessary.
Once the demos were acceptable to us, we put it to a vote among the five of us. A Eurovision style vote. This whittled the 23 potential songs for the album down to the target of 10. As a band that enjoys the freedom of not confining ourselves to a particular sound, we ended up with a good mix of songs that are different enough to keep things interesting as you listen to the album but also gel together well as a whole.
When we made the decision to record/produce the album ourselves, we took what recordings we felt were suitable from a professional release aspect and did another round of re-recording – For example, we completely rerecorded the drums for the 10 chosen songs using new high-quality microphones, and rewrote solos, keys parts, etc., editing and changing bits and pieces until we were satisfied.
We then sent it off to our mix engineer, Alwyn Walker, who some of us had recorded with before when he ran Westland Studios, to be mixed and mastered.
GP: You chose to produce the album yourselves. Why? How was that for you?
Adam: Not going to lie, a percentage of it was for financial reasons. Apart from that, we had all spent so long with the songs, going back and forth, recording and re-recording, listening, and making notes for improvements, suggestions, and changes, that we felt that we had already produced the album ourselves.
Neill: Adam especially, who acted as recording engineer for the album and edited and mixed the demos, had to listen to and mix/edit the songs hundreds of times each as new ideas were implemented and new versions were requested, felt that he and the band did not particularly need an outside person to help us with the production after we had already poured our heart and soul into making the songs the best they could be.
Adam: At the end of the day, what you hear on Life Is Strangely Accidental is 100% Royal Autumn, no producers with opinions on the songs that may not vibe with the band, no outside musicians, nobody pushing for a certain style or homogeneity. Just us, and we wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
GP: You started playing live shows again just last year ahead of the release of the singles from your upcoming album. Was that always the plan or was it just how things panned out?
Alina: We were so happy to be able to play Whelan's right after the restrictions were lifted last year. I was also 5 months pregnant for that gig, so we had an extra person performing with us which made it even more special. I then took a break for a few months, missing our summer gig. Once my daughter was born, we were back rehearsing for various projects we had coming up. The album was our priority towards the end of last year, so live shows had to wait until 2023!
GP: Speaking of which, so far you have released the album's title track and, earlier, Take It To The Grave as singles. Why did you choose these tracks as singles? What inspired the writing of each?
Neill: ‘… Grave’ was an Adam riff, both Verse and chorus. I added the tail in the verse and the key change (I so far am responsible for all our key changes ‘cos I'm a tart) and lyrics. We felt it was a perfect .... almost 'teaser', if you will, for the album at sub 3 minutes. We do plenty of different sounding stuff, but our 'synth fuzzers' are a good introduction to the band.
‘Life is Strangely Accidental’ is a Ciarán verse and chorus, written as an intense/strummy acoustic piece. We slowed the chorus; I did the lyrics and melody and then it was shelved till Alina joined. We dusted it off, revisited Ciaráns original rhythm, and Adam and Alina worked a lot on the middle part. A rare example of a song that took plenty of time crafting but turned out to be worth the effort.
We chose it as single number two due to it being the best balance we've struck to date between a softer song & something with a more typical tempo of our rockers.
GP: You've mentioned the music video for The Bounce, and from what we’ve seen of the teasers released on social media for Thin & Blond from the album, both are very high definition and very, very fun. Can you tell us about the video making process?
Ciarán: The process of making a video is a long thing. The Bounce was a single day, but Thin & Blond was two full days as there was a lot more on that shoot. They tend to be long days with periods of sitting around while individual shots are being done, and with 5 of us to do, that can be quite a chunk of the day but as we’ve been incredibly lucky to work with Shaun Ryan on our videos, it’s amazing to see the vision come to fruition and he’s just great fun to work with. Manages to keep spirits high while getting some of the most amazing shots as you can see.
Neill: Shaun is my oldest friend; I made his first movies with him so working now together in a 'professional' capacity is...a dream come through...at least for me (us).... he’s come so far and been one of our greatest advocates. Royal Autumn videos would not be of the same quality if not for him.
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GP: You're playing The Sound House in February to launch the album. What should the uninitiated expect on the night?
Rodge: If you haven’t seen us before, you can expect plenty of radio candy hard rock songs, a sprinkle of softer anthemic ditties and a pinch of crunchy heavy bois. We’ll send you home happy! For those who have seen us before, we have one or two surprises for you!
GP: What can we expect from Royal Autumn in 2023?
Ciarán: Obviously we’re starting the year with an album release which we can’t wait to finally get out to the world. As we’ve been locked away for a good chunk of 2022 writing and recording the album though, we all see the focus of 2023 as getting out in the wide world again and playing in front of people.
Royal Autumn will play The Sound House on 11th February 2023, tickets available here. ‘Life Is Strangely Accidental’ is out on 23rd February 2023.