Royal Republic have released their most ambitious record to date in the shape of the classy Club Majesty. Rushonrock Editor Simon Rushworth caught up with frontman Adam Grahn.
RUSHONROCK: Royal Republic has never been afraid to push the artistic boundaries but does Club Majesty feel like your most expansive release to date?
ADAM GRAHN: I think so. I’d definitely say it’s the most boundary-less album that we’ve made. It’s not as if our influences or our outlook has changed over the years. We’ve always been keen to stretch ourselves. But in 2019 we have the confidence and the freedom to go even further.
ROR: You even learnt the saxophone prior to recording Club Majesty…did you always fancy yourself as a latter-day Curtis Stigers?
AG: Not really! I just picked up the sax one day because it’s something completely new. I’d never really touched the brass before and I didn’t know how to get a note out of the sax when I first played it. Usually when you get a bit of new gear you know what to expect. With the sax I was in unchartered territory. But I’ve always thought that when you hear a great sax player play something there’s a wow factor – it sounds magic. At least I think so. But I guess some people love it and some people hate it. I put the first sax solo on the demo for Fireman & Dancer and the producer said ‘you can’t do that!’. Of course that just fired me up to do completely the opposite!
ROR: Did adding the sax underpin the sense of freedom on Club Majesty?
AG: I came to really love the sax sound and Fireman & Dancer isn’t the only song where it features. But the whole album is boundary free and anything goes. Now we’re just worrying about how we get the best out of the new songs live. When we were recording we were just focused on writing the best songs that we could. I didn’t think they needed a lot of polishing once we’d laid down the initial tracks. The songs weren’t that tough to write and we had a lot of fun recording them – that comes across on Club Majesty. I’m really happy that we can still have fun making new music four albums in. There’s a danger that this can become more of a business or a career but that hasn’t happened for us so far – even if keeping it honest and fun is a constant challenge. It needs to be that way. We could never run Royal Republic like a business! It just wouldn’t work!
ROR: Royal Republic has always defied genre classification – has that helped or hindered the band?
AG: I remember we got a call from America just before we released Weekend Man. It was a guy from our label over there and he’d heard a couple of demos – Walk! and Baby – and he said ‘it’s great but over here there are two rock formats that get radio play and that’s classic rock and active rock. You don’t really fit into either – there’s nothing over here that sounds like you.’. My reply was ‘isn’t that amazing!’. Until that point I didn’t really think we had an original sound but we embrace it. On Weekend Man we found ‘our sound’. We sounded more like Royal Republic than ever before and we freed ourselves from any outside pressure. We wanted to be completely free of any genre boundaries. Our attitude was that if it’s great music then it’s great music. And I’d say more and more people are starting to think like that.
ROR: Are you confident that the band’s inclusivity and ambition will ultimately count in your favour?
AG: I hope so. We have quite a lot of sounds that we’ve kind of borrowed from the 70s and the 80s and even further back than that. So I’d say we have a pretty broad appeal! Fashions come and go and it’s the same with music. People keep telling us that the 80s are back in fashion right now and I guess that makes Club Majesty a good record for 2019. But it’s not like we planned it or studied the market – we just made the record that we wanted to make at the time. We’ve always done our own thing but if that happens to coincide with what’s hot right now then you won’t hear us complaining! All we can do is make the music that feels right at the time. I don’t know if the world is ready for Royal Republic yet or even if we’re ready for the world! But we get all sorts at our shows and that’s always been the case – from biker dudes with leather vests and braided beards to screaming 18-year-olds. We play a lot of metal festivals but the fans don’t seem to mind four guys in sequined jackets! Our fan base is like our music – completely unpredictable.
ROR: You’re back at Download this month – does it feel like a home from home?
AG: I don’t know. We’re pretty good at connecting with most crowds if they’re open minded about music. We played the main stage in 2016 – on the day Rammstein headlined – and we were blown away by how many people came out so early to check us out. The field was full and everybody who was there at the start stayed until the end of the set. I think. We only had half an hour but I managed to strike up a conversation with the crowd and that’s important to me. I just can’t help myself when it comes to talking. We have a lot of homes from home but Download is certainly one of them. If you count the acoustic sets that we’ve played there then we’ve done four sets already in Donington and loved every minute. Roll on this month’s show!
ROR: You’ve got a headline tour of the UK inked in for October – how much are you looking forward to those shows?
AG: England and the UK is the place we fear to go the most as a Swedish band. We should just go to Germany every year – everyone jumps around with their fists in the air and they’re not really gourmet music listeners. The UK is very different. When you look at the musical heritage there and you realise how knowledgeable the fans are it’s a very daunting prospect as a Scandinavian band. So many great bands and so much talent has come out of one nation and it’s no lie to say we were shaking in our boots when we played our first show on British soil. But the UK fans took us to their hearts – they stayed for the whole show and called us back for more! Ever since that day it’s been a great place for Royal Republic to go. We owe the UK a lot in terms of our musical influences and I often reference The Beatles when people talk about our approach to making music without boundaries. Look at a rock song like Helter Skelter and then compare it to one of their poppier tunes. The UK, their bands and their fans are right at the heart of Royal Republic.
ROR: What are you looking forward to most about your return to the UK?
AG: I’m a huge football fan so I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that our trip coincides with a Champions League game and that we’re on a night off at that point! I love the Premier League and I love the Bundesliga.
*Royal Republic play Download on Saturday June 15. The band embarks on a full UK tour this autumn. Club Majesty is out now via Nuclear Blast.