Oakland-based duo Royale is an exciting new musical collaboration between Peter Farr and Annie Jacobsen. Following in the footsteps of acts such as Burial, Ghostek and XXYYXX, the band offsets rich, lush melodic phrases against edgy, industrial beats.
We spoke to Royale about Future Garage music, spiritualism in the process of composition, and the art of making rhythms that sound “sultry and gritty” all at the same time…
1. You describe your sound as “Future Garage” music. Can you unpack this term a little? What do you want listeners to get from your music?
Annie: What I love about the “Future Garage” sound is the melodic architecture that often contains deep hand-crafted synth work. Artists developing this style of music also tend to incorporate elements of playful vocal work and creative rhythmic patterns that are sultry and gritty at the same time.
Peter: Future Garage is a relatively recent style of music that incorporates influences from UK garage and 2-step. Dark atmospheric sounds, pads, field recordings, pitched vocals and vinyl crackle are all common to the genre, as well as the borrowed 2-step and garage rhythms. There’s a certain vibe to it that’s very enticing, and there’s a certain meeting that it invites with the cold urban landscape that feels ripe for the story of our modern times.
2. Where’s the best place to listen to Royale’s music?
Annie: I feel like Royale’s music can be listened to just about anywhere, but we have found that it is widely appreciated on road trips and when one is contemplating and chilling out alone or with a small group. There are a lot of intellectual musical layers that tend to unfold in one’s own space. If listened to in a group, it would be best in an underground conscious scene.
Peter: Perhaps the most ideal place doesn’t exist yet, a post-apocalyptic landscape where humanity hangs on by a sliver, and your last remnant of hope is a stranger, your future soul mate, walking towards you across the desolate landscape.
3. What is it about each other, as musicians or as people, that made you excited to collaborate together?
Annie: Peter is one of the most innovative producers I know, and I love his approach to musical composition and beat structure. It is completely different than my own, which tends to be more four on the floor and house-forward in structure. I believe that the ‘opposites attract’ approach is what makes our compositions come together in a unique way. Peter brings out the best vocals in me, and has a way of modulating and modifying them to where they can become unique instruments. He takes his time developing melodic patterns that are original and layered, which I love. Peter’s understanding of music theory and sound placement refines our sound while keeping it pure and authentic in nature.
Peter: Annie has always been an incredibly talented singer and I’ve always admired her skill on the microphone and also her melodic tendencies. She’s a fantastic pianist and understands how to tell and compose a story. Working with her is a treat to say the least, as we can fuse the best of our talents together to create music that is completely different from what either of us would make on our own. It’s not a ‘mixing’, but more like a metamorphosis where the result is always pleasing and surprising.
4. How does your collaborative process work? Is each song co-written, or does one of you take the lead from track to track?
Annie: Each track is different, but for our latest release “Eternal” Peter took the lead with a lot of the beat structuring and crafting of the bass. He used the Moog to create original synth sounds and I played in the lead melody. The vocal work and lyric writing was done by myself and Peter manipulated my voice in the beginning of the track to make it more of a background instrument. All of the mixing and mastering was done by Peter.
Peter: It’s hard to definitively say how any collaborative process works. I have a few collaborative projects on the go and I think even for collab projects that have gone on for years, every single project is completely different. The creative ebb and flow is unpredictable between artists, and their contributions vary greatly from song to song.
5. “Eternal” is a beautiful song, that seems to have a spiritual dimension to both the lyrics and to the sounds you’ve employed in the track. What are some of the strongest themes running through your music?
Annie: Music is how I connect to the world and to others, and Royale’s music is all about the deeper ways in which we can all connect. “Eternal”, specifically, is about the eternal search for truth, which also relates to the eternal search to be re-united with the divine and ultimately to our own internal selves.
Peter: “Eternal” was a very spiritual song and actually all of the songs we’ve written together have taken a spiritual tone. “Sojourn”, which I wrote for Annie’s Seapop release, was a song about rebirth using symbolism derived from the Tibetan Book of the Dead. The song told a story about a journey through space to the center of the sun, where one would be reborn. “Eternal” was somewhat about a similar idea, an eternal search for truth, and the eternal journey back to who we really are – the self that exists when ego dies – and so both of these songs approach this endless journey home in unique ways. I don’t know if this will be our continuing inspiration in future songs, but I do think that music has the power to reach deep into the heart of humanity, and Royale certainly is a project that always intends to reach deep.
6. What’s on the horizon for 2017? What can fans expect?
Annie: We have some tracks in the works and are looking forward to releasing an EP later this year.
Peter: We are working on an EP, although it isn’t complete yet, so we don’t have a launch date set just yet. It will be definitely be very special to share with our fans, though, when it’s done.