Royal Thunder: "We're glad we're rebuilding our mountain, we certainly helped blowing it up"

A deeply personal and emotional conversation with Mlny and Josh from Royah Thunder

Από την Ειρήνη Τάτση, 27/05/2024 @ 14:21

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A rainy afternoon found us in Tilburg on the second day of the Roadburn Festival, and what better way to warm up than a casual, friendly chat with Royal Thunder. Certainly both us and themselves influenced by their sensational Next Stage performance last night, Royal Thunder founding members Mlny Parsonz and Josh Weavers sat down to discuss their new record, 'Rebuilding The Mountain' which was loved by, their appearance on the same night that would concern the specific record and much more.

In a warm atmosphere full of laughter and understanding, Royal Thunder shared their dark past and how they decided together to change their lives and rebuild their music, their lives, their mountain as they finally called it. Below you'll find two honest, music-driven people with a huge respect for each other. Meet Royal Thunder as they present themselves, without filters, boxes and cuts.

Royal Thunder

Hello guys, we're here with Mlny and Josh from Royal Thunder and we're actually in between their couple of shows in Roadburn festival. How are you guys first of all?

J: Good.

M: Good. Feeling tired? Well, jet lagged, but good overall. All right, so.

How do you find that this year you're in Roadburn, how do you feel about giving a couple of shows here and then we're going to go into the two different shows independently. How does it feel for you because you you've had a rough? Trip those past few years.

M: For me personally, it's sometimes it's kind of surprising when you're asked to do something so cool, it's like "really, us?" It feels really special. I'm not. I just it's I'm a little tired, so my brain's kind of wonky. But yeah, it's a surprise to be asked to do the things that we're doing here and we're really honored. And that's how I feel.

J: Yeah. I mean, it's great to be back here. It's been I think 2013 was the last time we were here. And it's just such a great festival and we're just really. Honored to be a part of it and just super thankful we were asked to come back. And you know, do two different sets. It's very, very cool.

To think of us having 20 years worth of like music was… crazy!

So may I ask, was it something that you planned to do the the older stuff set on the smaller, Next Stage and then the new album on the Main stage or was it something that occurred in the process of things? Because it was a very special show yesterday.

M: Cool. Uh. We were just asked to do kind of a collection of our catalog of music over the course of 20 years, and then we were asked to do the new album in its entirety. But to think of us having 20 years worth of like music was…

J: It's crazy!

M: I definitely forgot how to play some of those songs. I was like, we had a moment on stage at one point where we were both. "What?" I think we're playing like two different parts and like. Ohh found you, got your back!

It's just so funny to have hear it. Like the baby version of you

It didn't show. Let me be honest. So, yeah, let's go back on your first album, CVI. So how does it feel playing that album now? Because, man, oh, man, I used to be a fan of you. It was the album that I first got into you and yesterday brought me so much feelings with the songs that we heard. So how does it feel to go back to this album playing live? Because it it's been an era with many differences.

J: I think it's cool. I mean, I think we always like even when we write new records, we tend to change. The songs evolve overtime anyway, but it's really cool to revisit them and play them slightly different, you know, and have a different feel. Really like doing that.

M: For me it feels like I always think of the EP. I've said it before like it's. I feel like it's the baby version of us and I don't really listen to it. I had to to like, you know, when we're practicing and stuff like that. Just remember words and things but. It's just so funny to have hear it. Like the baby version. Like my voice was tinier and we were younger and a little more terrified, but just to go back and be in a different place and be older and have found ourselves more. I feel like we're more grounded, so it almost feels like you're pulling this old version of yourself or this younger version of yourself and be like: "Come over here. I figured it out. I got it. This is how we're. Gonna do it now." So it feels like you're revisiting your younger version of yourself.

With different eyes?

M: Yeah! And more in control of it.

Royal Thunder

Alright, so in the name of the set time, space and revival, how did why did you choose this title?

J: I don't know. It just came to me. I guess just thinking about life and like how we live in time and space and just our interaction with all of that. It can be so surreal at times, you know. Time coming out of COVID. And you know, it just felt like 10 years and it also felt like a week at times it was very strange, so I don't know. I had a lot of time to think about that and just getting older thinking of life and your mortality. I guess revival is just trying do things right and revive what we have and the abilities we have, to play music and to do things right and to move forward.

There's something in playing music that feels to me in a lot of ways like it's a higher power for me

All of this time that has passed, up until you release your previous album, the last year, "Rebuilding The Mountain". I would ask, how does it feel for you because you are quite vocal about the relationship between the three of you, I mean with Evan leaving the band for some time. Howdid it work for you on your personal relations. I want to know how does music help you heal through these circumstances of having difficulties in your personal relationships as humans? I mean, if you want to go there because it gets the kind of personal, I get that.

M: Yeah, we can. Well, we could both say a lot about that. I think I know for myself with music. You know when we play music, especially live, even band practice counts for us, I think I need to speak for both of us on that. More specifically playing live, there's something that happens when you get up there. It's like this opportunity to just check out in a good way and just all of your ego just kind of gets out of the way. I get out of the way of myself and just kind of connect to something that Is beyond me, and that's what helps me in my life. Like if I'm having a shitty day or I've worked all day or if I'm just even tired. Even something as simple as going to band practice. There's something in playing music that feels to me in a lot of ways like it's a higher power for me. I need it and when we don't play it's very depressing. There was a time 20 something years ago when me and Josh were like: "Maybe we should just stop playing music". It was like a weird six months of our lives. I think we were thinking, oh, we're losers. We're supposed to be doing something and we didn't play for at least six months and yeah, it was horrible. It was like death, like soul death.

So no matter what happens in life, we've had lineup changes from day one in this band, and it's been an honor to play with everybody we've played with. We've created beautiful music with lots of drummers, and things get hard and things change. Life changes, people change, directions change. What I've learned through all those changes is that you, and I'm not talking about anything specifically, but you can't let yourself be unhappy and compromise your sanity or your well-being just to keep something afloat. It's important to us in this band where that creativity and that life and that breath come from. That it comes from somewhere special, that any static in there, it can just really choke it choke your art out. But in life I think it's important to not focus so much on, "what's the most comfortable for this? And I'm a little uncomfortable and just got to make sure not rock." But sometimes you got to jump off the boat and do what's best for you. Our music, we'll do anything to protect that space, that spiritual, sacred place for us and again, not speaking about anything specific.

J: Yeah, I think that music, it has helped us tremendously through the years. I mean, it's just this music, this outlet, such a place of release, a place of channeling all that hurt and anxiety or whatever we might be going through in life and just putting it in that and letting it come when it comes. I think that so important, we've never been like: We got to write this record. Now we got to do this". It's just, you know, seasons come and go like the music. It shows up when it's supposed to.

There's like this old Western on the TV and a guy said "we need to rebuild the mountain"

It's very interesting because we have a phrase in Greek, like, saying, which is goes "If Muhammad doesn't go to the mountain, the mountain will come to Muhammad". So I find it very interesting with the name of your latest album called "Rebuilding The Mountain". The phrase means that if for any circumstances you cannot reach your point, by the force of will, you will find a way to bring your end goal to you. "Rebuilding The Mountain" feels to me after what you've elaborated already, that it's actually telling your story from the beginning.

M: Oh, that's interesting. I like that. The story of "Rebuilding The Mountain".

J: I was in a dark place and was drinking a lot. I saw something, I was up super late, probably from partying and there's like this old Western on the TV and ... I may be remembering this wrong, but they had blown up the mountain to find all this gold. Like I said, I could be remembering this wrong, but it in my head it just resonated with me: A guy said "we need to rebuild the mountain" and I was like: "Whoa, that's crazy, I Like that." Really. And drunk, I got out my phone and wrote down rebuilding the mountain and after that I got sober and everything in my life changed. And it's funny because that saying, I didn't know it was almost foreshadowing the fact that I had to get my life together and rebuild all this shit that I destroyed. That goes from deep down, to the very most personal thing in my life to the band and everything around that. So that's pretty much the explanation for that.

Royal Thunder

Μ: Like he said, we were in dark places and I got sober like a year and almost two months ago, and it was almost the end of Royal Thunder. If I didn't get sober, we'd be done. That was a motivating factor in getting sober, but also physically. Μy body was like shutting down. It was not good. I've always been the one writing the lyrics and I wrote the lyrics on this album as well, but that was interesting because some of the songs are hinged on those drunk moments that Josh would have, where he would put a phrase that came to mind in his phone. Like "live to live" or "Now I'm here, but nowhere". Or "Burn my tomorrow yesterday". I found it interesting that I was like telling my story, but it was also something that Josh could relate to, it was touches of his story in there, and that wasn't intentional. We inspired each other in that way. That was really cool.

But yeah, there was "Rebuilding The Mountain". There's something about our music that's before we get there, it feels like the stories being written before we arrive. Even basically naming the album and not really knowing what's about. There are songs on "CVI" where I didn't know where the songs were coming from and things ended up happening. It's something greater than us. Just to still have it and to have this opportunity to rebuild it, and like he said to rebuild it with love and care and be more thoughtful and more grateful. Obviously we all saw that anything you do in your life can be taken away like that. A global pandemic, even you, everybody was like, "what we do and who we are can change overnight". So embrace it while you can. I take pleasure in being part of rebuilding our mountain. I definitely helped blow it up.

We decided we're going to do this again and we kind of all agreed like hey, we need to do this sober

Were you writing any material during the quarantine or was it the time that you realized you wanted to make some changes and start working with the band again?

M: I was pretty bad off, not sober. He was sober. He was writing a lot.

J: Yeah, I had written some stuff. We decided we're going to do this again and we kind of all agreed like hey, we need to do this sober. There were some bumps in the road, but we definitely got through it. It was a wild time. We just didn't know what touring would ever look like again. We didn't know any of that. We were supposed to record the album at a certain time and it just didn't work out. It kind of got delayed, which I'm in hindsight very thankful for because it just would have come out right in the middle of the pandemic and sort of been terrible.

It feels boxed in to try and fit somewhere or try to intentionally sound a certain way or fit into a mold. That sounds like death to me

It must feel pretty rewarding because "Rebuilding The Mountain" is very true to your sound and what you did before, but without sounding boring or old school, let's say in a bad way. I can understand some of its background going through the guitars and some grunge notes and some possible Stoner notes. I mean, Georgia is pretty well known for that! (laughs) How does it go for you? Why did you choose to stay with this kind of musicgoing a little bit grungier, well I see now both of you have Nirvana tattoos (laughs). Do you want do you possibly question yourself if you want to experiment with other music genres? Or is it just this, this power that this music brings out that caters to you the most?

M: The latter, we have never had a discussion while writing music about, like what we want to sound like or what genre we're trying to fit in or like the idea of saying like, "let's write a song that sounds like a little Sabbath, little Zeppelin and a touch of…" those kinds of conversations just don't happen because I feel like it's funny. You look at this, think outside the box on the wall. It feels boxed in to try and fit somewhere or try to intentionally sound a certain way or fit into a mold. That sounds like death to me. If we started doing that, we'd probably make one of the worst albums we've ever made.

J: I mean, I think that we grow as like as musicians overtime and our tastes changed a little bit. I still think it's us, for sure. Like she said, we don't go after a specific sound. It just really comes to us and I think living and experiencing things really brings out different sounds overtime. When I started Royal Thunder in 2005, it was the whole point, that I played heavy, like in really heavy bands prior to that and I was just like I got kind of tired of that So I was like, I want to start a band that literally will do anything that comes to me or that I want to do.

Royal Thunder

And so I think you started the songwriting from the song " The King" if I'm not mistaken. How did it all come together? Because you mentioned some things about how you wrote the album was it like first the music, the lyrics, or each song fitting into the previous one and finally, the whole album?

M: It's usually Josh writing a song on guitar, and he'll let you hear a little bits and pieces of it as he's playing, but he's kind of a mad scientist about it. He's like "it's not ready, it's not ready! You guys gotta wait" and then he'll usually come with a full song. He's an amazing songwriter, but also the structure, he's very particular about how it all flows. So once that part's done, then it comes to the band room and then everyone adds their parts. Vocal melodies usually come first and then I just wait and see what the song is about.

J: She'll sometimes be in the studio and there'll be a blank page and she'll just be there and the song will come to her, it's pretty wild to see.

It's cool to be compared to something that I honor and respect and can look at and be like that's that's really cool. I think women are pretty cool

Regarding that, there is this famous phrase, sorry for that but this goes for Melanie mostly, comparing you to the voice of Janis Joplin and I don't want to stay there because it's obviously a huge deal for somebody to say that to you, but. I want to ask how it feels for you when men are always comparing women to each other in the music industry, because it's something that I care about and I want to know the opinions of other women.

Μ: I don't mind most of the time. If anybody says anything to me, I'm just like, whoa, cool. OK, I don't hear it that I sound like someone. I'm not trying to sound a certain way or emulate anyone. And to be honest, I don't really read a lot of stuff because I'm too sensitive and I would get in my head if somebody said something. Shitty of me. I'd be like, "oh God. I suck" I'd feel bad about myself, so I stay away from that. How do I feel about women being compared to women? I don't know if it really matters to me that much because I think it may be just so happens to be a female being compared to a female, but how I see it, if you boil it down, you're comparing maybe an energy a vibe or whatever. Maybe it's a reminder of some place that someone's voice sits in, a world that lives in. When I think of Janis Joplin, I don't think people think I sound like her, but maybe it's coming from a channel similar to where she was hanging out and many vocalists have been there before. There's even male vocalists that I'm just like, oh, that resonates with me. My first thought was Mike Patton. I love that that radio frequency, I love that place. And then there's some voices I listen to and I'm like I don't feel plugged into that. It doesn't matter much to me if that comparison it's female to female. It's cool to be compared to something that I honor and respect and can look at and be like that's that's really cool. I think women are pretty cool. So no bummer for me.

What I've always been focused on is not my gender but being honest about what you're doing

To an extent on that I want to ask, because I do feel a pretty significant change in the scene about female artists and even queer artists are much more accepted. I feel that there is a better understanding of the differences between the genders or non-gender people. How was it for you, because you have experienced an era that things were harsher, judgments, attitudes, even accepting you as a strong artist, how do you feel now that you can see the things from a distance about the difference in perceiving female artists?

J: I really want to speak my take on this too. I just wanted to say this because I've always noticed with her. She doesn't read a lot about what anybody's saying, and I think it's awesome. I love and respect it, I think it's amazing that there are more women artists out there just doing stuff you know and being more accepted and received. But she hasn't really paid attention to that. If she's gotten some shit about it, she's been really tough. Which is really cool to see because I have no idea what it's like. I know it must be absolutely terrible to be in that position and get some shit because of your gender, you know? But I always thought it was awesome that she was a pretty awesome trooper about it.

M: I used to struggle with even being called like a female fronted band. I don't get it. Like I don't know, it's just kind of weird to be like female fronted. I don't really hear anybody being male fronted it makes it feel like people find it really weird and unusual and special, or rare for a woman to be doing that, or to be doing that well. That's my only beef with it. It's just like, why does that fuckin' matter? What I've always been focused on is not my gender but being honest about what you're doing. Be yourself and I have zero issues with people. There are females that come out that they dress in ways that like reveal more of their bodies or whatever. If that makes them feel empowered, or sexier, then, more power to them. But for me, I'm like that's not me on or off stage. I just don't really care about that stuff. Well, if somebody really wanted to get into it with me and pressure me to be that way, I'd probably just end up being like, fuck you. We're not having this conversation. I'm doing me. I don't know what you're doing, but I'm in my lane, doing my thing, going my speed, going my way, and I'm OK with that.

Yeah, let everyone do their thing and respect it.

M: Yeah, whether you like it or not. I saw stuff yesterday and I was just like oh, I've never heard this before. That's so cool. They're doing their art. They're like, this is their fuckin' moment. That's really cool. That's your moment to be you in your art. I love that. That's what I like to hand out with.

J: But it really is a shame that like that people could be so caveman minded…

M: People thought I was a guy!

A good voice, definitely a guy.

Get off sick. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I mean, but that's it's.

J: It's just it's so cave minded to think that. I never even understood that like as a male. Art is art and you know, I mean women make beautiful art. You know, they can sing.

And it doesn't have to. Be feminine.

J: Exactly! I never understood that mindset. I mean, I guess it's just an old guard, this old, terrible, archaic mindset, you know? Thankfully, it's going away.

Μ: There's feminine and masculine energy, like coursing through everybody. In my opinion, that's what I believe. You're going to lean one way or the other, depending on what's in front of you. I feel like I dance with those two energies as I'm playing. I get to do that. I get to weave in and out of wherever I want to go. There are gentle moments where it feels more feminine. There's more aggressive, feels more masculine. I'm lucky to be able to do that.

J: Those mindsets, that closed minded like that, those are the most insecure people.

OK, that that was a really, really nice thing to hear from you. Are we going to see you anytime soon in Greece? Or is it a very big deal?

M: I'm trying to see Greece. That is more of my dream place. I've only seen pictures and I'm like, I can't believe it.

J: Yeah. Did we not go there like years back?

M: No, we didn't. We've never been to Greece and there aren't plans, but that doesn't mean we don't want to or that we're not going to. I'm not sure why we've never played there but we hope to make it there.

For sure, yes.