The Knoxville, Tenn., group downsized from a quintet to a trio during the interim between 2009's "Let It Beep" and the new "Flux Outside," its debut for Glassnote Records. Guitarist Sam Stratton tells Billboard.com that the change was "really, really weird" at first, especially since it happened just before South By Southwest and a subsequent European tour in 2010. "We just had to gradually rearrange the songs and get them ready for three people to play, and I don't really know how good it was because we didn't have a lot of time to prepare," Stratton recalls. "By now, at least, they're on par with the new songs we have."
In fact, Stratton says he and bandmates Ryan Schaefer and Chris Rusk are happier with Royal Bangs as a three-piece. "We like it a lot more," he explains. "It gives us more space. We've all been playing together a long time, so it's really easy to work like this." And while the idea of expanding the lineup "comes up every now and again," Stratton says "the consensus is that it's jut the three of us in the band. Maybe it would make sense at some point to bring someone along to play bass or second keyboard on tour if the songs require it, but I think the band that writes and arranges the song will stay the three of us."
Video: Royal Bangs perform "Fireball" from "Flux Outside"
"Flux Outside" -- recorded at an old Victorian house in north Knoxville with Sparklehorse's Scott Minor producing -- is the first recorded fruits of Royal Bangs' three-piece labors. And Stratton says the creative goal was a more organic feel than its two predecessors. "When we were writing we were trying to put the emphasis on how everything feels," he notes. "With the rhythms and the cadences, we were trying to make it looser than the other ones. Before we used a lot of electronics, and it just kind of squared everything off. We didn't really like doing that anymore, so we tried hard to make it seem looser -- especially the drummer (Rusk) put a lot of work into that."
Another high point of "Flux Outside," Stratton says, was heading to upstate New York, where Flaming Lips cohort Dave Fridmann mixed the set. "He's really awesome to work with, and we were all on the same page," Stratton says. "There are certain parts on particular tracks where we left a lot of space for him to do something crazy, and he always delivered. He kind of intuitively made everything sound really bizarre, right from the start, which is exactly how we wanted it."
Stratton says Royal Bangs hope to "tour forever" in support of "Flux Outside." The group finishes a North American run in early May, then has shows in the U.K. and Europe, with the bulk of its summer schedule still to be announced.