Royal Teeth Returns With 'A New Sense of Identity' on 'Rivalry': Premiere

Jakob Wandel
Royal Teeth

It wasn't Royal Teeth's intention to take six years between albums (with an EP in the middle). But the Louisiana-formed indie rock quartet is planning a 2019 release for the new Hard Luck, whose track "Rivalry" is premiering exclusively below.

The group's Gary Larsen, in fact, tells Billboard that Royal Teeth had recorded a wealth of material at one point in a Nashville studio that it wasn't happy with and ultimately abandoned. But after moving to the home studio he'd set up with wife and bandmate Nora in New Orleans, "we started writing and recording like crazy. It was like we wanted to figure this thing out and do it ourselves. So through some bumps along the way we shaped what the album is now, and what it sounds like. So it's kind of a good thing we went through that; I wish we could've saved some more money, but the whole thing gave us a new sense of identity, and I think we're a better band now."

Larsen blames "back-end label drama" (Round Hill Records, which is releasing Hard Luck, is Royal Teeth's third label) partly for the delay between albums. "It was a weird sort of whirlwind of getting tossed around the music business," he says. Some of that frustration made its way into "Rivalry," which grew into a low-key, moody track after starting as what Larsen calls "a little more country or folksy."

"The love I reference in the song is my relationship to my life as a musician," he explains, "sort of this internal battle when there's days when I think, 'Is this really worth it? This is a lot of stress, and we're really struggling to make a living out of this.' I'm kind of an insecure person, and even living life as a musician comes with its challenges because everything I do is vulnerable and judged by others. All these things I deal with on a daily basis, but at the same time there's positives I find through being a musician. So it's that battle: 'Is this worth it?' and 'Without this, what am I' and the search for finding your way."

Larsen and company are, in fact, still coming up with material that may be included on Hard Luck. "Once I started recording at home, it really opened up," he says. "After the Nashville sessions we wrote somewhere around 60 songs, not that all of them are good by any means. But every day it seems like I'm coming up with something new." And that bodes well for avoiding another long gap between Royal Teeth albums.

"The nice thing about working at home is I can write a song and record it and get it done, whereas before I had to worry about saving enough money to get into a (studio) to bring it to life," Larsen says. "Doing it yourself is really exciting. So whether it's another Royal Teeth album or a side project, there’s definitely going to be a steady stream of music coming out during the next few years."