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Crooked Royals - Interview: Crooked Royals

30 Jun 2019 // An interview by darryl baser

Described as a band who have "musically hit the ball right out of the park" with their newest EP Rumination, Auckland five-piece Crooked Royals ability to craft songs with a combination of heavy and clean vocals mixed in with huge crushing riffs earned them a spot opening for London prog rock monsters Monument in Auckland earlier this year. Crooked Royals will also be supporting Polaris during their upcoming August tour in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

Terry from Muzic.net.nz spoke to Crooked Royals about their latest music, international radio, what metal means to them, and much more:

Who have I got here tonight?

Christian (vocals, guitar), Lee (vocals), Connor (bass) and Keane (drums).

We’re missing Jake tonight, our lead guitarist, he’s in Vegas.

Can you please tell us about your latest single Rumination and the video that you put out for it?

Keane: Yeah, that was with Lucas, that was pretty cool. That was the last song we wrote for the EP actually.

The concept is, we’re all from different places in the world, not sure if you can tell by our accents, but uh, Lee moved here from England, I moved from Denmark, Keane moved from up north in New Zealand. The rest of us are from out of town, Connor’s the only one who’s from around here (Auckland). The rest of us on the other hand are all from different places, and when we came from those places we didn’t really fit. To mainstream England, or mainstream Denmark, so we thought we’d come and try and find people who liked the same kind of music as us, who lead the same lifestyle as us and uh, we found each other and it’s kinda cool in that sense. It’s great to have Lucas on that as well ‘cause I think he shares that, uh, narrative or concept, which is really great.

How did you get the attention of Lucas to start with?

Lee: We actually got to know him when we recorded our EP with him in Iowa, in the States. He reached out to the band, and we ended up going down there for an EP, that worked out really well, but the main thing was we really vibed with him, and became really good mates, we’d jump on and play PlayStation with him all the time. We have a really good relationship with him so when we have the songs, we were like, ‘if we can get Lucas on this, this would sound amazing’. So, we reached out to him and his mates and said, hey we’ve got the tracks for you and left it blank, then he was like yeah this sounds amazing and it just happened.

Did he write any of his own lyrics on it, or was it just the stuff that you guys had already done?

Lee: Nah, we were like write your own lyrics man but It’s just me and Christian being lazy, we didn’t want to do it. It worked out well though cause it’s his own flair to it, because it wouldn’t be the same if we wrote it for him, plus I doubt he would have wanted it that way anyway.

Excellent, so can you tell us what the track talks about for people who haven’t read up about it, I mean it's saying quite a bit there.

Lee: It’s a song about feeling like you don’t really fit in with a certain narrative though. I think most people can relate to it. It doesn’t have to be now, but I think at times in everybody’s life at some point where they feel they don’t fit in. I think especially if you were listening to metal at that stage, it was a big thing when I was a kid. It was a nice thing to write about.

I can completely understand that as a metal head, I mean I grew up in the 80's, and being a metal head in the 80's was very difficult. So, like I said, there was loads of glam metal.

This is the second EP from Crooked Royals; Intertwined came out last year. Tell us about the differences with writing that have occurred during that period.

Christian: I think when it comes to the instrumental writing our guitarist wanted to try experimenting with different modes like Phrygian and Ionian mode he wanted to try, and work with those tools and he tries to do things with as many time signatures as possible, so it was an experiment for him.

Lee and I took on more of a humanistic concept with it, sort of based on the struggles we had every day with the concept for the first EP. So, with this EP we wanted to broaden that and go deeper into the internal struggles with anxiety, or with paranoia and depression, and we also took on the differences between generations which is what Aeon is about.

We’re actually making it the third one, and we’re eventually going to go back further a generation, so this Aeon is going to be about our generation, and the next Aeon is going to be about our parents’ generation, and the first one is going to be about our grandparents generation, so we’re trying to get big on that human connection.

Some of the things you write about have some pretty heavy subject matter, which is something we’re seeing a lot more people writing about. I recently talked to the guys from Seas of Conflict, and that was something that they were trying to write a lot about as well. Is it something that the whole band feels strongly about?

Christian and Keane: Three out of five - you’ve got two happy ones and two sad ones here. The sad ones write the lyrics, yeah that’s kinda what happens. Connor really wants us to write something that’s more glam metal, we’re trying our best to make it happy. I’ve had a few drinks so I might sound a little bit happy.

Lyrically it is a lot more touchy-feely, but we’re always into more ideas, and instrumentally we’re trying to do whatever we can to keep fresh. I think the next EP we’ll try to do something a bit happier, more upbeat. It’s all well and good doing all the deep topics, but that’s not the only aspects of life. We wanted to come up with a concept first and we’re achieved that, so I think we’ll move onto happier concepts in the future.

Excellent, ‘cause you talked about doing this as your second EP,  you mentioned another EP there, or have you guys got enough material for an album? What’s the next step for Crooked Royals?

Conor: I don’t know, like. We’ve spoken before about the aim of making just EPs with the aim of hopefully getting a label, we could go for an album, but it’s a lot more feasible for us to go the EP route I think.

It’s just too much money, we’d love to make an album, we could definitely put together content, I think Jake basically sits in a room for 8 hours a day cranking out song after song after song. There’s more than enough content, it’s just making it worthwhile content. We’re already piecing together a couple of new songs after putting together this new EP, content is not the issue, it’s just figuring out how we want to get it out there.

In all seriousness with the money side of it, how much do things like Spotify and the streaming services impact you? I mean, they say you do get some ridiculous amounts out of it. You have to get something like a million or two million plays to get 20 cents or something like that.

Has that changed the way you make music?

Conor: Yeah, singles get picked up a lot more on playlists, that’s like it used to be with radio. We would get better plays from singles and I think if you are a big artist, going on Spotify and sharing your music, you lose out on a lot of money, but when you’re starting out like a band like us or anyone in a local scene, putting your music on Spotify or Apple music gives you a whole new audience you never thought you could get.

We got a dude from Lichtenstein listening to us. Lichtenstein, there’s like 10 people in Lichtenstein. So yeah the thing with Spotify, is we actually get heard across the world. The really interesting thing is not too many people in NZ listen to us compared with places in America where we can get 21,000 streams on a certain song, so it’s really interesting to see how those demographics workout.

I don’t think overall we’re in it for any kind of money, we just want to make music and play to people, that’s the fun of it. Making money would be awesome, but not a lot of musicians make money these days, so I don’t think that’s the aim.

It’s a semi-serious hobby, no, it's a serious hobby, a very serious hobby.

But in any case, any money that we do make from Spotify, or the music shows we play goes back to making more songs. The money we made from our last EP, off the top of my head. Our last EP had 100,000 streams on Spotify, and that worked out to about $300.00. So, if anybody wants to make money from that…

It’d be pretty hard to divide that wouldn’t it?

Conor: This part for the band fund, this part for recording, that’s how we do it.

I believe Crooked Royals are about to go on a nationwide tour?

Keane: Yeah, pretty well all over the place. I think everyone’s excited, and we’re playing in the South Island, in Christchurch and Dunedin. I’ve personally never been there before, not sure about you guys, so it’ll be good to see those places.

We’re very happy to have our little tour and stuff.

You’re getting across the whole country too, a lot of bands are only doing two or three shows across the country, so you’re really getting out there amongst it.

Lee: There’s no way in hell we could play them all in a week, as well all have day jobs and stuff, so it’s a few weekends, but it’s going to be super enjoyable.

So, are your songs getting picked up by international radio and things like that?

Conor: Funny enough there are a lot of stations in Russia that have picked it up, and German radio as well, a couple from Britain and one in Indonesia, Triple J and The Faction in Australia. That was fuckin’ awesome, so, thank you very much.

Well that’s the interesting thing, is that I didn’t find you through New Zealand means, and I run a NZ radio show, I found you through Australia, so The Faction people contacted me in regard to this interview.

There was a comment on their page about Alien Weaponry, Devilskin and their new guys representing NZ metal and representing to the world and changing the way it is… what are your thoughts on that?

Keane: It’s a pretty crazy comment. Best comment we’ve ever had online. When we saw that comment we were like ‘wow’.

You’ve got to take those comments with a grain of salt, but it certainly seems that NZ music is making a bit of a wave on the world at the moment.

Keane: Yeah, we want to get out there and show the world what we can do here , and the fact that people internationally are picking up our stuff is really amazing, we get a few fans of ours messaging us, I’ve actually played with a few of them on Play Station. People in America and all over the world want to listen to us, and hang out with us online, and it’s like really humbling. Hopefully we can invigorate this metal scene here, because we want NZ metal to stand out as well.

That’s it, and we do have a huge amount of talent here.

Keane: Exactly, it’s crazy.

Do you feel though the NZ metal scene is going through a bit of a revival there at the moment?

Christian: It feels awesome, it’s picked up, since 8 Foot Sativa it went down a little bit, but, I think if anything in New Zealand we have a big emo uptake, dunno if that helps. But the guys from Alien Weaponry are doing great, they’re just slapping NZ everywhere. There’s also a shit ton of local metal bands who are absolutely killing it. We showed our management team in America the talent that’s’ here in New Zealand, and they were just blown away by how much we have over here.

That’s what we want to hear, that’s absolutely fantastic. Last couple of questions: first, and briefly, what does ‘metal’ mean to you?

Keane: Metal, I feel, is the most passionate kind of music there is as people playing it onstage give all they’ve got, that’s what I really love about it. Fortunately, I’m a very classic metal fan, so it’s hard for me to say.. But I got into it by listening to bands like Memphis Mayfire. Metal for me has always had that emo feel to it, that’s how I relate to it, you can bring across anger a lot better in metal than you can in any other kind of genre. For me metal is a release and an escape from day to day nonsense, I came to it from Slipknot and Lamb of God, and I still listen to them each and every day. It’s the way that you can have a really horrible day and plug in your headphones, jump on a train or a bus and all of a sudden your day’s OK, that’s kind of what metal means to me. The metal community are oddly the nicest people, but from the outside, they’re seen as people why wouldn’t be. Like if you saw a heavily tatted guy walking in the street looking angry as fuck you’d probably want to avoid him, but if you sat down with him and talked about music he’d probably chew your ear off and be the happiest person in the world.

Last question; words of advice for young musicians?

Lee: It’s something you should just do; whether it’s a covers band or whatever, just learn some songs and it’ll be great. Don’t be afraid to experiment, if you want to try a genre that wasn’t your genre growing up you should definitely try it. Get that stage experience under your belt if you really are passionate about it, ‘cause it’s all good to play in your garage and sound like the best band in your garage, but get out there and if you have to play in a caver band, do it, I used to play in a Filipino Christmas covers band in Whangarei. I know, so you get that experience, and just be open minded to music, if you’re a metal head, fine, but be open to rap, rock, country, reggae, everything. All music is gonna help you, pick it up and learn it. You never know where inspiration will get you from, it’s crazy. 


About Crooked Royals

Crooked Royals unearth harmony from unpredictability. The quintet is Christian Carstensen (clean vocals), Lee Mackley (heavy vocals), Jake Andrews (guitar), Keane Gilles (drums), and Conor Lawson (bass). Infusing metalcore with moments of head-spinning off-kilter prog, alternative melodies, and even nocturnal trap R&B, the band switch lanes seamlessly and smoothly.

They bob and weave past boundaries with a deft and dynamic approach. After racking up millions of streams independently and touring with various genre heavyweights, they perfect this vision on their full-length debut album, Quarter Life Daydream out through esteemed label 3DOT Recordings.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Crooked Royals


Quarter Life Day Dream
Year: 2022
Type: Album
Year: 2019
Type: EP
Year: 2018
Type: EP

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