Rising Los Angeles electro-soul duo Royal Auditorium are the latest to be profiled in the Dorky Discoveries column.
A fan describes their sound as, “classy hotel club rooms,” but Brad Culver and Andrew Gilbert, the two members of Royal Auditorium, take it one step further, comparing their music to classy hotel club bathrooms, the sort of melancholic R&B that wisps around you as an attendant hands you a crisp towel to dry your hands, an assortment of delectables spread behind them and tempting you from the marble counter.
The pair began casually making music together while attending California Institute of the Arts over a decade ago, but it wasn’t until recently that they buckled down and began recording their debut EP, The Above Ground Sex Culture. Ten years may seem like a long time, but I’d say the band’s aged to perfection, achieving a synergy many groups don’t accomplish until their third or fourth release. Gilbert provides lead vocals and guitar, and is guaranteed to woo female fans with his bashful demeanor and commercial good looks. Supplying bass, Culver plays Gilbert’s brooding, intellectual counterpart. The end result is at once familiar and enigmatic, reminiscent of contemporary artists like James Blake, but with throbbing beats and layered vocals that inject life and soul into the ambient genre.
Perhaps the enigma is intentional, because while Royal Auditorium are successful in establishing themselves as signature in their murky R&B, the variety on their brief release leaves audiences stumped as to where they’ll take their sound next. On “We Can Change,” Gilbert’s silvery cantor mingles with guest vocalist Condola Rashad’s deeper, husky tones to create a smouldering, cautiously hopeful introduction to the album. In contrast, “Snow” is upbeat, with a jungly, slightly Phil Collins-esque feel. The single “Selfless” falls somewhere in the middle, a hauntingly groovy track with an echoing chorus and a head-nodding beat that twangs with electronica.
With a sound that refuses to be confined, the opportunities for collaboration are endless. When asked which producer they’d most like to work with, both men said in unison without hesitation, “Michael Jackson.” Runner up choices? Co-creator of the new jack swing genre, Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, and ARCA, who lent his skills to Kanye West’s infamous Yeezus album and FKA Twigs’ EP2. If these selections are any hint of what we can expect from future releases, I’d say fans have plenty to get excited about.
Royal Auditorium were lucky enough to have an outstanding cast contribute to the EP, including fellow Cal Arts alumni Gene Coye, percussionist for soul/R&B band The Endangered, on “Selfless,” Nick Block of Illuster Recording doing production, and mastering by Grammy-award winning engineer Gavin Lurrsen. Only five songs long and clocking in at an even 15 minutes, the EP proves purposeful and assured, if a bit of a tease.
So what’s next for Royal Auditorium? They hint that a new music video is due to drop soon, but are coy with the details, remaining mum on which track it’s for. The band plans to end 2014 on a strong note, and have been busy writing new material and preparing for a series of live shows in December.
To be the first to hear about new tour dates and video releases, fans can follow Royal Auditorium on Twitter.
Buy or listen to The Above Ground Sex Culture EP on iTunes: http://ow.ly/E1Z8u.