It wasn’t a long road for the Louisiana-based Royal Teeth to come together as a base unit, but it did take a serendipitous moment and some social networking to really push the group from a gathering of music aficionados to full-time band.
Sure, frontman Gary Larsen had been writing songs before, even telling his mother as a teenager that he would forego collegiate studies to pursue his career as a musician.
From there, he moved a few miles away from his home base of Slidell, La., to Lafayette, La., to meet up with friend and bassist Joshua Wells. Larsen then met Wells’ friends Josh Hefner and Andrew Poe, all three of whom had previously been in a band together called Oh, Juliet!
The guys jammed and had a few songs that they played at small shows around town. Guitarist Stevie Billeaud caught one of those sets and soon jumped aboard, and once vocalist Nora Patterson joined this motley crew, Royal Teeth came together in full.
In dire need of a female singer, Royal Teeth reached out to Patterson via the most social of networks: Facebook.
The flaming-red-haired Patterson got a simple message on her Facebook wall and took a rather significant leap of faith to join a band sight unseen, especially after never having even been in a band before.
“When Nora joined the band, I think that’s when everybody officially looked at each other and said, ‘This is it,’” recalled Larsen. “Any time you’re building a band, you think about why things aren’t working or what things you can do to get better. You never know what it is, but once that happened, we thought, ‘Oh, this is what it’s supposed to be like.’ It was kind of shocking, at first to me, that she would join a band with five dudes. She’d never been in a band, but I think that freshness and honesty was so refreshing. I don’t think she gives herself enough credit for what she gives to this band.”
While Patterson brought a fresh attitude, the other five band members provided practical wisdom; Larsen had dabbled with labels with his previous act, and Wells, Hefner and Poe’s band actually did the whole festival thing with their former incarnation. Together, the band was better able to navigate the ups and downs of the current music industry.
As such, Royal Teeth took a realistic and level-headed approach to the recording process of their 2012 EP, Act Naturally.
“The great thing about that is that we started a band with three people who were already in the mindset of experiencing the good parts and the bad parts,” said Larsen. “So I think when we approached this project, we were able to be a little more cautious and get more positive results.”
The initial four-song EP included a cover of the Knife’s “Heartbeats,” and another gem came in the wildly-energetic “Wild,” which features Larsen and Patterson harmonizing on the catchy call-and-response chorus.
“The thing to understand about the EP is that we had no expectations as to what we wanted it to be,” said Larsen. ”We went into that studio with the only songs we had ever written as a band, which was about 11 or 12. At that time, we didn’t think that the labels were going to come knocking. I know for me, I was able to let my guard down and just do what felt good, not what we thought other people would want.”
After earning radio play and touring with Silversun Pickups and Minus the Bear, Royal Teeth signed with the California-based indie label Dangerbird Records to put out a proper album.
While that might be a perfect prologue to this sextet of humble troubadours, the outcome was completely unplanned.
“It was about a year ago when we actually quit our jobs, signed the deal and started touring, and I don’t think any of us expected that we could go this far off an EP of just five songs,” said Larsen. “That wasn’t our intention, actually. It wasn’t like a big master plan – it just ended up working out that way. A lot of stuff happened for us quickly, and this is the situation we ended up in.”
But while the band was keeping their own expectations in check, they were also rapidly building their fan-base with their raucous live shows that included confetti cannons and glitter, balloons.
Through an aggressive touring schedule during the latter part of 2012 and early 2013, no one was safe from the Royal Teeth onslaught of flair.
“Early on, we saw this store not far from where one of us lives that sold confetti cannons, and we just bought all of them— boxes of these things,” said Larsen with a laugh. ”It was a bit of a hit, especially when we play ‘Wild.’ And now, we’re able to put a little bit of money into it. It’s not like we’re making a ton of money now, but it was even less before.
“Back then, I would go into the crowd and play the cajon. Or we’d throw out a ton of balloons. We didn’t have crazy lights, we didn’t have the money to put into that stuff, so it became a goal to make it more of a D.I.Y. experience for everyone. I wanted them to think that they were a part of the show.”
With a solid balance between members who have seen the music machine work before and an infusion of fresh eyes, Royal Teeth is poised to make a splash with their fans when their debut full-length effort, Glow, drops in August.
“I’d like to think we rose to the challenge,” said Larsen. “We’re a lot more confident with what we’re doing with this full-length. We tried to take all the positive energy that we built up in the last year. One thing that we wanted to do more this time around was capture more of that live energy, which is really hard to do on the record.”
If Royal Teeth can keep their high-voltage energy up during their heavy touring slate this summer, they can expect a lot more fans to join the bandwagon.
And that’s not too bad for a collective that has remained so grounded from the beginning.
For more information, visit Royal Teeth’s official website.