Royal Shoals, “Com Et Dius?”

Sjimon Gompers

Royal Shoals

Philadelphia's Royal Shoals. (press instamatic photo courtesy of the artists)

Get to know Philly's Royal Shoals with their premiere of “Com Et Dius?” This regal trinity is comprised of former members of The Ropers, Saturday People, Public Record, and Motor, who push to find new sounds all across the coastal sands. Their featured single debut of “Com Et Dius” follows up their releases Surrounderer + 3 and the Dirty Water EP for a motorik inquiry into life's elusive identifying signifiers of potential enlightenment.

Royal Shoals create their own locomotive train set with “Com Et Dius”, aligning box car riffs onto the electrified tracks where every sound is propelled by rhythm. Guitars, bass lines, and pianos measure up against the constant chug emanating from the drum's infectious energy. The engine of “Com Et Dius” takes on the artifice of identity in the grand picture and scale of life, asking the listener, “what's your name?” With the unrelenting percussion, the chords make certain changes up and around the band to the existential lyrics of “life sits you down and takes you nowhere.” But according to the sound and tones of Royal Shoals, everything is moving somewhere even if you are listening to “Com Et Dius?” while pleasantly seated in one place.

We talked to Royal Shoals to find out what they're listening to these days, the latest Philly report, recording with Jeff Zeigler, and the group's origins.

How did Royal Shoals first begin?

We formed around the concept of becoming the house band for a surf film club. We were watching a whole lot of classic surf films at the time. Matt [drummer for Royal Shoals] was the curator…we watched groovy 60s classics in the style of Endless Summer and the 70s meditative mind trips like the Morning of the Earth. The music we were creating was supposed to go hand in hand with the surfing and the watching of the surfing. The club only had one or two meetings… The band just kept meeting. The early RS songs definitely reflect that surf club aesthetic.

Given the previous contributions to bands like, The Ropers, Saturday People, Public Record, and Motor; how have these experiences impacted the sound of Royal Shoals.

We’re an adulterated muddle of those bands and, maybe more so, of the bands that influenced those bands, and so on. We've learned a few key things along the way: 1. Stay in the pocket and 2. Nobody wants to hear your heartfelt ballads. As the discography reveals, some of our prior projects were very active bands, some with an actual fan base, yet most with little-to-no commercial success. What does that prepare you for? It prepares you for playing for Tecate and a hand shake… and that's okay.

Often we’re trying to do the same sort of stuff we were doing in those bands from our past. There are certainly references throughout the Shoals catalog… but as a three-piece we have to get creative in sculpting the sound. Arranging for a three piece can take a song that might have been flamboyant and shimmering with a four or five piece and turn it a bit rowdy and angular. Of course, in the studio, a band takes some liberties. For instance, our friend Gareth helped us out on the keys on a couple of tracks.

Interested in hearing about you all recording Dirty Water with Jeff Zeigler.

So far, we've recorded everything we've done with Jeff. He's an old and dear friend, and his skills are getting recognized worldwide, certainly after Kurt Vile and The War on Drugs blew up. We were lucky to have had him at the wheel for those tracks… dude's a guru in the studio when it comes to keeping us focused, making the right decisions, and identifying the best lunch to order for delivery. We had recorded with Jeff on previous band projects, but Dirty Water was the first time we really heard what RS sounded like. Jeff was naturally an integral part of that discovery.

What lent inspiration to the “what is your name” rolling and rocking inquiry in the French titled song, “Com Et Dius?”

The phrase does look a bit French, but it's actually Catalan for 'what's your name,' and it was a bit of a post-modern accident. When I was working on the lyrics, I happened to be watching a documentary about Johan Cruyff, so naturally there was a focus on his time as a player and coach at Barcelona FC and the club's importance within Catalan culture. There is also a koan that I read around the same time in The Blue Cliff Record titled “Yang Shan's What's Your Name?” So I suppose in a way, this song is kind of like “Johan Cruyff's What's Your Name?” We should stress to those looking for spiritual meaning here, that although there are many paths to enlightenment, this song is not likely one of them. It's not about Cruyff either.

What are you all working on music wise right now?

We're writing more songs of course, playing gigs, watching the skies.

What's everyone listening to these days?

Greg: Withered Hand, Hospitality, Chris Cohen, Go-Betweens.

Jamie: Tijuana Panthers, Orange Juice, and the Ramones, always the Ramones.

Matt: ceo, Matt McCluer and the Mekons' Fear and Whiskey.

What's the current Philadelphia indie report? You all have so many awesome bands!

Philly's obviously getting some attention now after the amazing The War on Drugs album dropped, but there are tons of bands here just doing their own thing which is what makes the scene so eclectic and special. The Extraordinaires, Literature, Light Heat, Birdie Busch, Pattern is Movement…holy cow there's so much. Watch out for Myrriahs.

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