A band with members from Baton Rouge, Lafayette and New Orleans, Royal Teeth is ascending on the national music stage.
Act Naturally, Royal Teeth’s debut EP for the Los Angeles-based Dangerbird Records, features the band’s bright, upbeat original songs and a remake of the Knife’s 2003 hit, “Heartbeats.”
Formed in September 2011, Royal Teeth impressed Dangerbird Records CEO Jeff Castelaz shortly thereafter during a Halloween night show at The Maison on Frenchmen Street in New Orleans.
“As soon as they hit the stage, I got that special feeling inside,” Castelaz, who’d wanted to sign a New Orleans band to his label for years, said in a record company press release. “I knew they were the band that would allow us to put our stamp on the city’s musical lineage.”
“We were playing on Halloween, so it was a crazy night already,” Royal Teeth’s 22-year-old singer-guitarist, Gary Larsen, recently said.
Castelaz enjoyed the band on stage and its then merely self-issued EP, Act Naturally, too.
“Jeff said some of his best introductions to the bands he’s worked with have been through EPs,” Larsen added. “So we decided to re-release our EP through them, get the Dangerbird push and start touring.”
Act Naturally’s Dangerbird edition has been remastered and the songs are sequenced differently, but otherwise it’s the same recording.
“We loved the mixing and everything that we originally had,” Larsen said. “But after working with Jeff, it does have a better feel to us and now we can, hopefully, present it to more people.”
Even before Dangerbird entered the picture, Royal Teeth had gone the extra mile to make Act Naturally polished, professional work.
“We didn’t want to do half-decent demos,” Larsen said. “We took the time to make a solid product that we really loved. We thought that would give us the most opportunities.”
The band’s quest for excellence included technical and artistic goals.
“We’re a pop band but we still wanted to have a lot of heart in our music,” Larsen explained. “We wanted lots of energy and a real big sound. That’s pretty much what we got.”
Royal Teeth recorded Act Naturally in Charleston, S.C., with producer Eric Bass at his Ocean Industries studio. Bass was on a break from his day job, so to speak, as a member of major-label rock band Shinedown.
The week of sessions in Charleston went well, even though Larsen and Royal Teeth’s other principal vocalist, former Baton Rouge resident Nora Patterson, were in a recording studio for the first time. Following two days of pre-production, the group moved confidently to recording.
“It was really long hours but we were so excited to be doing it,” Larsen said. “It shouldn’t have been so easy, it shouldn’t have been as natural as it was, but it was. Everything just worked. That’s why we called it Act Naturally.”
As promising as working with Dangerbird Records looked, Royal Teeth didn’t rush into a contract.
“We worked hard to make sure everything we did was a good decision that moved our band forward,” Larsen said. “A few of our members have been in bands before. They went through trial and error and they learned a lot. So through their knowledge we’ve been able to plan.”
Prior to joining Dangerbird, the group played the CMJ Music Festival in New York City and the Southwest By Southwest Music and Media Conference in Austin, Texas.
A win in Nikon’s Creative Invite contest got the band a free trip to Austin and an opening-act slot for Fun. While in the Texas capital, Royal Teeth caught the attention of CNN, which featured the group on CNN.com.
Following the latter fortifying experience, Royal Teeth signed with Dangerbird, home of nationally known indie-rock bands Silversun Pickups, Minus The Bear and Fitz and the Tantrums.
The band launched the first tour of its career May 11 in Hattiesburg, Miss. Subsequent tour stops include Irving Plaza in New York City, the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., the House of Blues in Boston and Rams Head Live in Baltimore. The group comes home to Louisiana this week for shows in Lafayette and New Orleans.
“Even though we’ve worked so hard to get it, it’s still shocking,” Larsen said of the band’s swift success. “Everything’s been happening so fast. We’re still kind of awed, I guess.”