Royal Headache's songs are an exercise in precision. Though they're jam-packed with punk's brio, power-pop's catchiness and soulful swagger, these ditties clock in at two minutes apiece. It's hard to imagine that these Aussies once struggled with their craft, but it turns out that making their self-titled debut was indeed a royal headache.
Most of the instrumental tracks were laid down in two or three takes, so everything seemed to be galloping along, the band told Spin in a recent interview. Then came the vocals. The process of recording them took 15 months. Before long, the band seemed more likely to split up than release the songs they'd been toiling over for three years. It took a little help from some garage-rocker friends to get them back on track.
Producer Mikey Young, guitarist for Sydney garage rockers Eddy Current Suppression Ring, arrived in the nick of time. Using a bit of technical wizardry, he made it sound as if Royal Headache were playing a room filled with clouds of smoke and lots of spilled beer. It was just messy enough to reflect the process of making the album, plus lend the band a vintage sound that highlighted their love of old-school soul.
The band members were sold. They packaged up the songs and sent them on their merry way. Before long, magazines were calling for interviews, and the Black Keys tapped them for a slot on this fall's tour.
Despite having Pitchfork compare them to both Otis Redding and the Buzzcocks, Royal Headache isn't out to form a new subgenre called croonwave. If anything, their songs might renew fans' interest in pop-punk - that is, when the blogosphere's done waxing about the band's obsession with Stax and Motown. Yes, the Temptations would approve of this record, but it's not a swim through oceans of girl-group LPs and tears from unrequited romances. This is manly rock, clad in ripped jeans and leather jackets, delivered with a lilt only an Aussie can conjure.