Interview: Broke Royals (New Single: “U + Me + WWIII”)

Broke RoyalsBroke Royals (Photo courtesy the band)

DC heartland rockers Broke Royals release a new single, “U + Me + WWIII,” on Friday, Sept. 4. The song focuses on anxiety-related insomnia largely stemming from the political and social unrest facing the world today.

This track sprang from Broke Royals’ Alone, Together series where the band creates a new song every week. Season 1 of Alone, Together, a livestream chat and music series, wrapped on July 31 after 10 episodes and 10 accompanying new songs. Broke Royals launches Season 2 of Alone, Together on Sept. 18.

Parklife DC’s Mickey McCarter chatted with Philip Basnight and Colin Cross of Broke Royals in advance of the new single and upcoming livestream series for an inside look at the band’s creative process. And of course, Parklife DC readers named Broke Royals as the Best DC Band of 2018 in our inaugural Thrushie Awards, so you know the gents started out strong, and they are only getting better.

Broke Royals are brimming with creativity and enthusiasm, and the upcoming livestream series is a great way for new and familiar listeners to catch up with them. You can get new episodes of Alone, Together from Broke Royals via the band’s Patreon account or you can catch it on their YouTube channel.

Mickey McCarter: Hey, gents, so great to chat with you. You have a new single coming out tomorrow, Sept. 4 — “U + Me + WWIII.” What can you tell me about it?

Philip Basnight: The song is lyrically about anxiety and dealing with the current political and social situation in 2020, and how a lot of times every day seems to be escalating to a new high in the news. I deal with a lot of anxiety, and a lot of times that results in insomnia — a lot of sleepless nights. My partner is a very fast sleeper, and I will just be lying awake in bed for hours while she successfully cruises off to sleep.

That was the jumping off point for the song, but we took it to the extreme, obviously, with World War III. I think of it as a singalong for the apocalypse — something on a pretty grand scale. But if you actually listen to the lyrics, it’s in fact about something pretty intimate and personal.

MM: Was this written during the pandemic lockdown?

PB: It was, yeah. I had a scribble of the first lyrics from some other crisis point in the Trump presidency. Just the first two lines, “another night, another Friday bed, as I laid beside you fending off my existential dread.” And I liked the fun, playful quality, but also the lyrics are kind of heavy.

Then, as things escalated over the course of 2020, the song really filled itself out, and it wrote itself.

We have been writing a song every single week as part of our Alone, Together series. We did 10 weeks and 10 songs in the first season, which ended on July 31. We return in September for Season 2.

Watch the debut of “U + Me + WWIII” by Broke Royals in an episode of Alone, Together on YouTube:

Colin Cross: Alone, Together is recorded as a live series. We write in separation; we write alone. Phil sends me the initial song idea, and I’ll add drums to it. Then I’ll send it on to Benji (Guitarist Ben Wilson — editor!). So Phil doesn’t hear what I add, I don’t hear what Benji adds. Benji will send it on to Taimir Gore, who’ll add some bass. And then, they have free range to add whatever they want.

So, we each add these parts, and then we send it on to Nate, who’s our amazing sound guy. And he’ll mix it, and he’ll add any other light production elements. And so we’ve not heard it. And on Friday, every week, we get on a livestream, and we hear it for the first time live. It’s a really cool experience because we’re hearing it for the first time with the viewers.

That’s how the whole idea started. It is also a way to be accountable to producing a new song every week. That’s faster than uploading and going through all the normal channels can be. That’s usually at least a month process. We instead have this fun, weird experience. We’ve also never heard this song that you are hearing, yet it is by our band.

MM: That is fascinating. Tell me about how that comes together. Like all the members of the band dial into something separately?

I’m trying to picture how it works on a practical level.

CC: Getting a little bit technical, we use a livestream software that allows us to bring in Skype feeds as if they were cameras. We have a Skype call going, and then I run a livestream broadcasting software on my computer. It doesn’t look as if we’re all in the same room; we’re clearly on a Skype call. But if there’s five cameras up there.

Watch the official music video for “Love & Tatters” by Broke Royals on YouTube:

MM: Looking forward to the upcoming season of livestreams, what else might we expect? I’m particularly excited to read from your press release that my friend Will Eastman is going to join you. What do you have in store for him?

PB: We are doing the same, and going at it again for Season 2. But this season, we’re going to be collaborating with DC Design Week, which is all virtual this year, for a session. And our session, which is going to be an Alone, Together livestream, is about creating a song in a week and basically highlighting rapid creativity, giving tips for not getting bogged down and avoiding writer’s block if you have to be creative in a really short window of time, which we all got a lot of practice with this summer.

And Will Eastman is going to join us, because we wanted to invite more collaboration in the session. And we actually also just found out that David Combs from Bad Moves is going to join us as well. So it may potentially be the whole band, but at the very least we will have David as part of it as well.

We’re going to write a song with David and Will in a week. And the same as we do for every session of Alone, Together, we will release it and see what happens. We’re really excited about that collaboration. We definitely had collaboration on the brain when we started this. We actually collaborated with Reed Appleseed, a DC artist, for Week 4 in Season 1, and that was a lot of fun. That was one of my favorite songs, personally. We also want to make sure that everyone can fit into it in some way. And so, for example, on that week, I didn’t play any guitar because I knew that Reed is a guitar player. We also have a guitar player in our band. And so I wanted to leave space for that, for example. So, sometimes I’ll add percussive elements, but when Will Eastman joins I definitely won’t, because I want to hear what he can add from all his years as an electronic musician.

It’s really fun to imagine your song with whoever you’re working with that week and imagine what they might be able to bring to the table. And even people within our own band have surprised me, which is also pretty cool.

Season 2 will be another 10 weeks, which will take us through 2020.

Watch the official music video for “As Long as I Can See” by Broke Royals on YouTube:

MM: So when you have all these new songs, will you put them on an album? Will you cull the best of them and put them on an album? What happens to them after you create them?

PB: The songs are available for immediate release on Patreon. As soon as our livestream is done, they’re up on Patreon, and that’s been a really great way for that community to have a place to talk about new music and stuff. So our Patreon have been really loving that. We don’t want to make any promises, but “U + Me + WWIII” was a song from Season 1. I definitely could envision a song from Season 2 also getting a single release.

We definitely want people to hear some of these songs on streaming services eventually. Right now, you can get a full album for free, just by signing up for our email list. It would be that simple for anyone who wanted to get 10 songs right now. We had a lot of fun writing in new genres, and we’re flexing a little bit. And so it is a really cool 10 song series, and we invite everyone to check it out.

MM: I would imagine with collaborators, like Bad Moves and Will Eastman, that a song is probably going to sound a little different than a typical Broke Royals song. And that’s a little unfair of me to say because you have demonstrated a willingness to spread your wings in the past.

PB: To have a sound is a great thing. We appreciate that. Colin, any thoughts?

CC: I would say we’ve spread our wings even more in this series than ever before. And that’s exciting. But we’ve established a sound that we’re excited to have. It’s always cool to get to collaborate and just see what other people bring to the table with their talents.

***

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