Salt Lake City rockers, Royal Bliss, released their latest studio album, Chasing the Sun, on February 18, 2014.
Though Royal Bliss released Waiting Out the Storm in 2012, the album’s two singles failed to make the Top 40 Active Rock chart. But their single “Cry Sister” (Chasing the Sun) climbed the charts, having been released on October 29, 2013.
Royal Bliss, which has been active since 1997, has recorded 8 studio albums, and though they were previously signed to Capitol Records, they have since split from the label. Instead of finding a new label, the guys of Royal Bliss decided to build their own, with the idea of first and foremost, representing the bands’ best interests.
“It’s way different and a lot more relaxed,” said lead vocalist Neal Middleton on Chasing the Sun. “No label and no manager over our shoulders trying to tell us what to record and what direction. It was all us and it was a good album experience.”
The ten track album has a distinctive American rock feel, from the opening scream of the first track “Welcome” to the almost country feel of the final song “Home”. In particular, “Cry Sister” features a moody bass line and a rock ‘n roll apathy in Middleton’s lyrics.
Perhaps most intimate is “Drink My Stupid Away”, in which he sings, “If I could break myself in two, one for them and one for you…and I’m scared I may never feel this again.” Through this track, which features a simple piano, Middleton reminds us that rock is not all machismo and guitar solos. Though rock tracks are increasingly losing top 40 slots to EDM, pop and hip hop, Royal Bliss managed to remind me why my father raised me listening to rock music. Rock is more than just Johnny Cash and Les Paul; it’s more than post-hardcore bands and grunge.
Stylistically, Royal Bliss isn’t breaking ground with its sound in the grand scheme of rock music. However, the guys of Royal Bliss are taking their music in a direction the band has never gone in. And ultimately, that is far more important in the eyes of the fans.
Recently, I got the chance to speak to Middleton to discuss the new album, how the band started its own record label, and some of the bumps along the road.
Chasing the Sun is available on iTunes, Amazon, and through the band’s website.
Blast: You’ve got this new album, chasing the sun, which came out on the 18th, and so I’m curious, how is this album different from your older ones?
Neal Middleton: We went back to our roots almost. This is the first record we put together as a four piece, so it’s definitely different. We recorded it at home in Salt Lake, and it almost was an accident because we’d just go in and record songs just for a couple weeks in the studio, maybe record 4 or 5, and then leave. Then we’d go back in in another month of so, record 3 or 4 and it was just really relaxed. We didn’t even really have a game plan to do a record with these songs, but then we ended up with these 10. It was just like, ‘wow, these are pretty damn good songs!’ We were doing a lot of co-writing with a lot of other local artists in Salt Lake and our drummer [Jake Smith] wrote all the music to one of the songs. So it was a really good collaboration of writers, who we’re all friends with, and everybody in the band.
Blast: You guys used Kickstarter to fund this album. What was the reasoning behind that?
Middleton: In the past we’d been with Capitol Records and we’d found private investors to invest and be a part of the album. This time we thought it’d be a cool idea to do the Kickstarter thing and get the fans involved…We involved them in the whole process. Kickstarter’s actually helped us pick the album cover and we have a private group where we go in and talk to [the fans] and if they have any questions—they’re basically our label. It’s been a kind of fun experiment. I would do it again for sure.
Blast: It seems like it’s much more about the music then.
Middleton: Yes, one hundred percent.
Blast: I notice that you guys are going on tour. Are you playing all new stuff from the album?
Middleton: We’re playing a lot of the new songs on the road. Depending on our set, we’re doing up to 7 or 8 of the new tracks mixed in with all of our old ones. When we have our headlining sets we’ll throw all of those in. We’re definitely trying to play as many songs off the new album as we can, and the feedback we get from the fans is that that’s what they want to hear, they want to hear the new stuff.
Blast: Do you have any favorite tour stories? Or perhaps decisions you wouldn’t have made as a band?
Middleton: Aw jeez there [are] a million crazy tour stories. There are so many mistakes you make as a band if you stay with it as long as we have. But I think those mistakes are what have made us stronger, they’ve made us persevere and keep going and try not to make them again. There’s so many mistakes you’re gonna make. What you eat before you play, how close you eat before you play, transportation that you take. We travel in this bus we bought, and I don’t know if we’d do that again cause the gas mileage sucks…It’s really comfortable and it’s really nice to have a place to call home and party in. But I’d go for a more fuel-efficient way to travel around the country. There’s many a night that I wish I didn’t get as drunk as I did, but that happens still. [Laughs] So some mistakes you don’t learn from.
Blast: Well, it happens to the best of us. As you said, music is a pretty hard industry to break into and you guys have been in it for quite a while. Do you mind telling me about your start as Royal Bliss? What have you learned over the years?
Middleton: We started way back in high school and we did it in Utah, which is really difficult. There’s not a lot of people there to help you. We’ve always been a band that works really hard. We push ourselves and we promote ourselves, like our first tour that we ever booked: we jumped in a Geo Metro and packed the back of the car with press kits and CDs and drove to ever city in the western United States. We’d go and look up where bands like us could play, we’d drop a CD off and go in and hang out with the bartenders, give ‘em a press kit and say, “hey, we’re coming through from Utah.” We did that and went back home, then two weeks later we called and booked our first tour.
It’s just things like that where you gotta think outside the box. It’s tough coming up with the money to get out there and promote. It’s not all about social media, it’s about giving the person a handshake and looking them in the eye. For us we’ve just started our LLC right off the back to help protect us and [to] get our taxes right. We signed to Capitol and even though we had a really good record deal, it didn’t really matter cause [Capitol Records] got bought out by another company. The people that signed us and worked with us got laid off or left the company, so we were just floating in limbo. We just decided to release the record on our own. We didn’t need anybody.
One thing for us is that we’ve always booked our own tours. Right now we’re self-managed and we have our own independent record label with our own distribution deal. We can actually sign other bands and work with other bands. It’s all from knowledge we’ve learned from the hard knocks of getting out there and doing it. You just gotta be careful with the people you work with, there’s so many people who will give you a million promises but then disappear, robbing you blind. That’s what we’ve learned.