The Royal Concept, an interview

text: Michael Raine

Seemingly overnight and with just a five-song EP out to date Stockholm, Sweden’s The Royal Concept is on the fast track to stardom. Their catchy-as-hell debut single “Gimme Twice” blew up online upon its release and shot to the top of The Hype Machine. Since then the band has been touring constantly and gaining a very enthusiastic following.

Don’t, however, let the online hype and early success fool you into thinking this foursome – comprised of David Larson, Filip Bekic, Frans Povel, and Magnus Robert – haven’t put in the work. Prior to coming together to form The Royal Concept (formerly known as the less regal The Concept), the four members played together in various incarnations as the backing band for a number of Swedish stars, including Robyn. Now firmly in the spotlight, the band is currently touring North America, honing their immensely danceable indie rock and prepping the tunes that will make up their debut LP.

Luckily for us, David Larson agreed to take the time to answer some of our questions on Sweden, online success, what they learned from Robyn, and the constant comparisons to Phoenix.

Michael Reine: First, could you tell Quip’s readers a bit your background and how the four of you came together to form The Royal Concept?

David Larson: Filip and I met in high school. We went to study at The Royall College of Music in Stockholm but we got very tired of being educated in jazz when the only thing we wanted to do was play rock ‘n’ roll. We dropped out of school and started a duo. We asked five-years-older Frans Povel, who already was a well-known Swedish drummer and producer, if he wanted to produce a couple of songs for us. When it was time to pay him, we offered him a place in the band instead of money because we didn’t have any, and luckily for us he accepted it. We pretty soon felt that we needed a bass player and asked our friend from college, Magnus, if he wanted to play with us. He was already playing behind a lot of great artists in Sweden and was a member of another way much more popular band than ours so we really had to fight for him. But when things started to go well for us both him and Frans Povel decided to leave all other projects behind and we were a band for real.

MR: You’ve seen a lot of success as a band very quickly, largely because of social media and blogs. How much of that quick, online-driven success was intentional on your part and how much was out of your control?

DL: The only intentional thing we did was to write a bunch of great songs that people really seemed to like.
Everything else from there was out of our control.

We haven’t seen any huge YouTube success or extreme Facebook stats so far but they’re great channels for us to stay in touch with our fans and give them something back. We have them and the blogs to thank for being able to now tour all around the world. It’s amazing that there are so many great supporters of new music out there.

MR: Why did you change your name from The Concept to The Royal Concept (the name change makes it a hell of a lot easier to find the band on Google so if that was part of the reason, good move)?

DL: Haha, thanks! Google accessibility is always smart to consider I guess. The name “The Concept” just wasn’t good enough and when another band, also named The Concept, released an EP that we really didn’t like we took our chance to add something royal to ours. Our audience are the royals and we’re on stage to entertain.

MR: The four of you played together is various incarnations as backing band members for Robyn, MRTN, and others. How did those days as a backing band help and influence you when you came together as The Concept?

DL: Robyn told us a bunch of tricks that were really helpful and to tour a lot has been the best school for us. I mean, overall, it’s just so great that everyone are great musicians in this band and that we don’t have to rehears so much in order to sound good. Rehearsals are so boring you know, we just want to play in front of people. Usually we just talk through new songs on the bus before the show and that’s awesome.

MR: Danceable, keyboard and guitar-driven rock and roll is not new. Why have your songs caught on so well with audiences when so many other bands fail?

DL: We just combine stuff we like and we’re not ashamed to play catchy songs with a lot of energy. We don’t care about credibility and hipster-level as a lot of other bands do.

I totally agree that this kind of music isn’t new, but I haven’t heard any other band that could combine two songs like “In the end” and “Gimme Twice” on the same EP and still make it sound as one unit. We think that we have something unique in that combination and we’re going to keep on refusing to stay away from certain kind of music just because it’s not cool enough. Maybe that’s why people feel something when they hear us…either they hate us or love us but still our music just happens to create emotions. And we’re very proud of that.

MR: For a relatively small country Sweden has exported a lot excellent and very successful rock and roll and pop music (I especially love The Hives and the recently-disbanded Soundtrack of Our Lives). What is it about Sweden, and Stockholm in particular, that allows it to punch above its weight in the music industry?

DL: We’re glad you mentioned Soundtrack of Our Lives. We recently played a show with their lead singer Ebbot and after that show he decided to break up with his band. Not saying that it had something to do with a pretty good “My generation” cover we did with him…

But seriously, you’re asking a very hard question that has thousands of answers. I think that it’s not necessarily a bad thing to be from a small country. I mean, look at Iceland, they have like 300.000 people to pick from and still they have pioneers like Bjork and Sigur Ros that really make a difference in the music business. So to have a lot of space, not that much to do, and little competition can also be a good thing. I think the same thing happened with The Hives. They were probably a really bad band in the beginning but they took time to work on what they had and today they are the best rock stars on the planet.

The recipe is to have patience and give yourself time. I guess the Swedish culture and society is good at that.

There’s just something in Swedish music culture that goes very well with especially the American audience. And that’s why we’re a part of this Swedish invasion going on right now.

MR: You guys wasted no time moving from Stockholm to New York City. Why make the move so early in your career?

DL: Why not? New York City is a fantastic place for finding inspiration and being an artist. But we didn’t really move to NYC to hang out, we wanted to have it as a base between tours. And so far, we’ve only been touring and that’s what we love to do the most so right now we don’t even have an apartment there anymore. We want to tour around the world and meet all these lovely people. That’s the best job there is.

MR: You’ve said in previous interviews that you have enough songs recorded for a full album. Why release a five-song EP and how do the songs on the EP compare to the songs you’ve saved for the LP?

DL: We simply just thought it was better to release an EP than just a single as a start. The more songs we can give away to people, the better.

Yes, we recorded a full album at the same time as the EP was recorded, but we’re constantly writing new songs and we try them out when we’re on tour. The audience is the best judge and you can tell by their reactions if a song is great or not.  So as long as the album release isn’t set, we can always write and record more songs to pick from when we’re about to decide the track list for the full length album.

MR: The song “In the End” is a real standout track. It’s more anthemic and emotional than the other four tunes included  on the EP. What is the story behind that song?

DL: “In the End” is our favorite song on the EP. I wrote it on piano and it sounded like a typical ballad. We tried a lot of things before we found the right clothes for this song, but we were all very happy when it at last felt right. We simply just love this kind of epic-ness and this is a side of us that you will hear more of in the future.

MR: Now for a (very) hypothetical question; the music gods grant you the ability to play one show anywhere in the world with any bands/artists, living or dead, that you want. What’s the location and who else in on the bill?

DL: The first live streamed show from the moon. I guess we have to bring “Walk the moon” so they can moonwalk while we’re playing.

MR: Lastly, how annoyed are you at this point with the constant comparisons to Phoenix?

DL: We’re not annoyed at all. They’re a very cool band and they did a fantastic record that inspired us and a whole generation of bands.

We totally agree that “Gimme Twice” could have been a great Phoenix song, but our other 100 songs wouldn’t suit their style. By the time we’ve released more tracks, comparisons will go away and more and more people will see that we have a world of our own.

Image courtesy of the artist