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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Royal Headache Is A Perfect Name For This Garage-Rock Band From Sydney

Posted By on Thu, Jul 7, 2016 at 11:02 AM

click to enlarge Royal Headache - LUKE STEPHENSON
  • Luke Stephenson
  • Royal Headache

When a band makes multiple stops in the same city within a year, the second gig usually acts as a de facto victory lap — a way of thanking the fans for making the first show so memorable.

Royal Headache — a combustible, volatile, and completely thrilling garage-rock band from Sydney — are making their encore appearance in San Francisco for a slightly different reason.

The band’s blistering performance last August at the Rickshaw Stop was vintage Royal Headache: Lead singer Shogun ripped off his shirt and blasted out his immeasurably-soulful vocals, the band’s rhythm section provided an immediate, no-frills punk atmosphere, and the packed crowd ate it all up.

However, the band’s merchandise manager also drunkenly abused audience members, the setlist featured a couple of songs that were abandoned at midpoint, and the band eschewed an encore.

“That last show at the Rickshaw Stop — we kind of assumed everyone hated us,” bassist Joe Sukit says. “We just felt like a bit of a mess. This next show is more about returning for redemption.”

The Rickshaw Stop show perfectly summarized the Royal Headache experience. The garage/R&B group (imagine Otis Redding backed by Guided By Voices) burst upon the scene in 2012 with the release of its self-titled debut album, a bonfire of fiercely-urgent songs, all in danger of prematurely imploding because of their breakneck pace. At the center was Shogun, a red-headed dervish of howling vocals and manic energy.
After the success of its debut, Royal Headache disappeared for a while, amidst numerous reports (some from within their own camp) that it had disbanded. When its equally-impressive follow-up release, High, came out in 2015, it arrived with the caveat that Shogun was done with the band. Fortunately for all involved, the band coalesced and decided to soldier on, although its long-term fate is not exactly assured at this point.

“The day Royal Headache [is] capable of planning anything, my head will explode,” Sukit says. “It’s hard to know what will happen week to week with our band. We don’t operate conventionally as a group, or as people.”

Sukit’s self- deprecating humor is indicative of the band’s unpretentious approach to its craft. Royal Headache has always retained an air of approachability (more than a few of their gigs have been interrupted by fans rushing the stage), and its laid-back demeanor is what makes it so beloved by fans. It's just four normal dudes (who still work full-time jobs) that happen to have come together and produced a unique brand of garage-rock music.
The band has a trove of unreleased songs, many of which may make it on its setlist for the current tour, which includes a spot at the Pitchfork Music Festival on July 16. Sukit says the group is scheduled to hit the studio in August, but when and if those songs make it to a new album remains a mystery.

“We’ve actually got about 20 completed songs along with a million more unfinished,” Sukit says. “But now it seems to takes us three times as long to make an album. So, we might have a new record by 2025.”

Royal Headache plays with Toys that Kill and Tony Molina at 8 p.m., Monday, July 11, at the Great American Music Hall. $15; more info here

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Will Reisman

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