Royal Teeth’s Gary Larsen on Long-Distance Drives and the New Orleans Vibe

After emailing song ideas back and forth while living two hours apart, the members of Louisiana indie/dance pop six-piece Royal Teeth took a leap of faith, quit their day jobs, and headed out on tour. That was a year ago, and since then, the group has released an EP, Act Naturally, played on “Last Call with Carson Daly,” and is set to release its debut album, Glow, in August. While on the way from Atlanta to Dallas, we talked with vocalist/guitarist Gary Larsen about driving in pairs, New Orleans, and Glow. Royal Teeth play with American Authors and The Colourist at the Tractor this Thursday (6/27).

With so many band members, driving in shifts doesn’t sound too bad. We go in pairs so no one falls asleep. It’s not too bad because we have seven people in the van. It’s a bit cramped at times, but things could be worse [laughs].

Do you save conversation topics so you have something to talk about? Your band mates become like your family, so it becomes funny when you run out of usual topics. Stevie [Billeaud], our guitar player, likes to listen to short stories. We’ll play music but it soothes us to sleep sometimes so we put on different comedy shows, stuff that keeps our attention.

It’s been a year since you all quit your jobs and hit the road. Where did you work before? I worked at Starbucks for close to three years. Our drummer [Josh Hefner] finished his first year of law school and had to drop out. Vocalist Nora [Patterson] was a design consultant at a flooring company. We all had very different jobs. Some of us lived in New Orleans, and some of us lived in Lafayette. Getting together was a bit difficult so we resorted to technology, sending emails back and forth with song ideas. We’d only get a couple practices a month so when we left for our first tour, so much changed so fast.

What’s it like to look back on the last year? It’s surreal. Sometimes, where we are now doesn’t feel much different than where we were a year ago when it comes to getting somewhere and playing a show. You have to take a second to realize that people are there to see us. It’s one of the best feelings in the world if you’re a musician to know that people are responding to it. We’re really excited that it’s working [laughs].

With such a heavy jazz history, is New Orleans supportive of Royal Teeth’s music? I think so, yeah. At first, we weren’t sure if we belonged in the music scene but they have all kinds of music in Louisiana. Being a little bit different was actually good for us; it helped us stand out, and it gave us our own edge. Even though we don’t quite sound like a typical New Orleans band, we really try to make that come across, that carefree, dancing-in-the-streets vibe that New Orleans has.

Glow will be released in August. What can you tell me about the album? We’re so, so excited. We recorded it with Gavin Brown [of Metric] in Toronto. It’s funny; a lot of people say when they listen to our music, there’s a very bright and positive vibe, it’s very colorful music. But we recorded it in Canada during one of the coldest winters they’ve had in years. It totally helped inspire the record because we made the record a little more intimate than the EP. But at the same time, it does carry over the bright, positive nature of our music. Having an EP for so long, you want to give a full album to everybody, so we’ve been very anxious to share more music with people.

What’s next for Royal Teeth? We’ve been so lucky to have so much momentum from just an EP. We’ll be doing everything we can to share the record with as many ears as possible and as many people that will come to our shows and be a part of it. We hope by the time this record comes out and we look back on another year, we’ll feel like we’ve moved forward even farther.

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