9:30 Club presents at U Street Music Hall - Early Show
1115 U Street NW
Washington, DC, 20009
This event is all ages
U.S. Royalty searches for home on their sophomore album Blue Sunshine. Chronicling
the search for connection, intimacy, and acceptance, the album recounts times of confusion giving way to moments of clarity. From the tender swell of lead track “Into The Thicket” to the orchestral thrust of album title track “Blue Sunshine,” the album explores the tension between polished composition and raw energy.
After relentlessly touring the U.S. over the last few years and performing at festivals such as SXSW, Art Basel, and the Sweetlife Festival, the Washington, D.C.based band (John Thornley, Paul Thornley, Jacob Michael, and Luke Adams) wanted to take a season to reflect. With the unexpected passing of John and Paul’s father and the disorientation upon returning to a city forsaken for the road, they felt the need to start fresh. To focus on reflection and new approaches to songwriting, the band isolated themselves with longtime friend and engineer, Justin Long (Mirrors) for six months in a house overlooking a cemetery near Great Falls, MD. While in this setting, themes of home and longing gave rise to a larger picture of the individual struggle for meaning and purpose. With these ideas
brewing, the guys brought in another good friend, Sonny Kilfoyle (the band Minks), to coproduce and help guide these songs and lyrics to the surface. Soon after, U.S. Royalty decamped for Dreamland Studios, a former church turned recording studio in upstate New York. Most of the band’s members were first introduced to music while growing up in church, so it seemed only fitting to have this centuryold, oncesacred space as a creative refuge. The studio’s kaleidoscopic stained glass, cavernous sanctuary live room, and reverb plates stretching the length of the basement provided a familiar and inspiring backdrop for the group to bring months of work to fruition.
The recording process consisted of the band making use of a church organ, mellotron, strings and an array of analog equipment to introduce subtle layers into their already dynamic 4piece. Sparse and elegant one moment and brash and recklessly passionate the next, they weave a musical tapestry from such unlikely compatriots as Mazzy Star, Stevie Nicks, and The Verve, with the vocal fervor of early U2. Lyrically, the album draws from the well of saudade, a Portuguese word that conveys a deep, melancholic longing for someone or something, coupled with the knowledge that the person, place, or experience is forever out of reach.
The fascination with cinema continues the theme that U.S. Royalty developed with their debut album. Where Mirrors mimicked the swagger of Spaghetti Westerns and Kubrick films, Blue Sunshine can be read against the narrative content of Malick's masterpiece “Days Of Heaven.” The characters in the film seem forever in flight, either running from the law or chasing inheritance money, but they're also pulled in by America's gorgeous open spaces and limitless opportunity, somehow finding comfort in the swirling change around them. Like the band, they manage to find shelter somewhere between the road and home. John's weariness is laid bare in “Blue Sunshine,” as he asks with a howl, "Why is the peace we had drifting away?" The fingerpicking and harmonies of "Into the Thicket" and “Get On Home” sound like echoes of the film's poignant shots of Texas wheat waving in the wind. In the record's lone instrumental, "De Profundis,” guitarist Paul’s sparse, layered acoustic guitars duel each other from start to finish, producing glimpses of beauty that are pulled back down into the churning, muddy lowend. Luke and Jacob’s rhythm section, which relentlessly drives in songs like "Lady in Waiting" and "Valley Of The Sun,” stands it’s ground throughout the album giving it a solid foundation akin to the church they recorded in.
Blue Sunshine sounds like it was recorded in what those in the film industry call the "magic hour," that softly lit time just before the sun rises and right after it sets. As light filtered through the old church's stained glass, John penned the lyrics to "Get On Home" while acoustic guitar reverberated through the cavernous space. What may be the album's most singular statement came from this unplanned moment, as John speaks for the band: "Lost a few friends, no fault of our own. Wasteland of the places I've come now to call my home."
By: Jeremy Mohler
Sunwolf was formed in the milieu of DC’s present-day garage revival. The brain-child of Rob “Kalani” Tifford, who was seeking both the hazy fuzz of The Seeds and the asymmetrical aggression of Sonic Youth. In 2010, Sunwolf emerged quickly through the DC scene opening for the likes of Deathfix, Ty Segall, and Ted Leo and the Pharmacists with live performances that became increasingly more feral and chaotic. The antics on-stage and off, quickly became a concern, leading Kalani to condense Sunwolf to a leaner 3-piece, that included drummer Danny Bentley and bassist Tom Bunnell.
In January, Sunwolf released their eponymous EP, produced and recorded by DC’s infamous Uncle Punchy. This self-titled release solidified Kalani’s desires for Sunwolf, ultimately leading to many more wild and chaotic affairs up and down the East Coast with the occasional awe inspiring appearances by Jerry Busher (Fugazi, French Toast, Fidelity Jones).
Quickly after the DIY release of their EP, Sunwolf approached Jerry to record and produce a new batch of songs. During the recording process, Kalani realized that Tom was more suitable on guitar and switched to bass. The six songs that Sunwolf recorded are the result of an intense and dynamic collaboration between the band and it’s producer.
Angel Eyes is drenched in the sun-soaked swagger of summer love, ensuing lust, and an inspired urbane libretto that would make T. Rex proud, “you’re a fire breathing tiger saber-tooth man-eater girl/ yeah that’s what you do!”
That, indeed, is WHAT you do.