Most bands toil for years before anything resembling opportunity comes along. Things happened a lot quicker for Royal Teeth, who first started making exultant atmospheric indie-pop in November 2010.
By the following July, the Lafayette, La. sextet had already released its debut EP, Act Naturally, which included the band's breakthrough track. "Wild" features singers Gary Larsen and Nora Patterson doing the kind of wordless, soaring vocal chant that helped Arcade Fire win friends and influence people.
The song rapidly found its way onto several TV shows as well as becoming the background music for a Canadian Buick commercial. The buzz grew as Royal Teeth did its first national tours, increasing anticipation for a full-length album the band expects to be released sometime this spring.
"It's been a mix of emotions," says Larsen, who's just returned from Toronto, where the group finished most of the tracking with producer Gavin Brown (Three Days Grace, Metric). "It's a little surprising, very flattering, very exciting, and very nerve-wracking. All of that stuff at the same time and all in the best way possible. I don't think any of us expected this band to really take off as soon as it did. I just think it's the perfect mix of everything we have."
Timing certainly plays a role. The music scene's suddenly awash with upbeat synth-laden pop acts like Foster the People, Neon Trees, Imagine Dragons and AWOLNATION. Royal Teeth's six-song EP includes a dreamy, chillout-flavored take on The Knife's classic "Heartbeats" and the jangly, vaguely New Order-ish, "For Keeps."
While Larsen, who also handles guitar duties, may be the band's primary songwriter, he often brings the band little more than the skeleton of a song — some chords and a vocal melody. "Everyone kind of grabs it," he says, "and takes what they want to of it and makes it into something else."
Since the band has been touring nearly nonstop since the EP's release, most of the new material had to be written either on the road or during short breaks back home.
"We'd come home for two or three weeks and we would basically rehearse that entire time," says Larsen. "But surprisingly enough, as soon as we got in the studio, it was go time. There wasn't any hesitation or confusion on what we were doing. I'm not joking, the first day Hef [drummer Josh Hefner] was already tracking drums for three or four songs and was almost done."
A primary goal of the new collection was to capture the band's live energy, which features as many as four members banging on drums at the same time. The percussion-heavy arrangements echo the drum circles of Congo Square, although Royal Teeth's closest connection to New Orleans may be its resilient attitude.
"We just did a show where we were unloading in a snowstorm. This is the not fun part — trying to carry heavy gear and not slip and fall on our butts in three feet of snow. It's pretty intense," Larsen says. "But then we drive and play a show in Chicago and it's just fantastic, and the crowd's amazing, and instantly you realize how much you would love to do it all over again."