Perhaps we should have called it, “The Dumbing of the World”….
One of the worlds greatest mysteries is why great bands frequently dwell in obscurity while tepid bands top the charts and the covers of magazines that should know better (Muse on the cover of this weeks’ NME?! Wow, that’s cutting edge…). To be a successful band, do you really have to spend your time buying drinks for the editor of (insert name of website or magazine here.). Look, I read Stereogum and think he does a good job, but how many Wavves articles is he going to publish on that site?! There are so many great bands out there, that I barely have time to listen to all of them. Yet most magazines and websites dwell on the same band repeatedly. Other than East Hundred or The Duke Spirit, I doubt you’ll find more than one reference to the same band (and they’ve earned it.) on this site.
I realize this comes off as a holier than thou rant, but it’s been stewing in my brain for a while and I’ve found a band that’s brought me to a boil: Royal Treatment Plant. This is the most exciting band in England and deserved of a moment of your time.
We featured their song, ‘Undercurrent’ as one of our favorite songs of last month. Once we got a copy of the new record we were treated to a female-fronted band with a great story and even better music. Their press kit begins with the line:
“Hailing from a childhood as a preachers kid raised in Papua New Guinea by evangelical parents, RTP’s front woman Paula has a background that reads like a PR persons dream…”
Musically, Royal Treatment Plant have a truly unique ability to make radio-friendly melodies that suck you in and a ferocity that tears you to shreds. When you get to this level, I expect one member of your band to have enough talent to carry the group. RTP’s guitars, drums, bass, keyboards and Paula Steel’s vocals each provide their own ‘Wow’ moments throughout their debut record, “Hope Is Not Enough”.
After a bit of a hunt, we were able to track down lead singer Paula and ask her about the process of making one of our top 5 favorite records of 2009.
TDOA: The video for Undercurrent is brilliant. Please tell us who came up with the idea of writing the lyrics on parts of your body and the genesis of the video.
PP: Thats so cool that you like it! We love it too. I was playing with eye liner, writing the words to the song on my arm one day (I’d seen this advert where some guy gets covered in words in black marker and was playing about with the idea). I looked in the mirror and thought, “Hang on, if I smudge this and then we play it backwards the words will appear out of the smudge.” We did a lot of practice shooting for ‘Undercurrent’, as it was a real head fuck trying to work out how to shoot the video – we basically had to film it from finish to start, write the words on start to finish, and then reverse the footage, or something. I still don’t really know how we did it. We all work in day jobs, so we were running home from work trying to shoot while there was daylight, etc. We’ve done two more videos after that, one to ‘Half As Much’, which we shot on the southbank in London (one of my favourite parts of the city) and another to ‘You Dont Need Me’, but we haven’t put that up yet. Must do!
TDOA: Do you find that your religious background influences anything in your work with the band?
PP: Earlier on when I was writing songs this was a more evident influence in the lyrics, but the songs we actually recorded don’t really reference my background. I guess anything too obvious and self-attention seeking makes me cringe. I was never going to write a song called ‘There is no god and all who think so are tw*ts’, for instance.
TDOA: How do your parents feel about the decision to pursue “rock” as a career?
PP: They came to London once and saw two gigs. At the first, they went into shock. My mum kept mumbling something about getting the ‘mark of the beast’ from the, “man with the tattoos” on the door and my dad kept asking why I had to shake my head so much. To them rock music = satan. But they’ve calmed down now that they’ve heard the music recorded. I think the live gig scene in its indie state was a bit much for them, but maybe if we ever play a gig an an actual ‘music venue’ rather than a bar they’ll cope better. The second gig they saw we supported a band called ‘Living with Eating Disorders’ who self-harmed back stage, but they’ve recovered now; my mum and dad that is, not sure about LWED.
TDOA: We love your videos and are particularly impressed that it appears that you make your own videos. First, are we correct that you’ve made all the videos yourself?
PP: Yes, we make them all ourselves. DJ our bass player has a couple of hand held cams that we use. He is the cameraman and I am the bossy person who says “Cut that!” or “I look dumb in that. Let’s do this instead.” or “The lighting sucks”. We have no money and no other real equipment so it’s all a bit haphazard.
TDOA: The songs on your record have a tremendously raw, yet full sound throughout which is so rare. Did you feel like the recording process allowed you to create a “fuller” sound?
PP: I personally find the recording process quite intense and uncomfortable. Suddenly everything is under the microscope and that’s really not what its all about, and its definitely not what you wrote the song for. I am very touched that you like the recordings. We’re facing a mean old time here in London so we’re lovin the love! Our tune, we just recorded them real quick as demos really and put them together for an album. But yeah, I guess recording allows you to create a fuller sound. You can layer and layer and fuck about with stuff… and yet there’s really nothing better than ‘space’ in music.
TDOA: Most bands prefer playing live, but given the intensity of your recorded sound, can you give me a sense of what you prefer: playing live or recording albums?
PP: I love playing live. I find recording tough and as I am overcritical I spend most of the time hating everything we record until about 6 months later when I have enough distance from it to listen to it and not cringe.
TDOA: Any plans to release the album in America or play live here?
PP: Plans? Dreams, more like it. We’d love too. We’re not sure where to turn right now to take our dreams further. We’re a bit stuck, but I can’t stop writing songs, so no giving up now is there?
TDOA: The music scene in England seems incredibly competitive from where we sit in America. Do you think that’s an accurate portrayal or do you think there’s a comradery that we just don’t see?
PP: Competitive? Nah, it’s just full of shit-hyped bollocks. I find it increasingly superficial. Britain is party land. They’re a little too disco ball for the likes of my dark brain.
TDOA: When do you plan on recording new music?
PP: We’re 14 tracks into demos for a new album. There’s about six or seven, that I think are great. The last 3 tracks we did, ‘All the Same’, ‘Black Feather’ and ‘What a Shame’ are (at the moment) my favourite tracks. So yeah – recording lots, writing lots, making vids…its all good.
TDOA: Can you discuss what impact the internet has had on your ability to distribute your music and publicize the band without having a major label behind you?
PP: I personally, have tried to use the internet to promote our music, but for us it hasn’t worked. All the artists I know who have been reported in the media as ‘d.i.y’ or made their big break using myspace have had big press campaigns behind it all and have had record deals. The internet is over-crowded and like any media platform, it’s the people with the most money who get the most exposure. I like the sunday paper personally. That’s why I took so long to reply to your original email, I’m developing an internetallergy. If anyone wants any new tracks we’ll email them out, just myspace us. (ED. NOTE: Do I sense the need for a TDOA record label? Don’t give it away for free, Paula!)
For more information about the band, contact them via MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/royaltreatmentplant
To purchase their album visit Amazon.com:
Royal Treament Plant: Hope Is Not Enough
Here’s a little mash-up of some live performances: