|Royal Gala's James and Lou - photo by Carla Mundy|
Royal Gala is an eighteen-legged ska-reggae-funk music phenomenon from Notts. The band was put together by guitarist James Waring and is fronted by vocalist Lou Barnell, with seven other musos also along for the ride. But this is no ‘manufactured’ group. It’s more like a load of random mentalists thrown together in a room full of instruments and dance drugs and told to play or die. As you may guess, we rather like the noise they make...
What have you been up to today?
James: I had a few dodgy substances last night and played a game of chess with a friend. We thought we’d had a really long game but when we looked at the board this morning we realised only two pieces had been moved.
Lou: I’m feeling hanging today. I spent most of last night cranking. That’s where you cry and wank at the same time. I also did a bit of shanking too.
Fun times! So where and when did Royal Gala first begin?
James: It was just over three years ago. I was playing in a few bands and meeting loads of musicians. I thought when the time was right I’d love to play with them. Then I met Lou down Forest Road one night while cruising for a prostitute…
Lou (interrupts): I was there because I was looking for a bum boy. I’ve only recently had the change.
James: So I booked us a gig before I’d even got the band together. We were supporting Neville Staples of The Specials at The Maze. I’d already got all the songs written but it was a challenge getting a band together to play them. It was a great first gig though as it was a complete sell-out.
Introduce us to the other members of the band...
Lou: There’s Mike who plays drums and electronics and makes the most beautiful transvestite you’ve ever seen. Ruth is a really good house DJ.
James: We’ve got a great brass section with Ruth, Amy, Ady and Elliot. They all do other things apart from Royal Gala but are a big part of what we do. Jody does keyboards and samples; he’s been playing around Nottingham in bands for years and remixes our stuff with his side-project Tray Electric. Cel, our bass player is like the meat and two veg of the band and keeps everything else together. We also get Regan in on percussion whenever we can – although she’s often busy with her million other projects.
Royal Gala band (from left to right): Jody, Elliot, James, Cel, Lou, Ady, Amy and Mike
photo by Carla Mundy
Is it a pain in the arse trying to coordinate nine of you for gigs and rehearsals?
James: It can be. Most of us live in Notts but Louise lives in London right now – although she comes back often. Historically it was always up to me to arrange and sort everything but a lot more is being delegated out these days. I still sort out the gigs but others sort van hire and equipment and things like that. We always share the driving duties too as it’s not fair for just one of us to stay sober all the time.
I hear your music has been on the US version of Skins.
James: I’ve not seen it but to be honest I don’t even like the English version of the programme. When I was in my teens I was drinking cider in a park, throwing stones through windows and sniffing glue. I didn’t have the money to be dead trendy and buy loads of designer drugs. And there are none of the kind of fat girls I remember fingering at that age.
Lou: I purposefully haven’t watched it as I’m not a fan either. But having the track on there is a good thing in terms of getting exposure for the band. When I saw the other songs that had been chosen for the soundtrack I was pleased as there are bands on there, like Yacht, that I really love.
So how did that come about?
James: It was just random luck really. Someone came to see us play a gig in London and they bought a CD. Then they held a party and some guy who was over from America who programmes music for television shows came. He heard the CD and liked it.
As a live act you’re well-loved in Nottingham, but how do you think your stuff transfers to CD?
James: It can be pretty hard to capture on CD, especially on our own budget. But there’s something liberating about the DIY ethic as well. The album has all been engineered, recorded and produced in house – even to the point that I manufacture the CDs myself. Even stuff like our big New Year’s gig at The Maze was organised by us. We booked the venue and picked a load of bands we wanted to play alongside us.
That was a big gig! But you had quite a few last year – your Hockley Hustle 2010 finale in particular. There can’t be many bands who caused crowdsurfing in Broadway Café bar…
Lou: That gig will stick in the memory for a long time. It was completely rammed and pretty much everyone else at the festival had finished. For the last song I was being held up by the crowd and looked behind me and James had fallen over the amp and had his legs in the air. The PA had blown up so Jody was just passing his keyboard and guitar into the audience. Carnage!
How do you manage to get so many gigs outside of Nottingham?
James: We’ve just built up a good rapport with certain promoters. We’ve done a few gigs with Lost Vagueness, who used to run a tent at Glastonbury, but our first gig for them was
a ball-ache. It was a Monday night in a boat on The Thames and everyone was working and it was a struggle to get us and the equipment there and back. But we did it and since then they’ve got us so many good gigs that we’re really glad we made the effort. They flew us over to Ireland to play Electric Picnic alongside mint people like George Clinton and Grace Jones.
What are your favourite other Notts bands and acts?
Lou: I think last year was the year of the female vocalist in Notts. I saw so many good acts like Kat Kyrris, Natalie Duncan, Harleighblu, Emily Martin, Nina Smith, Ronika and more. These women really have their act together and I’d love to do a night of all-Notts girls one day.
Anything else you want to say to LeftLion readers?
Lou: The last couple of years have been amazing. I don’t want to die anytime soon but if I did I’d die happy. I’d be able to say to myself “I was at the party”.
James: If anyone wants to buy any Viagra come and see me. £2.50 a pop.
Royal Gala’s eponymous debut album is available online and at gigs.
Royal Gala on Facebook