Broke Royals premiere their new album, entitled Saint Luxury, on Medium. An impressive concept album of vast scope, Saint Luxury probes universal metaphysical subjects from the perspective of an angel, Saint Luxury, who visits earth in search of answers.
Made up of Colin Cross and Philip Basnight, Broke Royals’ genesis occurred in 2014, when Basnight arrived at Cross’ new studio to record demos. From the beginning, the musical chemistry between the two artists was profoundly discernible. As the duo continued to work together, initially their musical endeavor was simply a side project. But as time passed, the project gathered momentum and mass, transforming into a focal point — Broke Royals.
Live performances, three EPs, and a self-titled debut album followed, along with praise from Billboard, being named Artists on the Rise by Southwest Airlines, and CBS declaring them one of the best live bands in Washington, D.C. They’ve performed with Real Estate, Dashboard Confessional, Car Seat Headrest, and AWOLNATION.
Encompassing 14-tracks, Saint Luxury opens with “Ave,” full of soft gleaming textures seguing into the title track, an infectious pop-rock melody riding a rumbling rhythm, as dulcet vocals inject smooth, delicious tones. Highlights on the album include “Love & Tatters,” opening on potent syncopated drums flowing into shimmering alt-pop surface colors topped by delicious layered vocals, exuding velvety timbres rife with tender aromas.
“Can’t Say,” a personal favorite, travels on a driving pop-melody flavored with alt-rock bouquets reminiscent of Jackson Browne, cool and tasty. Glistening guitar riffs and a compelling rhythm infuse the tune with intoxicating allure. Opening on gospel-laced choir-like vocals, “Cado” is simply gorgeous and powerfully moving.
“Born To Break” delivers Midwestern organic pop-rock textures riding a propelling rhythm, along with deliciously polished guitar accents crowned by persuasive vocals. Another favorite is “God Bless Saint Luxury,” riding muscular guitars and a hefty pounding groove, topped by scrumptious vocals imbuing the lyrics with intense passionate savors.
Marvelously wrought and arranged, Saint Luxury is superbly innovative, rife with captivating dynamism, lustrous sonic textures, and grandly evocative vocals.
Because of the album’s extensive scale and conceptual finesse, I sat down with Broke Royals to find out more about Colin Cross, Philip Basnight, and the album’s inspiration.
What’s the band’s musical backstory? And how did you come to get together?
Colin and I formed Broke Royals in 2014, while we were finishing college at William & Mary. Colin built a recording studio in his basement and knew that I played solo acoustic sets around campus. He invited me to record some demos in his studio and we really hit it off. Musical chemistry you might say.
Who is in the band (names) and what instruments do they play?
Philip Basnight — Vocals, Guitar, Piano. Colin Cross — Drums, Percussion. Ben Wilson — Guitar. Taimir Gore — Bass Guitar.
What are the dynamics of the band like? Is it like a marriage where you compromise and even sometimes sacrifice for the common good? Or is it like a bar brawl, where you argue and fight, or something in between?
Musically we are very in-sync. We have different musical backgrounds but we’ve always enjoyed blending those elements in the writing process.
We do, however, have to handle a lot of logistics as an indie band. It’s always very civil, even when we disagree. Not to get too philosophical but I think it’s mainly about listening to the other person and not letting your ego feel threatened. Being a band with a bunch of big egos seems like a dumb ’80s cliché and that’s no way to be.
A strategy that has been particularly effective if we ever disagree is to really consider “how strongly do I feel about this?” and weigh it against how strongly the other person feels about their idea. Let them win when it’s important to them and they will do the same for you.
What is the most trouble you’ve ever gotten into?
We’re pretty tame, haha. But we have been chased off of a bunch of different music video locations throughout the east coast.
What are the three things you can’t live without?
Coffee, tacos and the musical stylings of White Reaper.
What’s your favorite song to belt out in the car or the shower?
Oh man, this is constantly changing. Right now, I would definitely say “Might Be Right” by White Reaper and “Truth Hurts” by Lizzo.
What musicians/vocalists influenced you the most?
There are a few crucial musical inspirations for us as a band but, because they just put out their greatest hits last week, I’ll say Spoon. They are on heavy rotation in the van. I was like “why would you put out a greatest hits in 2019?” Then I listened to theirs and it made total sense. So many classics over such a long period of time, sequenced perfectly.
Why make music? I mean what’s the point?
Haha! Now that’s a great question. I’d approach it from a few different angles:
1) Making music is one of the undisputed joys of life. I’d be willing to bet that when a musician is in “the groove” their brain would look a lot like someone in a deep meditation, if you were to scan it. It’s a chance to connect with other people and yet also disconnect from the stresses of the world
2) Why make music as an indie band in today’s musical landscape? That’s a much harder question to answer. It’s a grind for sure but I know that we do it because we can’t stay away. All of us in the band feel an inexplicable calling to make music. As Beto might say, we were born to be in it.
What kind of guitar do you play? And why?
Fenders, baby! I play a semi-hollow body Telecaster. Ben plays a Jag and Strat, and Taimir plays a PJ Bass.
In the various venues you’ve performed at so far, which was your favorite? Why?
We had the opportunity to play the very first show at Union Stage in DC. It’s a great venue and we’ve had the chance to return a few times, but headlining the first show there was a special experience. The Brindleys, who run Union Stage and Jammin’ Java in Vienna, Virginia, are always great to work with.
The band’s name — Broke Royals — what’s the story behind the name and why was it selected?
We chose the name Broke Royals because it has a few different interpretations. One is that we were graduating from The College of William & Mary, which is named after the former king and queen of England and we had no money, hence, Broke Royals. But another interpretation is that we live in a world where almost everyone has access to incredible modern luxuries and astounding technology, often in our own pockets, yet the struggles around us are still very real. The opposing, yet complimentary, nature of the two words still intrigues us and continues to reveal new meanings.
Your new album, Saint Luxury, is a concept album. What is the concept?
Saint Luxury is a character that we used to tie this album together. She is an angel who is fed up with heaven, a place where they have all the answers, and decides to leave to find better questions. She heads to California to experience a life with dancing, champagne, and the Pacific coast highway. Saint Luxury has two tracks named after her on the album but she shows up at various points throughout the album and always serves as a touchpoint to tie all the songs together, much like Sgt. Pepper on The Beatles album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
What’s the story behind the title — Saint Luxury?
We knew we wanted to highlight the idea of searching for good questions and not listening to people who say they have all the answers but we needed a way to give that a compelling narrative. The concept of an angel, who leaves the comfort of heaven to challenge herself and look for those answers, seemed like a perfect framework. It’s a classic hero’s journey but we flipped the script with the setting. From there, we could work that concept into all the songs in both bold and subtle ways.
You’re about to go on tour in support of the new album. How do you keep each performance fresh and energized?
Every night is fresh by nature! New venues, different set lists, and best of all, new audiences. We love connecting with people and we’re super excited to play in some cities we’ve never been to before.
Broke Royals hit the road in August: God Bless Saint Luxury Tour