It’s now been five-years since My Chemical Romance disbanded, via a flourish of oblique social media activity and a strange Gerard Way penned metaphor about a bird. The void left by that band – who for their fans, were more a way of life than just a unit that pumped out songs they liked – largely remains unfilled. There’s plenty of good rock bands about. Genre-hopping-weird-kid-uniting-polymath-rock-gods? Not so much. We could do with a few more of them.
There’s been a few contenders come along within those five-years, attempting to plug that void. There’s Creeper, and very good they are too. The Anglo-American pop punk band As It Is went about a major rebrand – accompanied by sooty kohl eyes and much sloganeering – before the release of their third record last month, The Great Depression. You could probably make the claim for Twenty One Pilots too, though they’re well on their way to making their own history. Time will tell how successful all of the above will be in ascending to the level of legacy built by My Chemical Romance. But right now, the band that look closest to doing it, is a three-piece from Toronto, Canada. They’re called Palaye Royale.
Comprised of three brothers – Remington Leith (vocals), Sebastian Danzig (guitar) and Emerson Barrett (drums) – the group formed as Kropp Circle (one of rock’s great bad band names) in 2008 (Remington: “We hit puberty and decided we needed another name”). They’d recently gone to see a Black Crowes concert together. “That was when we really became infatuated with rock ‘n’ roll,” says the singer. They were young. Really young. Sebastian was 16, Remington 14, while Emerson was just 12. They uprooted from Toronto to Las Vegas. They changed their name to Palaye Royale, deriving from Palais Royale, the Toronto dancehall where their grandparents met in the early sixties.
“We wouldn’t be anywhere without family,” says Remington. “We’re brothers after all. Regardless of how fucked up we are to one another we still have this connection that only brothers truly have. The name reflects the relationship we share. Canada gave us kindness, but Las Vegas crafted our insanity. Growing up in a town that thrives off of entertainment we were heavily influenced by the over the top production of live music and the dirtiness of the strip. It gave us a fine understanding of both sides of the spectrum of living…”
“We played 620 shows in 36 months. We slept in airport shuttle buses. We’ve fought off meth heads.
We once woke up with the bus rolling through intersections with nobody at the wheel.
We gave up every comfort in our lives to do this”
– Remington Leith
They self-released an E.P. They toured – building up a fanbase so strong they beat Linkin Park for a fan voted MTV award. “We do everything ourselves,” says Remington of the DIY attitude that defines their work ethic. “It’s so much more rewarding not having to listen to anyone besides our own hearts. Starting out we slept in cars, travelling all over the States. We played 620 shows in 36 months. We slept in airport shuttle buses. We’ve fought off meth heads. We once woke up with the bus rolling through intersections with nobody at the wheel. We gave up every comfort in our lives to do this.”
In 2015 they signed with Sumerian Records, a significant player in today’s rock scene, who gave them the opportunity to make an album, Boom Boom Room (Side A). The cover of Rocksound followed, the British magazine who’ve garnered a well-deserved reputation for fast-tracking future superstars onto their covers. Recently, they released album two, Boom Boom Room (Side B). It’s a smorgasbord of ideas, testament to the creative fuel the band consume. “Music wise, it’s The Rolling Stones, The Faces, David Bowie, The Libertines, The Horrors. Films it’s Clockwork Orange, Trainspotting, Harry Potter. Books it’s Alan Watts, Fredrick Nietzsche, Jean Paul Sartre, Charles Baudelaire, and A.A Milne…”
Like My Chemical Romance before them, the Palaye Royale phenomenon can largely be explained by them being a band who have invited their fans, not just to listen to them, but to join their world. They print their own newspaper, The Royal Times. They have their own YouTube series, The Royal Television. They call their fans the Soldiers Of The Royal Council, after their mum’s initials. (that would be Stephanie, a noted rock ‘n’ roll photographer in the 1980’s, shooting The Jam, The Clash, Johnny Thunders and the like – Remington subsequently describes his mum “as giving us the best education in rock ‘n’ roll that we could ever get”).
“The Soldiers of The Royal Council have given us the freedom to fully be Palaye Royale,” explains Remington. “This new generation of kids are brilliant – older generations can say otherwise, but they have all the tools to surpass what the world knows just before they are young adults. Our fans are family to us. We have them designing our merch, because who understands a band more than a fan? We have them writing for The Royal Times. We’re currently collaborating with some of them that are artists on a Palaye Royale comic book. Relationships are formed every day because of Palaye.”
Returning to My Chemical Romance for a breath, live, they’ve even been known to cover the New Jersey band’s hit Teenagers, the song serving as a sort of manifesto for the trio. They’re smart – the brothers are nationally ranked chess players (Remington: “I only stopped because I wanted to get laid”). They’re full of fury – “We’re not trying to make friends out of the music business,” they told Rocksound, Of course, none of this would matter if the music wasn’t good. It is. There’s a dash of early-Rolling Stones to what they do. A bit of The Faces. Quite a lot of T-Rex. A peppering of the New York Dolls, maybe even some Arctic Monkeys, while Remington has the sort of voice a man called Remington is supposed to have. Raspy, soulful, lived in. They all look fabulous too, like they’ve been dressed in the dark by a particularly bohemian warlock. They’re the sort of band that deserve total commitment. That offer membership, not just fandom.
Of course, nobody wants to be the new anything. Nobody wants to wear anything but their own skin. But right now, it does feel like Palaye Royale are on their way to being a band that mattered as much as those MIA emo kings.