Mysterious hip-hop outfit ROYBOY have released their new single ‘Ramen Bowl’ – and lifted the veil just the tiniest bit by giving NME their first-ever interview.
In an age where musicians showcase every facet of themselves, both through their music and on social media presence, Sydneysiders ROYBOY are an anomaly. They first rose to prominence after winning the inaugural triple j Unearthed Supergroup competition last year with ‘switchUP’. A glitchy track that included samples of Flume, Tame Impala, G Flip and an auto-tuned Amy Shark, it’s a track reminiscent of BROCKHAMPTON’s most off-the-wall moments.
They soon followed their Supergroup win with a string of singles which upped the intrigue: ‘Calamari, ‘Bread’, ‘oursound’ and the latest song ‘Busy’ built on the groundwork laid by ‘switchUP’ and debut single ‘Mamba’.
While they’re not ready to take off the mask and show who they are just yet – “I’m sure there will be a time where that reveal makes a lot of sense,” says ROY – they have dropped a new single that is more revealing than the rest. ‘Ramen Bowl’ reveals another side to ROYBOY, one that stems from ROY’s Filipino heritage and the love that comes from a hearty bowl of noodles. The song, which like a good, spicy bowl of ramen has some extra kick to it, captures the best elements of ROYBOY’s output to date, resulting in a glitched-out track that’s itching to be played at future house parties.
In their first written interview, NME spoke to ROYBOY about life since winning the triple j Unearthed competition, their new single, and how the pandemic gave them a chance to explore making music as ROYBOY without any added pressures.
Firstly, can I get you both to introduce yourselves?
ROY: What’s up I’m ROY!
BOY: And I’m BOY!
Who is ROYBOY to the both of you?
BOY: ROYBOY is the kid inside of us. ROYBOY’s the maverick inside of us that pushes against the boundaries. It captures the youth culture of growing up and wanting to try things differently and not knowing what the repercussions may be. It’s that spirit of being young and naïve.
ROY: It’s less about not following the rules and more about not considering them. We’re both huge lovers of hip-hop and we both grew up listening to Drake and Eminem and Drake and Kanye, but our own projects don’t lend themselves to that. We love rapping and writing bars and making hip-hop beats. To us, ROYBOY feels like a playground. We want to keep it as fun as possible.
The pandemic gave musicians a chance to explore projects that might not have otherwise come together, and that was the case for you. Can you tell me a little about the origins of ROYBOY and how the pandemic brought you two together?
BOY: We were collaborators in different worlds before ROYBOY was born. ROYBOY is born from our friendship and from our mutual love of hip-hop. We wanted to try something new and find a way of expressing our love of hip-hop in a way that felt true to us. When we stumbled across the idea of ROYBOY it all fell into place seamlessly.
I suggested the name ROYBOY because my grandma’s best friends are a couple called Roy and Joy, and they are the most classic old couple you have ever met in your life. I really wanted to embody that in this project. ROYBOY is all about enjoying yourself and not taking anything too seriously.
“ROYBOY’s currently a loose 14-year-old that doesn’t listen to anyone… Over the next couple of years, though, he’s going to mature into a fine young man”
I wanted to ask about the anonymity around the project. Where did that idea come from?
BOY: The reasoning behind it has shifted so much in the process of ROYBOY. Originally it started from thinking ‘I want to express these things and not have to worry about so many of the other things that come with being an artist and putting a face to a name’.
ROY: Early on, especially, it was less about hiding who we are and more about how it doesn’t matter – just listen to the music. We don’t want to show you who we are, or what we’re like yet. Just listen to how fun this track we’ve made is, because that’s all that matters.
I love that. I wanted to ask about the new single ‘Ramen Bowl’, and the track’s origin – including the name!
ROY: My dad is of Filipino heritage and growing up I ate a lot of noodles. No other food gives me the same spiritual uplift. When I go back home it’s the first thing my parents make me. Food is Dad’s love language. He’ll rarely ask how I am, but he’ll ask, ‘what do you want to eat?’
I started making the ‘Ramen Bowl’ beat and it was flippy and fun and weird. Initially I thought, ‘oh BOY is going to love this, this is going to be hilarious’, but it turned into something we could flesh out into a real song. Hidden beneath the humour is a real place of love. It’s a part of who I am. I’ve even got a ‘Ramen Bowl’ tattooed on me!
Given that you love ramen so much, it only seems natural that you’ve teamed up with Sydney’s RaRa Ramen to release a ramen flavour – can you tell me a little bit about that process?
ROY: I actually tried it a couple of nights ago, and I had a spiritual experience. It was incredible. All the credit goes to our team. It was their idea to team up with RaRa Ramen to see if there was anything that we could do with them and thankfully they were super willing.
The music video was also completely shot all inside RaRa, so they were very welcoming to let us in during these hard times. There was a chef there cooking ramen while we were shooting. After hearing the song, they then went on to make the noodles and add extra ingredients. There’s a whole heap of chilli in there, and I love chilli. It speaks to me, it takes me somewhere else, and the bowl is definitely spicy enough!
Finally, have you planned for if and when you’ll reveal yourself to the world, or is that something that will just happen naturally?
ROY: We’re gonna let that happen naturally. I’m sure there will be a time where that reveal makes a lot of sense. For now we’re really happy in this space, and I don’t think we have any plans to reveal ourselves anytime soon. But who knows?
BOY: I think where we’re at right now, our decisions are very much dictated by taking care of ourselves mentally. [ROYBOY] was born out of a place of fun and zero expectation and enjoyment. There will be a time where that feels right but for right now, we’re just pointing at the music and letting ROYBOY grow up.
He’s currently a loose 14-year-old that doesn’t listen to anyone. He’s temperamental – some days he’s unassuming, and you never know what you’re going to get. Over the next couple of years, though, he’s going to mature into a fine young man.