Palaye Royale are a bunch of bastards, and they’re embracing it
They used to be the Gentleman, the Vampire and the Pirate. Now they’re just bastards. Because when you’re in Palaye Royale, you’re always in a state of flux.
The Bastards, the next album from Palaye Royale—brothers Sebastian Danzig, Remington Leith and Emerson Barrett (who are now fortified by official members bassist Daniel Curcio and guitarist Andrew Martin)—portends huge changes for the band. First and foremost, once the band finish the record and deliver the album to their label Sumerian Records this month (they’re hoping to have it released for Valentine’s Day) it’s going to shock their fandom (the Soldiers Of The Royal Council) and make other bands step up their creative games significantly.
There’s also the artistic promise of the Palaye “tragic” (as opposed to “comic”) book/graphic novel, meticulously written and drawn by Barrett and Swedish fan-turned-collaborator, xobillie aka E.K. Nilsson. The title (currently in TBA status) will be three volumes and will feature a story that Barrett has been working on refining, adding and subtracting to for six years, with each brother getting his own backstory at various junctures.
“I never read comics growing up,” Barrett discloses to AltPress. “So I was approaching a comic book in a whole different way. It's not like a traditional comic book in the sense of very obvious things. It's more like an in-depth story told in the form of visuals and in the form of a graphic novel, like a film. I'd like to make this generation's Yellow Submarine into an anime series around the story.”
New musical directions, new members and a lifelong creative dream becoming fulfilled are truly wonderful things for any band to celebrate. That, and not ruining it all by breaking up. The brothers’ backstory of staying on the road forever and living by the skin of their teeth in service to their music is well known. But after their glorious opening stint on the Marilyn Manson/Rob Zombie tour—and just before they started work on their third album—the brotherly ties that binded them started to unravel during Palaye’s trip to the U.K. to perform at Reading and Leeds Festival.
“For sure,” Barrett says with a quick chuckle. “ Toward the back end of that four-year touring stretch, shit got very intense, for sure. I think our guitar player said it perfectly: ‘This band still haven’t got off the Manson tour.’”
“Before [we] went on tour for four years, we slept in an SUV,” Danzig begins. “Literally our mom's car for two years. Then we were evicted. We were very, very physically close to one another at all times. So when we're creating, it was always on our same wavelength. We all had gone our separate ways after touring, and I got engaged. We don’t live together: Emerson was living on his own, and we’re all kind of spread apart. So getting us all in the same room is a very difficult thing these days, and we still enjoy each other's company.
“But there was a point at Reading and Leeds where Remington and I got in the worst fistfight of our entire lives. We’re playing Reading and Leeds: 10,000 people are watching us, and we should all be stoked. We literally took mushrooms, and we still got into a fistfight. We’re on the happiest drug, and we're still fighting each other. [Laughs.] Like, how is that even possible?”
Danzig says the boiling point stemmed from flying from Australia to the U.K. and figuring that the band didn’t need hotels or huge travel coaches. While they were correct in their assumption, what Palaye needed was space.
“It was fucking the worst experience,” he admits. “We were too close to each other. Me and Remington got into some argument about music, and then it got very personal.
“We get in that fight, and then we hug it out. And then we try to go to the gas station, and this little British lady locks the door, and she’s like, ‘You're not fucking coming in here!’ We're fine. We're brothers. But we all played hockey, so we have that, ‘We’ll kick your ass’ attitude. It's funny: You have a bunch of guys wearing makeup and being in suits looking like they're just fighting in a hockey game. So it's a weird thing for anyone to visually see where we actually go for blood. It's not like we’re just yelling at each other like, ‘Fuck you!’ No, we're going like WWE, throwing each other on the fucking concrete, and you’re all going to town.”
And Emerson’s probably like, “Guys, guys. Come on.” Right?
“I wish,” Danzig stresses emphatically before laughing. “Because we said ’no face punches,’ and then of course, that got broken, and Emerson jumps in, and he got a free punch on me across my face. Everybody on our crew was like, ‘What the fuck's going on?’”
“Those [moments] were pretty rough for us,” Leith admits in a separate interview. “I think it was a mixture. [In Australia], we didn't sleep at all. We han d to wake up every single morning, take a flight at 5 a.m., do the meet-and-greet, play the show, get maybe three hours [of] sleep a night and then go get on another flight. If we had another tour after Australia and Japan, I think the band would have definitely broken up. And that's really sad to say, because obviously, this is our lives. I think we needed a break just for a mental health.
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“I think we were two days back in L.A. [after Reading and Leeds], and then I get a call from Sebastian. ‘Hey, I miss you guys. You wanna hang out?’ I mean, we fight like brothers. And I think that's the best way to describe it, because we can get into a fistfight, punch each other in the face and then 20 minutes later, go get some food with each other. We've got some really weird antics of fighting. But I think our priority at the end of the day is, you know, the love that we have for each other in this band.”
Danzig, Leith and Barrett wisely decided to channel that aggression into the making of their next album and had the proceedings turn into moments of great irony. At one point, Palaye and their producer Linus rented a posh Airbnb in Joshua Tree, California, an area known for its wide deserts and tranquility. Instead of a batch of acoustic whimsy worthy of Laurel Canyon quaintness, they recorded all of Barrett’s drums, where the high ceilings of the rented home made his pummeling drum work sound even more vengeful.
Interestingly enough, the place they recorded most of The Bastards was in the house of 5 Seconds Of Summer drummer Ashton Irwin. With Irwin on tour, he let Team Palaye use a completely black room in the crawlspace of his house to lay down tracks. If you think any of the 5SOS pop mojo was penetrating Palaye’s work, then explain songs such as “Doom,” the two-note, 105-second drone dirge, which just happens to be Barrett’s favorite track on the album. Danzig also describes a track as sounding “almost like it could be a James Bond theme song with Billie Eilish incorporated into that.
“We used to have a lot of songs that sound like the Stones,” Danzig continues. “We have one or two now. Curcio sounds like he should [be] playing for Rage Against The Machine or Korn or Nine Inch Nails or Manson. We're pulling ourselves in all directions, but we're still moving forward.”
Read more: How Palaye Royale frontman Remington Leith became Andy Biersack's voice on ‘American Satan’
While Leith likens picking his favorite Bastards track to “choosing your favorite child,” he has strong feelings about “Redeemer,” a response to the untimely death of emo-rap icon Lil Peep. “I wrote it right after I heard about his passing,” he says. “For some reason, his death really, really took a toll on me and Emerson. The song is [a] really dark ballad thing. I'm more close with Lil Tracy than Peep, but we hung out a couple [of] times, and he was one of the nicest people I've ever met. So, so unbelievably talented and so young.”
“We found out with American Satan what Remington was able to do with his voice,” Danzig says in downright excitable tones. “To be able to sing heavy music like that that I've never been really into. He is the piece that makes Palaye no matter what the music sounds like. And that's the thing. There's no genres on this record—and it’s really cool because I think that’s where music's headed.”
And there lies the situation: Team Palaye realize that it’s a different time for their world. They used to be the best-dressed guys on Warped Tour, dragging their own gear through the parking lot with many bands shooting them the side-eye because they weren’t the black cotton punk-rock mafia. With Warped gone, it seems that a lot of that culture is on the wane. Likewise, they have bigger ideas than the meat-and-potatoes radio rock they experienced nightly opening for Pop Evil in 2018.
So, are Palaye reacting to anything? Or are they just being the best version of themselves?
“There is so much honesty in what we've done,” Danzig resigns. “You could see when someone is doing the same thing for four years, you would think maybe it’s not a gimmick. It wasn't Warped Tour. It was what some of the acts that were surrounding our world that just looked at us differently. And that's fine. Those problems are not on my mind, because a lot of those bands, if not all of them, fell by the wayside or faded away.
“We're actually focused on things that are happening in our lives and everyone else's lives around us,” he reveals. “[The new song] ‘Massacre, The American Dream’ is like that: We're writing about gun violence and things actually happening in the world, thinking that we can have a small voice in this really big world. If we have a little bit of a voice, we're going to use it.”
The band’s renewed enthusiasm in themselves, their capabilities, new members and new music means their dedication to raise the creative bar has even more conviction. In addition to the adventure that Barrett is chronicling in his comics, there’s also a more symbolic talisman in Palaye Royale to be revealed.
At the end of the video for “Nervous Breakdown,” Curcio releases the brothers from their imprisonment from Lieseil Inc. and drops gas masks in front of each one of them, although the members are still too disoriented to pick them up.
“When we [were] writing this story, it started off as the gas mask was the evil character,” Barrett explains. “And then as the years went on and I developed as a person, my interest changed certain things. I looked at storytelling as not good versus evil, but [something where] you could almost find good in each character.
“So that's when the gas mask became almost like the universal image for me of this world,” he says. “In today's society, when you wear a gas mask, it's showing that you're trying to stay true to yourself. And to me, The Bastards is more than just a band or an album. It's like a revolution of artists and thinkers, people that want to grow together.”
More than characters, dreamers and/or rock stars, the men of Palaye Royale are looking to manifest their own creativity in a world that often seems cruelly indifferent. With The Bastards—and its attendant graphic novel—they’re configuring their attention in the hopes to inspire others to do similarly great things.
“It's a new era,” Danzig says. “I think we just really wanted to push the boundaries more so than just being able to talk about it.”