Royal Teeth’s new EP is called Amateurs, despite the fact that, after five years, three cities, two albums, various personnel changes, and hundreds of days on the road, the Louisiana pop quartet is definitely an ensemble of well-seasoned pros. The title is a literal etymological reading of the word: the French amateur from the Latin verb “to love”, applied in this case as a mission statement and a reminder of why they do what they do.
In 2011, the effervescent electronic pop of the band’s debut EP, Act Naturally, attracted the attention of Dangerbird Records, which re-released both that project and its full-length follow-up, 2013’s Glow. The spirited anthem “Wild,” driven by the sparkling vocal chemistry between singers Nora Patterson and Gary Larsen, propelled the band to multiple TV, film, and video game placements, guest appearances on Last Call with Carson Daly and American Idol (at the personal invitation of fellow Louisiana native Harry Connick, Jr.) and slots at festivals, including Austin City Limits, Bonnaroo, Firefly, SXSW, CMJ, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and the Voodoo Experience.
On Amateurs, Nora Patterson’s passionate lead vocals are showcased front and center, emerging from the more layered production of earlier releases. “Kids Conspire”, the infectious lead single, buoys her up on a wave of ringing synths and propulsive, Afropop-inflected beats, as she demands, “take me all the way up, take me all the way up.” It’s a clear relative of “Wild”, an anthem of possibility, but with more muscle and urgency.
“Children have a wild imagination,” Patterson explains. “They make up a plan for what they’re going to be when they grow up. They don’t hold back in terms of what they feel like they can accomplish, which is something that a lot of people lose over time.” In writing the song, she wanted to channel that untamed joy, the feeling of unlimited potential and steadfast conviction. “It’s about going back to when you thought you could do anything,” she said. “It’s nice to remind yourself of that.” Promoting Act Naturally and Glow, Royal Teeth averaged more than 200 live dates per year, earning a glowing rep for exuberant, sweaty, high-energy live shows as explosive as their signature confetti cannons. The addition of guitarist Thomas Onebane, an inveterate, crafty tinkerer, has also led the band to take more risks in the studio. “Thomas was a game-changer creatively,” says drummer Josh Hefner. “He’s a secret weapon. We spent a little more time in the studio – more experiments, more fine-tuning. And it was more fun, with less pressure.”
Both the sounds and the overarching themes on Amateurs are tougher, more mature and more sure handed than Royal Teeth’s previous outings. They play like a band that’s honed itself down to its core chemistry, musicians who know what they want to do and how to do it. But they also play with pure joy, ease, and love of what they’re doing – like amateurs.