Words: Dylan Murphy
Director: Ronan Fox of Tiny Ark
Irish multi-instrumentalist Royal Yellow recorded the entirety of his meditative debut EP Still: Until during the chaos of the past year. He’s shared a complementary short film documenting the entirety of his experience and we’re delighted to showcase it for the first time.
There are some records that just happen to land at the right time. Earlier this month, in the midst of lingering anxiety about what our summer would look like Royal Yellow dropped his debut EP Still: Until. It’s a meandering and collaborative project that commands considered listening. Moreover, when the rumblings of social media were increasing by the day it felt like the perfect antidote to the ongoing uncertainty.
Crafted solo, but finessed in a collaborative space in Wexford the record finds peace in the spaces between soul-cleansing keys and hypnotic loops that coalesce in what is a huge statement of intent.
Having found fans in Annie Mac and had his music featured in Normal People last year, Royal Yellow’s stock is on the rise and it couldn’t have happened in a stranger year. That’s why he decided to record the process of the EP’s creation and today we’re delighted to premiere the 12 minute documentary which explores the counterpoints of the project and its inception.
Ahead of the premiere we spoke to Royal Yellow, you can catch the full video down below.
What compelled you to create this record?
I have no idea. I’m always just making music and banking music; sorting different songs into little piles and seeing which ones feel like they link together on some thematic level. A while back I noticed that I had these two longer, more atmospheric pieces that sort of spoke to each other as opposites. I gave myself permission to follow my nose on that concept, to indulge in the expansiveness of them and to keep fleshing out the contrasting themes. It could have been horrible, like total ‘70s prog rock gone too far, but somehow I think it worked. It became a kind of 23-minute story, with its own three-act structure. Or maybe that’s just how I imagine it in my own head…
You speak about exploring the spaces between stillness and restlessness, with little to stimulate us in the last year or so, was that something playing on your mind?
I think the constant see-sawing between stillness and restlessness is something that we can all relate to. When the weirdness arrived I immediately went into a state of denial… I was refusing to accept that this would be a long, drawn-out experience. I started writing ‘Until’ in a kind of fever-dream state, fueled by the need to create this huge, euphoric track for when the world started turning again and we could see our friends and hear live music. That can be a fun place to be, but it can also be a bit of a mental cul-de-sac as weeks turn into months and you’re no closer to that joyous finale that you keep imagining.
It sounds clichéd and new-agey, but I found that trying to be still, to meditate, to be in the present moment was as important for my head as allowing myself to daydream about the future. That affected everything about the making of the music — a constant shifting between the “still” and the “until”, depending on what I needed in the moment.
Where do you find your peace?
Anywhere that focuses my attention in the present. Making music, reading, running, meditating, making stupid jokes, acting the fucking eejit, having long, meandering conversations with friends.
Though written solo, can you describe the feeling of the project coming to life in a more collaborative live setting?
There were a couple of times throughout the making of this record when I was able to bring sketches of songs to my band (Ryan Hargadon, Neil Dexter, Dylan Lynch and Kate Brady), and each time I got to hear that piece transform from something familiar into something unexpected and amazing. I’ve never been the best musician in the room so I naturally take on the director/arranger role, which I’m 100% happy with. It lets me see the bigger picture while at the same time being amazed by the chops of the people around me. It’s always such a highlight when I can bring a song to people and have them enhance it by injecting their own skills and personalities into it.
Can you talk about the experience of going to Ballymoney in Wexford to work on the record?
So, the record was produced in The Clinic Recording Studios, which is this analogue gear heaven in Dublin 3. Myself, James Eager and David Anthony Curley spent a long time getting everything to sound textural and chunky through a ton of different synths and pre-amps there. Once the record was complete I realised it had been a whole year since I’d been in a room with my band; the same people who recorded parts for these songs as far back as 2019. It would have felt so weird and wrong to release the record without sharing that sense of completion together, so I suggested that we rent a seaside house in Wexford for a few days and just jam out the songs in their completed form. It was such a nice time. It felt like gearing up to go on tour. There was this beautiful, stupid, lads in a van energy which was so welcome after a year spent sitting alone in our own houses.
What was the thinking about creating a complementary documentary to go along with the project?
I think I just wanted to tell the story of where these songs came from and the people involved in making them. The director Ronan Fox and the crew at Tiny Ark did such a nice job of telling that story. We’ll probably never experience a time like 2020/2021 again, and despite all of the frustration, pain, fear and sadness I think there was sometimes beauty in it. I wanted to see if some of that could be captured on film. To be able to look back on this weird yet formative period where I was able to turn down the noise a little.
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Watch Royal Yellow’s Still: Until documentary below:
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