Q&A with Theatre Royal

We’re huge fans of music here at CC and our aim has always been to feature bands on the Q&A page, young and old. We’re delighted that the first band to feature are Theatre Royal, a band who we’ve enjoyed listening to for a number of years now. Enjoy…

Morning lads, how are you?

Hello Dan We’re alright. Plodding along in unspectacular fashion. Just waiting for restrictions to be lifted so that life can get a bit more interesting again.

Who makes up the band?

Oliver (me) – Vocal / rhythm guitar
Robbie – Lead guitar / vocals
Brendan – Bass / vocals
Jon – Drums / vocals

How did the band come about?

Three of us were in a band called The Long Weekend. We released a few singles, an album and argued a fair bit. When the band finally fell apart Robbie and I started writing songs together. We wrote a lot of songs in a very short space of time and figured we should get a band together. So we got Jon back in on drums and poached Brendan from our mates Needs Must. That all happened in 2009 and we’d recorded and released our debut album ‘From Rubble Rises…’ by 2010. We’ve just re-issued that on vinyl.

Where does the name come from?

We’re named after a Theatre Royal in Chatham. It was quite a grand Victorian theatre that had been left unused to rot for years. Just before it was torn down, myself (Oliver), Billy Childish, Lupen Crook and a filmmaker Dave Wise went in there to play some songs and make a documentary. Around the same time the Long Weekend had ended and a new band was forming, the theatre was being torn down. So it felt apt to name the band after it. Hence why the debut album was called ‘From Rubble Rises…’. We like the name Theatre Royal but it’s not great for Google as there are loads of them all over the country. I blame that on our lack of stardom.

How would you describe your sound?

Clattering yet literate pop music. We take a fair bit of care over our lyrics and like to construct pop songs. In terms of sound there’s lots of melody, jangle and harmony played with the energy of bands like The Clash and The Jam.

You’ve been involved in music for a while now, with a number of albums behind you. How would you say the band has progressed over the years?

I can’t say that we’ve ever gone through any great reinventions like Radiohead or The Beatles but I think the harmonies have got better and more prominent over the years, with all of us contributing. Early on only Rob and I sang. We share the song writing more than we used to, with Brendan having 3 on the most recent album ‘Portraits’. But on the whole we’ve just kept churning out songs that we’re proud of and taking them in the direction we feel that they should go in. Sometimes that means keeping them really simple, other times it means layering them up a bit more and experimenting with the sound a little. I think we’ve got a lot better live in the past few years. I think we’re a pretty formidable live act these days. Jon’s thundering drums help give us a big lift live I think, meaning we all have to step up to that.

You’ve just released your latest album, ‘Portraits’ – was it difficult to put together in the current climate?

It was tricky. But we had the album finished back in 2019, so we needed to get it out. It was a bit delayed in terms of getting the artwork together and then pressed up. When we finally got it out we couldn’t play live to promote it and that’s where we sell most of our records usually. On top of that we couldn’t get it in the independent shops that would usually stock it. So it’s had its challenges but not been all bad. John Kennedy gave us a session on Radio X and we got some good airplay on 6 Music etc. I think we’ve picked up some new fans through the lockdowns and people have been really supportive of us, sharing the record online and buying it on Bandcamp Fridays. This has meant that we’ve kept all the money. So that’s helpful for funding the recording of the next album.

Who influenced you to start writing music in the first place?

Growing up during Britpop and Grunge, that was a big influence. Both Oasis and Nirvana had songs that anyone could play. They were accessible and made you feel like you could emulate it as long as you could strum a few chords. I always wanted to write songs more than learn other peoples’ as I’ve always liked words and creating things. My mum introduced me to poetry as a kid and that certainly influenced my songwriting. So I started writing songs about the age of 13. It was similar for Robbie, although he could play more than 3 chords! The Beatles were also a big factor. We grew up with our parents listening to them and they are the greatest songwriters there has ever been. The first album Robbie remembers being fascinated by was Graceland by Paul Simon. The lyrics really intrigued him. Out of all of us, Brendan really grew up around music. His stepdad is a musician and songwriter who played in various bands and got played on John Peel a bit.

Onto clothing, how would you define the bands style?

Not smart enough for the mods.

What are your favourite brands and why?

Adidas (trainers) – Certainly Robbie and I have worn adidas since Britpop and our teenage years. Robbie is firmly a black Samba wearer. I like a Samba OG, Gazelle, Beckenbauer. Just got myself a pair of green and yellow Gazelles. All classic casual styles I guess. Jon is really into his trainers, but he’ll happily buy various brands and likes a lairy trainer- Nike, Adidas, New Balance etc. Brendan is more of a Converse wearer.

Apart from trainers I guess it’s Levis jeans, Farah jumpers, Fred Perry’s, Barber coats and Dr Marten shoes. All established, classic looks and cuts. Various others bits and bobs and vintage gear that takes our fancy.

Oh, and Penguin / Penguin Classics for books.

Any football fans in the band?

To varying degrees, yeah. Apart from Brendan. He’s not a fan. He loves snooker and darts (as do I). Robbie is a bit of a Spurs fan and goes to the odd Chatham Town game. Jon is a Liverpool fan and is a quality goalkeeper. I love football and watch and listen to loads of it, but no longer have a team that I’m really attached to. I keep an eye on Gillingham. As a kid I supported Man Utd, but realised in my early 20s that coming from Medway I had no real attachment to them. I tend to have certain players and managers that I like and then take more interest in those teams. I only get nervous, angry, excited etc when watching England.

Did you get to go go many games in the pre-covid world?

The last game Jon and I went to was Charlton v Leeds last year. I usually go and see Gillingham a few times a season. I’ve gone to plenty of games at various non-league grounds, through the divisions up to the Premier League and England. As I say, Robbie sometimes goes along to Chatham Town. I often think that if I wasn’t in a band I’d spend more of my time going to football and gigs.

Speaking of covid, have you managed to secure much help financially?

We’re lucky in that we all have jobs outside of music. In terms of funding the band we’ve sold quite a bit of merch and records. People seem to want to support independent musicians as they know it’s been tough.

What are your thoughts on the Brexit deal and touring complications it’s going to cause musicians?

It’s shit. We’ve never toured Europe. It’s always just fallen through, but we get lots of radio in Europe and would like to do it. But musicians have currently been really let down. We’re not the only ones of course. Hopefully it gets sorted. We’ll see.

Let’s lighten the mood back up. Best gig you’ve ever played and why?

I think maybe the 100 Club a few years ago. We were first on, but it was a Friday night and rammed. The audience were brilliant and we won a lot of fans that night who have stuck with us. The venue has a great feel to it. You look around at the pictures of the bands that have played there – The Rolling Stones, Sex Pistols, Muddy Waters, The Kinks etc. There’s nothing fancy or sanitised about it. It drips with history, so it’s nice to be a tiny part of that. Apart from that, supporting The Flamin Groovies at Under The Bridge (Stamford Bridge) was pretty special. Really plush venue that Roman Abramovich has splashed out on and we were supporting a great band.

Finally, describe the band in only 3 words…

Er…Energetic, plucky amateurs.

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