(originally published 6/12/12)
CVI, the roman numeral for 106, keeps surfacing in strange places in the life of Royal Thunder guitarist Josh Weaver. For no apparent reason.
Weaver orders shoes online: $106. He looks at the clock: 1:06 a.m. He calls a friend, hangs up and looks at the phone to see how long they talked (one minute, six seconds); incredulous, he calls back to tell his friend about it, hangs up and checks the phone again. 1:06.
“It’s one of those numbers that’s followed me and people close to me,” Weaver said by phone from his home in Atlanta, Ga. “There’s a sense of mystery with that number, and it made sense to name the album after it… We did a Scion showcase out in Hollywood, and the cab ride from the airport to the hotel was $106. There are so many cases of it. I don’t know what it means, but it keeps life interesting, I guess.”
It’s not surprising to hear that there are some dark arts afoot: Royal Thunder’s music, to a degree, is a creepy cellar with the bulb blown out. Be smart before descending. Check for spiders. You recognize some of the influences: Earth’s arctic drone-doom and measured overdrive, the sky-high yelp of early Rush, snippets of new wave British metal. But much of that depends on what you bring to it.
“I’ve heard people compare us to the Cult,” Weaver said. “I thought that was interesting. I grew up listening to the Cult, and I thought that was an awesome comparison.” Several critics cite Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. I didn’t grow up listening to Led Zeppelin,” Weaver said, “but people had made that comparison, which I think is crazy. But it’s awesome to be compared to one of the greatest bands of all time.”
Lucky for us, Royal Thunder’s also about heavy, sans-bullshit rock. It’s loud, aggressive, smart music to crank on grim days. Since the May release of CVI, their first full-length album, they’ve grabbed their fair share of ears and music review real estate, and Weaver, remarkably soft-spoken and gracious, is genuinely amazed to experience the success of the album. According to the guitarist, CVI took “forever” to record (really, it was about six months) while the band worked nine-to-five jobs, hitting the studio at night and on weekends. “All the songs we’d been playing live after the release of our EP,” he said. “We’d gotten a practice space and we came up with a lot of the songs and played them out.”
Nearly 10 years ago, Weaver was playing music with his brother and best friend in their living room, weaving together instrumentals, not trying to sound like anyone else in particular, just plug-n-play stuff. Some of the music that came out of that room, Weaver said, left residual traces in Royal Thunder’s current material. “My brother and best friend were both tattoo artists,” he said. “So they were on strange hours, and I was on this nine-to-five schedule. It was hard to get together.” Weaver knew he wanted to pursue Royal Thunder with all the strength he could muster, and they parted ways; Weaver took up with drummer Jesse Stuber and bassist Miny Parsonz and looked for a singer, but not for long. “[Parsonz] gave it a shot,” Weaver said. “So ever since we’ve stuck with her playing bass and singing.” Stuber, who played on CVI, decided to move on. Weaver called his friend, Lee Smith and asked him to join. “He moved up from Orlando,” Weaver said, “and ended up playing on ‘Black Water Vision’ alongside [guitarist] Josh Coleman. It’s been great playing with those guys… Now it’s like a family, man. It’s great.”
“It’s one of those things,” Weaver said. “It’s been amazing to say the least. I never expected that it would get great reviews, but I knew it would do well and was really proud of the way it turned out.”
Royal Thunder’s from Atlanta, but there’s little else tying the sound to the south, and Weaver doesn’t give it much thought when he hears his band referred to as Southern metal. “It’s come up in interviews,” he said. “I guess it goes along with being from the South. It’s not something we’ve thought about or something we’re chasing. But there must be something to it for people to bring it up. I guess where you grow up affects your music. You think of the stuff coming out of California in the early ’80s: it had a specific sound. So there is something there, but I don’t necessarily think about it.”
Rather than planning a new recording project, Weaver’s just happy to get back out on the road. They’ll play at Cherry Street Station in Wallingford on June 15. “We’re just really excited to get out and travel and support the new album,” he said. “It’s going to be great meeting new people and playing.”