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LML Weekly Preview: Royal Bears

This is one of the last weekends before the school grind is in full swing. YIKES. Fellow JCPS employee Brent Stewart knows that struggle and he’s celebrating the end of summer break with his project Royal Bears and their new EP, In Loving Memory. Read up on a little about the history of the band, their work with Kevin Ratterman on the Bevin compilation, and love for some local burritos, and then come party with them Saturday at Kaiju!

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Live Music Lou: How did you find yourself on the Bevin compilation? What was that experience like?

Brent of Royal Bears: I saw on Facebook that Kevin Ratterman was offering studio time to bands who wanted to do a song for the Matt Bevin project. I’m a proud supporter of Planned Parenthood, and a proud critic of Matt Bevin, and it’s always a blast to record at La La Land, so it seemed like a can’t miss deal. I zipped off a message to Kevin to see if they had any slots left, got confirmation, went home and wrote the song, brought it to practice the next day, and a week and a half later we tracked it!

It seemed to me like a throwback to a time when bands were more politically involved, and rock and roll stood for something. It definitely took me back to my misspent punk rock youth. I’m very happy to be a part of it.

LML: Royal Bears…what does this name mean?

RB: Well, Royal Bears doesn’t really mean anything in and of itself. We spent several months emailing each other with increasingly bad band names, each one worse than the one that preceded it. The son of our drummer Andy suggested “Mr. Bear,” and it was Andy’s favorite choice. I nixed it because I didn’t want to become “Mr. Bear.” My thinking was if you call a band “Mr. Bear”, and the singer is a great big hairy guy, people are going to assume he IS Mr. Bear. I didn’t want this to evolve into a Hootie and the Blowfish scenario, wherein I would spend the rest of my life being known as Mr. Bear.

One night at practice we realized that the EP was done and we were ready to book shows, so a name had to be decided upon. Riffing on the “bear” idea, someone suggested “Royal Bears.” I hemmed and hawed over it for a while, but it was the first suggestion that I didn’t outright hate, and couldn’t think of a good reason to not keep it, so it stuck.

LML: The amount of music coming out of Louisville is unreal right now. What exactly is in the water that has lead to so much quality music being created? At the same time, can this scene be challenging in any way?

RB: I’ve been playing shows around Louisville since I was 16, so that’s more than 20 years now. It seems like things are cyclical. There are always good bands out there, but it seems like there are definitely periods that are a bit more fertile than others. We seem to be going through an upswing right now, which is exciting. For instance, the burgeoning hip hop scene is pretty exciting. I don’t know nearly as much about it as I’d like, but the fact that it’s happening here is very cool.

As for the challenges, I think they’re pretty much the same as they always were: it can be difficult to draw a crowd  unless you’re somebody who was in a popular band a long time ago, it’s difficult to get people to come out through the week, shows never start on time, etc. But my bands have always existed on the fringes of the local scene, so I’m pretty much used to all of that. There can be a “cool kids” mentality, or cliques or whatever, but I think you’ll find that anywhere. There are also a lot of great people just doing what they want to do because they HAVE to do it, and that’s what I like most of all.

LML: We love bar food at shows. Unfortunately Kaiju doesn’t have a kitchen BUT they do bring in some killer food trucks. If you could have a dream lineup of food trucks at your show, what would they be?

RB: Hmm, well I can’t claim to be much of a food truck aficionado. I CAN say that New Wave Burritos, who used to be a delivery only service, now have their own storefront and restaurant, and that is very exciting. You get enormous amounts of delicious stuff at very reasonable prices. So I’d say just let NWB deliver a bunch of burritos, I’d go for that! I also recently found out that White Castle has a food truck. I mean, it’s not local, it’s not hip, but still, it’s sliders on wheels. How can you beat that?

Join Royal Bears at Kaiju this Saturday – 10pm!

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