words Zarah Cheng
New York to Los Angeles. Los Angeles back to New York. As lead singer, Josh Da Costa puts it, he’s been balancing a cross-country straddle lately. But regardless of which coast he’s on at the moment, it’s clear that Regal Degal aren’t bothered by the constant travel. From finishing their latest record, "Not Now", to releasing their new music video for “Pyramid Bricks” (which also happens to feature some mummies and model Abbey Lee), the boys of Regal Degal are down with getting their weird on. We chat with Josh about recreating a "The Shining"-esque make out scene and about incorporating a 12-string guitar into the latest record. The final product is a truly stunning sound that spans across decades and makes you wonder if Regal Degal is onto something with their new album, exploring the idea of denying the present.
You guys recently moved back to Brooklyn from LA. How is it being back in New York?
I [Josh Da Costa] am actually in LA for the time being, and have been back and forth between New York and California for the last few months. NYC is a great place to keep busy and navigate lots of different energies – however, LA is a lovely place to enjoy life's simple pleasures and allows for a different kind of quality time between friends. Both are great cities, I feel fortunate to be able to keep feet in both places. A cross-country straddle, if you will.
The music video for “Pyramid Bricks” (also the name of Regal Degal’s most recent EP) is heavily inspired by psychedelic, campy Egyptian visuals. Why did the band decide to go in this artistic direction?
It was fun! The director (Lily X) believed that the ornate and mystical elements of Egyptian imagery would serve the song well and we agreed.
I love the reference to The Mummy when you and Abbey are making out at the end of the music video, and Abbey [Lee] turns into a mummy. What’s your favourite scene from that movie?
Personally, I think The Mummy sucks. I actually like to compare that moment to the bathroom make out scene in The Shining, just not nearly as gnarly.
The new album, Not Now, draws musical influence from every decade, it seems, ranging from the 60’s to the present. How did the band approach writing the record, in terms of incorporating these different sounds?
We tried to incorporate sounds from all of the different music we love, and our influences happen to draw from all decades from the 60’s onwards. I play a lot of 12-string guitar on the record which can evoke some 60’s and 70’s rock music, but filtered through chorus and delay can lend it an 80’s feel. On one track in particular though ("Defense"), it plays against a rigid drum machine groove and some house-influenced bass lines, which I'd like to think lands it in uncharted territory from no particular era that I can identify. I also play a flimsy guitar in a weird tuning on most of the record that makes me feel like I can get away with crunchier tones without it sounding too macho. The Regal rhythm section (Jamen and Josiah) do a fine job of keeping things punky and groovy throughout the record – none of their moves seem too indebted to any one style and those guys listen to all kinds of crazy good shit that informs their playing styles.
You told Interview Magazine in the past that you wrote the songs on the Pyramid Bricks EP as individual tracks rather than thinking of it as an entire album. How was your songwriting process different this time around for Not Now, which sounds very cohesive?
The EP tracks were case by case experiments in songwriting -- each one was its own sort of genre study, but the proverbial rule book was happily abandoned in favor of whatever sounded good as opposed to working within the confines of any one style. And we edited the shit out of them! "Unseen" is like a frankensong…so was "Pyramid Bricks" in a sense, although I mean that in more of a conceptual way -- that song is like the result of combining three different song ideas that were all brewing for a while and tied together by what was a very fruitful little jam between me, Jamen, and our good friend David Michael.
The way we rerecorded that song for the LP kind of represents the album's overall vibe -- more true to our live sound, and lots of the songs on this record were put together as a band in our practice space. It's cool…the EP was like a fun springboard that helped push us in a couple of different directions, and we left LA on that high note. The full length is what came of our exciting return to NYC, the sound of lots of time well spent in what we all agree is our best practice space yet and is practically our recording studio. But we actually recorded the album in a "proper ass" studio with Chris Taylor, who certainly added a cohesive element to the recording process.
I'd like to think that this is a very fair album, as in it gives people a really good idea of what we're like as a live band. And if for whatever reason we never put out another album, this one covers a lot of the bases that we would want covered. But I hope that's not the case because we could and should be making so much more music that sounds like nothing we've ever heard before. Still this one is a good primer, a good introduction to Regal Degal.
It is suggested that your album explores the idea of denying the present. Why do you think we need to escape the present?
I think people need to be forced into action, either though ambition, aspiration, struggle, desperation, or just the need to entertain themselves. Dreams, desires, dangers of everyday life are what keep people moving along -- being present-minded is quite hard sometimes because it's actually the easiest thing to be…It's life without want and frustration; it's no expectations and allowing anything and everything to happen. But I think people are scared that they won't "go" anywhere if they don't try to achieve something. And often we look to the past to dictate how we want to model our future.
How does the album cover image tie in to the rest of the record?
I think it ties in on a sort of Meta level. This is our most collaborative effort yet in terms of personnel, not just including the three band members plus a couple of guest appearances, but also where we recorded (in NYC and in Berlin) and who helped record it. The visual aspect was also more collaborative than ever; usually it's just me and Jamen, but lately it's been the two of us and Drew Heffron, who does all of Terrible Records' graphic design.
But we were really happy to collaborate with David Benjamin Sherry on the album cover; we love his art and we love him, and we were thrilled when he obliged us. He pretty much let us take our pick from a vast selection of great pieces, and I almost hit a mental block because I got worried that maybe we were just choosing art for art's sake. Then I realized he was offering us the possibility of using his self-portrait and I kind of freaked out. Lending us his (very tweaked and freaky) likeness was very exciting and a big gesture. It pretty much represented what was happening -- a freak looking at other freaks, art recognizing art. That's how I feel it ties into the record. It's also beautiful and kind of bizarre, as I hope the music is too.
You guys jam a lot at night. What’s your favourite midnight snack?
Trader Joe’s milk chocolate peanut butter cups.
What’s next for Regal Degal?
Some fun videos in the works and another record soon!
What creeps you out the most?
Jamen's night terrors!
Not Now will be out on Terrible Records on May 19th.
Posted on April 20, 2015.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE