- Up and away: local songwriter Frank Royster steps back into power-pop
"Everything on the album drives and everything rocks," says local singer/guitarist Frank Royster, who celebrates the release of his new solo album Thru The Years this week. "But on stage you're going to hear a lot of jangly guitars and a mix of bright and melancholy songs that mostly make you feel good. It's much more of a Byrds/Badfinger/Big Star/Raspberries kind of sound from all ends. At my age I'm getting, I almost consider it 'contemporary power-pop' — it's not your Green Day-type, modern, young teenage, derivative punk-pop. It's going back to Big Star and the Beatles without being totally retro."
The singer/guitarist officially released the disc in local record shops in December, marking it with a special "in-store" set at Purple Music on Folly Road. This week, he tosses the tunes out into the public with a full-band set, backed by local bassist Marcus Leonardez (of Baby Fat), electric guitarist Todd Mayson, drummer Paolo Liccardi (ex-Fire Apes, Children's Choir, countless other local acts), and other possible special guests.
"The only thing totally retro on stage are the actual instruments," the songwriter laughs. "For those people out there who are familiar with this kind of stuff, I hope they'll come out and take a chance. I think they'll be pleasantly surprised."
Recorded last year with a bit of help from Liccardi, Mayson, bassist Michael Pennington (ex-Hed Shop Boys), multi-instrumentalist Keith Bradshaw (of Plane Jane), and special guest Jim Babjak (of The Smithereens), Thru The Years keeps a cool rock 'n' pop vibe, mixing garage-rock riffs, vocal harmonies, minor-key chord changes, and slappy drum fills with a chiming, classic "power pop" guitar sound. It's a serious change of pace from the heavier classic-rock and vintage metal repertoire of his busy local bar band, The Hed Shop Boys, with whom he normally strums, solos, and sings lead over the likes of Kiss' "Cold Gin," AC/DC's "Beatin' Around the Bush," or Molly Hatchet's "Flirtin' With Disaster."
"We'll be doing all the songs from the record along with a few new originals and possible surprise renditions of songs by Matthew Sweet and Superdrag," says the songwriter. "Nothing real heavy, so to speak. It's a good bill because we have a band from Winston-Salem called Michael Slawter & The Saving Graces. They worked with Jamie Hoover of the Spongetones. Their new record, An Assassination of Someone You Knew, is super-great and very much in the same lines as what I'm doing. Anyone who likes power-pop will dig it."
Royster played a handful of solo and duo shows over the winter, and he has another solo gig coming up at Art's Bar & Grill on Tues. April 17. Could this be the beginning of a busy season for the songwriter?
"We'll probably do a few more shows here and there," he says. "Nothing full-blown, but a few during the year ... maybe the next step will be doing an opening set with the Fire Apes [the rhythm section of the Apes — drummer Tom Hamer and bassist Jay Volpe — currently play in the Hed Shop Boys as well]. If it goes well, we'll continue to try and build some interest. I already have the next album in view. I've recorded demos and I have visualized the next effort."