This past fall, ultra-heavy psych-rockers Royal Thunder found themselves playing mega-venues supporting grunge legends Alice In Chains. They were some of the first shows the Atlanta trio played after an extended hiatus, following some January headlining dates and a summer tour supporting Royal Bliss. The last time we saw Royal Thunder in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection was nearly six years ago, when they played Voltage Lounge (R.I.P.) in February of 2018 (Over the years, they’ve graced the stages of Kung Fu Necktie, The Trocadero, Underground Arts, and Union Transfer with bands like Pallbearer, Monster Magnet, and The Dillinger Escape Plan.)
However, during a recent phone chat, Royal Thunder vocalist/bassist Mlny Parsonz tells me that our city actually has a very special place in her heart: “It is basically the hardest thing in the world to not move here! That’s my home away from home,” she tells me, going on to cite a specific band responsible for much of her affection: “Backwoods Payback — Mike Cummings and all those people – are basically my family!”
Last year, Royal Thunder – which also features guitarist (and Mlny’s ex-husband) Josh Weaver and drummer Evan Diprima — released their fourth full-length (their first since 2017’s Wick), which Blabbermouth.net proclaimed, “represents a new phase for Royal Thunder, one that has the band writing some of the strongest material of their careers.” In the time between their third and fourth LPs, the band broke up, went their separate ways, got sober, and came back together to produce the aptly titled Rebuilding the Mountain.
“It felt more clearheaded, and short and sweet,” says Mlny of Royal Thunder’s latest work, a nod to the fact that many of the album’s tracks are notably shorter than those of their back catalogue. When I ask about the overall feel of the album, she admits, “I always say this: It didn’t turn out the way I expected it to… What I got from it, and the vibe of it, is leaning back and leaning into something new, a new direction, even if we don’t necessarily know what that is.” This openness, however, is something that Mlny emphasizes is at the heart of the way Royal Thunder work together: “I take a lot of pride in making honest music and being ourselves.”
Parsonz doesn’t shy away from self-reflection on Rebuilding the Mountain. Last September, Royal Thunder released an official music video for “Now Here – No Where,” a track which opens with the lines, “I’m gonna sink into the state I’m in // I see a big black hole and I’m gonna crawl in.” Of the track, Mlny admits, “I can close my eyes and I’m sitting at my favorite bar and waiting for lots of drugs, and waiting to get fucked up, really fucked up,” a scene from not so long ago, with Mlny getting sober just under a year ago. However, the song’s origins have a more light-hearted portion as well, which Mlny tells me when I ask how the track initially came about: “You should’ve heard the original! Josh and Evan were like, ‘What are you doing, trying to be in Lamb of God?!’ [laughs].” The song has become a staple of the band’s set, often closing shows, and seems to have been enjoyed by fans of both Alice In Chains and Royal Bliss, although Mlny confesses, “I think I liked the original more [laughs].”
“I think the personal growth and growth of musicians and desire is the biggest highlight,” Mlny tells me when I ask about this second chapter of the band, going on to add, “I’m really fucking grateful to know how to play bass and sing.” She tells me these same sentiments carry over to Mlny’s relationship with fans: “The thing that means the most is when people will come up to me and tell me, ‘That song, I needed it, and it helped me not want to kill myself,’ or ‘come out,’ or, ‘heal.’” “I write these songs to help me get through shit!” she tells me, joyfully laughing, before proclaiming her ultimate aim in connecting with fans: “I just hope it fucking helps!”
Tomorrow (1/18) Royal Thunder kick off a four-date double-headlining run with local psych-rockers Ruby the Hatchet (along with Pittsburgh outfit Sweat, who churn out self-proclaimed “Swiss-American Daddy Rock”), which will be playing MilkBoy this coming Sunday, January 21st. And Mlny’s really excited for the gigs: “We’ve just been dancing around that scene [with Ruby the Hatchet] for a while now, and I’m fucking excited to see that live. I think they’re gonna put out an energy that my face is gonna hurt from smiling so much… I’m really excited, especially about two total babes fronting these bands!”
“We’re doing a couple of the older ones,” Mlny tells me when I ask what can be expected of Royal Thunder’s Sunday night set, letting me know that it will mostly be songs from Rebuilding the Mountain. However, she adds that Josh always seems to know exactly how to put together a setlist: “Josh is the guy that can do that; he knows how to sequence things.” She also says that settings like MilkBoy are her favorite kinds of places to play: “Put me in a basement, or on a sticky floor in a rock club, and that’s my favorite thing!” Fans can also expect an expanded lineup on upcoming shows: “The guy who played keys on the album, Spencer Pope, he’s gonna be there, and Shane Patrick from a local Atlanta band, HAWKS, is gonna be with us for these dates.”
After their dates with Ruby the Hatchet and Sweat, Royal Thunder will be playing some major festivals this spring and summer, including Roadburn Festival in the Netherlands in April and Resurrection Fest in Spain in June, which Mlny tells me will be a super special gig for her: “I’m really excited about Spain! My family lives there; they have a place that overlooks Resurrection Fest, and they’re always like, ‘Mlny, you should come here!’ And I am!” When I ask what else fans can look forward to, she tells me, “We’re just gonna keep on truckin’,” suggesting that there are likely a lot more dates to be announced in Royal Thunder’s future, and she’s quite excited about all of them: “I’m really excited about these festival dates, and I would love to open for some bands that we grew up with. I just want to play with everyone everywhere… I am who I am because of the fucking road!”
*Get your tickets here.