Royal Thunder – Rebuilt with Hope

Thursday, 6th July 2023

It takes a lot of work and effort to get things going again after a band dissolves. Plagued with some issues before the pandemic, Royal Thunder called it quits shortly after they released Wick. But with some time and reflection time thanks to the pandemic, the three-piece was able to come back together and bring forth the appropriately titled Rebuilding the Mountain, their second for Spinefarm Records. We were able to speak with guitarist Josh Weaver about what it took to get the band back together, the relationship the three of them share, as well as music classification issues, hobbies, and more.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you think that without the pandemic, you would have reconnected with Evan [Diprima] and gotten the band back together?

Josh Weaver: I’m not sure. He kind of reached out to us. I think it was inevitable that we would get back together at some point. Just because it was meant to be. We tried to play with other people – all of us did – during the pandemic and after the band had dissolved. Nothing was sticking. It just wasn’t right. So I’m not sure – I think we would have, yes. But I think having the pandemic gave us the time to reflect on ourselves and grow as people.

Dead Rhetoric: Talk about the connection between the three of you that allowed you to reestablish the band? You said you couldn’t play with other people and make it work. What does your relationship mean as an act?

Weaver: I think that it’s one of those things that is really hard to put into words. Even coming out of the pandemic and playing for the first time again in years – it was like we complete one another’s thoughts with our instruments and we know what we are going to do and the changes coming along. I feel like there is this natural thing that happens – we click with one another. We get one another.

We started out in 2012 – I think that was when CVI came out, and I quit my full-time job. We were touring 8 months out of the year. Me, Mel, and Evan, just hopping in a van and riding around the country. We really got to know one another. Believe it or not, we just really get along well and get one another. I’m thankful that we have that connection. It’s really hard – I don’t think I realized how well we had it until the band had dissolved just before the pandemic. Then during the pandemic and trying to play with other people – it just felt awkward.

Dead Rhetoric: Discuss the meaning behind Rebuilding the Mountain in terms of what it means to the band?

Weaver: I quit drinking around four years ago. Before then, I was in a pretty bad way. Drinking had become number one in my life. I remember there was one night where I had been partying all night, and I had this TV that would play these old westerns. It was like 6 or 8 AM in the morning and I was just going to bed from the night before and the western that was on – they were mining on this mountain and they had destroyed it. One of the characters said something along the lines of needing to rebuild the mountain, or something like that. It resonated enough with me to the point where I wrote it down. It struck a chord. It was almost like foresight. I was around the point in my life where I knew I needed to change.

Now it means a lot – we decided to reform the band and do this whole thing. We wanted to do it right. We weren’t cutting corners. I feel like we learned a lot and we are still learning. Reforming the band and doing it right – it’s a lot of work. It plays into the title of Rebuilding the Mountain. So it really resonated with me in that regard – coming back together, we all quit drinking and we are all working on ourselves. So that really plays into the title.

Dead Rhetoric: So it’s this really cliche thing, but do you feel you have that greater sense for what you have now that it has been brought back?

Weaver: Absolutely. I feel like over the years, everything got watered down. We would be drinking. When we started the band, we all wanted to play sober. That turned into having a drink before we play, which turned into a drink onstage. Then it kept escalating – I would be sitting in a bar when we were supposed to be practicing and saying that I couldn’t make practice. That was all I wanted to do! The fact that I had a chance to change things and do it right, and do it with these two people that are like family to me…and also our label and publishing company – everyone gave us another chance and believed in us. A lot of people don’t get second chances, so we are very grateful. We are super thankful for the opportunity. Not having the outlet to play, it was really dark. Not having Royal Thunder to channel our emotions and where we are at into.

Dead Rhetoric: It’s been six years since Wick. How do you feel that musically, the three of you have changed in that time?

Weaver: I feel like we have all toned in our sonic qualities of our instruments. But I feel like with CVI and Wick, we had these really long songs and there would be a lot of building and different parts in a song. Over the years, I feel like we are able to write a song that gets to the point a lot quicker. We can still build dynamics and do it in a way that gets the point across in a more simple way. I like that. I like to be able to have a simplicity to it and get to the point without playing a 10 minute song.

Dead Rhetoric: That’s pretty funny, as I know as I have gotten older, the attraction to listen to a 10 minute song has dwindled and I look more towards something that gets to the point. It’s okay to fool around a little bit but 10 minutes – you have to make it really worth it.

Weaver: I agree 100%. Much of what I listen to is pretty simple. I feel like a lot of my life is more simplified, so there’s probably a direct correlation to that as well. With this album, it’s more about the three of us. It’s more straight-forward and to the point. There are some songs that only have one or two tracks on guitars versus the past, where I would completely overdub a bunch. I think that’s more where we are at right now.

Dead Rhetoric: What do you hope that someone takes away from the album?

Weaver: I’m not sure. It was definitely an album that came out of us working through a lot of things in our lives. We all experienced a lot of loss. We all experienced a lot of heartache. We also all decided to make huge changes in our lives to do something. I hope people could feel and relate to where we were in the dark places we were at. Also, the hope in the fact that we are on the other side of it. Of course, we aren’t perfect. We are going to continue to do the best we can with what we have, but we were in dark places and came through it. There is hope to build from zero. I was extremely in the negative, emotionally, spiritually, and physically, from not dealing with shit and drinking and not wanting to face painful things in my life. When you are in that dark place and any kind of addiction – yes, it takes you away from your problems and issues. That’s why I think it’s so powerful is because it does take you away.

For me, when I was living in that world, my anxiety was so bad. It was terrible. The smallest things were like a mountain to me. I couldn’t deal with things. I had to ask myself if I wanted to have a good life, be productive, and feel good or do I not. For me, I had to quit drinking, because it was destroying me. To come out on the other side and see change – if you had asked me five years ago, or told me that I would be doing another album and it would be a very impactful one for yourselves and I wouldn’t be drinking – I wouldn’t have believed it. So I hope people know that there’s hope and can get that out of the album.

Dead Rhetoric: That’s really cool. I think it’s impactful to see that side so that people can resonate with that. I know just acknowledging there is a problem that needs to be fixed, that’s the biggest part right there.

Weaver: It is, and something like alcohol isn’t something that happens overnight. You don’t just wake up – it’s a very slow process and life can get away from you really quick. But like I said, we don’t have anything figured out, so it’s not my place to judge anyone. I actually envy anyone who can have a drink or two and be okay. I have a lot of people that I care about and still worry about. Hopefully I can be a source of inspiration. That’s the best I can do.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel there is less of a stigma on the band, between the time away and having gotten off of the Relapse roster and sit on a more rock-oriented one with Spinefarm? Are you more comfortable doing whatever you want to do, musically?

Weaver: Yeah – I think it’s so crazy how even when the first EP came out, it was a rock EP. I think that the fact that it came out on Relapse…we were one of the first pretty non-extreme bands on the label. I think people just had to call it doom or metal. I never considered us either, at all. I think we have heavy parts at times, but I think maybe at best we are a hard rock band. With this record, we did start tuning up to standard tuning. We were tuning down for a while. We wrote the whole album in standard tuning, which I think gives it more of a rock feel as well.

Dead Rhetoric: It’s funny, because even with the rock classification, I have seen people say, “oh, it’s classic rock” and I feel like Royal Thunder has it’s own vibe. It’s not something easily nestled into a box. 

Weaver: I would agree with that. I never liked putting a stamp on it. Rock is about the most general thing you could put on it. It’s very moody, and emotional at times, but I don’t think it’s emo-rock either. Our roots are in playing with heavier bands, ones part of the Relapse roster, and I absolutely love that. I am so thankful that the scene accepted us with open arms. I always hoped that we still have fans from that period. I always wanted to play to as many different audiences as we could.

Dead Rhetoric: What’s a hobby or interest you have that keeps you happy and motivated?

Weaver: I actually started tattooing about a year ago. That has kept me occupied. My brother owns a shop here in Georgia called Kingdom Tattoos. That has kept me pretty busy. I still research a lot of music gear outside of songwriting too. I’m a huge gearhead. I love a lot of that stuff – guitar pedals, amps, stuff like that. I grew up playing Zelda and I have been playing the hell out of the new one. I don’t know, I don’t get easily bored, so on my days off I really try to get unplugged and relaxed. I like being outside and by the water, in nature.

Dead Rhetoric: What are Royal Thunder’s plans for the rest of this year?

Weaver: We have a tour in July with Royal Bliss. The record coming out is a huge thing and we are excited to hit the road on an actual tour for the first time in years. Hopefully we will do something – hopefully we can land a tour for the end of the year, otherwise we might do some more regional stuff. But we are going to continue to write. I have already started playing around with new material here and there.

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