Baths’ Time

29 March 2012 | 12:15 pm | Samson McDougall

"In New York there’s a high turnover of [people] coming in and out of the scene. There’s always fresh blood.”

Royal Baths exude cool in bucketloads. There's a sexy sophistication to the understated vibe of their songs – they blend simple bluesy rock and folk tunes with elements of psychedelia and opium-den chic. Their latest release, second album Better Luck Next Life, is almost a little too reminiscent of The Velvet Underground in parts but their sometimes shambolic rambles also conjure elements of Thee Oh Sees' reckless abandon [Royal Baths' Jigmae Baer is a past member] and even Black Angels-style meditations. It's reaching for nostalgia of sorts and it almost undoes itself by the intensity and presence of direct influences. Given space though, the record opens out to reveal hidden nooks and nuances. There's plenty of musical treasure for those prepared to look closely enough.

Products of the San Francisco post-rock/garage scene, Royal Baths' inner sanctum of Jeremy Cox and Jigmae Baer recently up and moved to New York City. Listening to their music, you'd say the relocation was an inspired choice. Cox admits that the shift was born as much from romantic ideals than chasing audience or bringing their music back to the city from whence, in a very roundabout way, it came. “[It's] a very romantic city, there's a lot going on there,” he says. “We'd been in San Francisco a little while – me about four years and Jigmae about eight years – so it was kind of just time for a change. Also, we'd come through New York on tour a few times and we noticed that people there were very receptive to what we were doing musically. It's also a very enchanting, fabulous place to be; we just found ourselves there.”

While San Francisco is suffering similar noise ordinance and licensing constraints as many Australian cities, Royal Baths have found a thriving DIY scene in New York City. “I noticed that New York is similar to San Francisco in that there is a kind of a tight-knit scene but then it's expansive as well,” Cox says. “Of course, I've only been there three or four months, so I'm still getting a grasp of what's going on.” He also says they've found fresh inspiration in breaking away from an established community like the SF garage scene. “In San Francisco most people I'd see playing would be people I'd known there for a while and people starting different bands and different projects. In New York there's a high turnover of [people] coming in and out of the scene. There's always fresh blood.”

The band are gaining fair momentum in their new home. Their past and current labels (Woodsist and Kanine respectively) being based in the city has allowed them to slot into regular gigs and into the warehouse world with relative ease. Also, the release of an album just a few months into their tender is a master stroke – cementing their 'arrival' with a tangible artefact for new fans. It is, at times, an incredibly dark record, but across the nine songs and 45 minutes the lasting impression is that of a band that will kill it on the live stage.

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At seven-odd minutes, second track Burned morphs and grinds into a pulsating monster of a song. For a taste of what to expect at their upcoming Tote show, Cox reckons you should go no further. “Actually that song is a good representation and is closer to what we sound like live on stage,” he says. “On this record there are only a couple of overdubs that we did, so we're able to recreate it live. All the vocals are out of tune a bit, 'cause we're tone deaf, but other than that it's pretty close to what we sound like live. Our first record was a lot mellower than what we sound like when we play and people were a bit turned off by that – they wanted something a bit more exciting.”