Whatever you choose to call it, jazz, rock or funk, the Royal Noise makes instrumental music that moves like heavy machinery light on its feet — aggressive art that doesn’t stay in one place for too long. It’s musical perpetual motion.
“Fusion,” says guitarist Johan Harvey, “is always a loaded word, because it covers so much. Of late, we really have little regard for stylistic boundaries. Incessant experimentation, heavy groove, it’s loose yet it’s tight, it’s grounded yet it’s stratospheric.”
The Royal Noise defies categorization. “People call it many things,” Harvey says, “whether it’s jazz fusion, funk fusion, acid jazz or jazz/funk. But it basically covers all of those bases.”
Aficionados of England’s New Mastersounds, or the Boston funk band Lettuce, need to sit up and pay attention.
The Royal Noise is a quartet of heavy hitters. Along with Harvey, there’s sax and keys player Mike LaBombard, funk–fried bassist Darius Shepherd, and octopussian drummer Jonathan Proffitt.
The band has been in Elevated Basement Studios, laying down tracks for its second album, which is penciled in for an early 2013 release.
Until then, the touring continues. The Royal Noise made its Athens debut Dec. 1 at the trendy Nowhere Bar, adjacent to the Georgia Theatre. They headlined the after–party for Big Gigantic, which played a show that night in the big hall.
This weekend, Harvey and company return to Chatham County. After a warm–up gig Dec. 7 at Huc–a–Poos on Tybee Island, they’re booked into Live Wire Music Hall, on a bill with Dark Water Rising (more on them in a minute).
According to Harvey, it’s in the live context where the Royal Noise really shines. The guys pride themselves on never playing the same show twice. The songs metamorphose right before your eyes and ears, depending on each musician’s mood that night.
Someone not long ago likened their sets to improv comedy: Whose line is it anyway?
“Nobody knows exactly what’s gonna go on,” Harvey beams. “Somebody will through out an idea, like Darius will throw out some funky groove that he’s never hit before, and we’ll all turn to him and be like ‘yes ... and ...’
“Basically, it’s like you draw a map, A, B, C ... we’re gonna turn at these points, but whatever happened in between just kind of happens. Either until it’s about to fall apart — and we look at each other and say ‘OK, right turn’ — or until it’s run its course. Whichever comes first.”
Indeed, it’s this kind of faith, trust and inner–ear convo that makes the best jazz bands work — and the Royal Noise is very much rooted in jazz. “It’s almost like a practice when we’re onstage,” says Harvey. “How much fun can we have? And how can we break the mold of the song yet again?”
LaBombard was the last to join the band (before his arrival, they were called the Royal Noise Trio). “He very quickly became one of the most important,” Harvey explains. “He wrote the majority of the music for the second album. He’s a phenomenal player. He blows his brains out every chance he gets.”
As for the Shepherd/Proffitt rhythm section, “those two have some kind of clairvoyant connection. Watching them play, you’d think they just completed each other’s sentences. And it’s funny watching them, because they shock each other, how they latch on.”
According to Harvey, the Royal Noise is on the “short list” to play SXSW in March.
North Carolina’s Dark Water Rising is a soul/Americana band fronted by the amazing vocalist Charly Lowry, a Season 3 finalist on American Idol.
In 2010, Dark Water Rising won a Native American Music Award as Debut Duo or Group of the Year.
The Royal Noise/Dark Water Rising
Where: Live Wire Music Hall, 307 W. River St.
When: At 9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8
Online: theroyalnoise.com, darkwaterrising.net