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Marvel Music

The Marvel Life: Royal Bangs

The Tennessee band discusses their favorite X-Men, their new album, touring Marvel and more!

Cover to "Brass"

By Blake Garris

In the midst of a tour with Jimmy Eat World, Knoxville, Tennessee’s own Royal Bangs took some time out of their busy schedule to visit Marvel. They spoke about their various loves from toys to cartoons to trading cards, their new album ‘Brass’—out now—and much more!

Marvel.com: To begin, what instrument do you play?

Chris Rusk: I play the drums.

Ryan Schaefer: Keyboard.

Sam Stratton: Sam will play guitar.

Dylan Dawkins: Dylan plays a bass thing.

Chris Rusk: Chris still plays drums.

Marvel.com: So you guys are big comic book fans. You know your stuff.

Ryan Schaefer: We’ve been out of it for a little while but we all read them when we were kids.

Sam Stratton: We were weaned on it.

The X-Men

Ryan Schaefer: It’s been a long time since I’ve actually read a comic book, but walking around the office and seeing all this stuff I had forgotten how completely obsessed I was with X-Men when I was a little kid.

Marvel.com: It was funny because each of you had at least one of the things hanging from our wall. One of you had the cards, one of you had the posters…

Chris Rusk: I gotta be honest, I had more than comics or cards. I had action figures.

Sam Stratton: I had a lot of toys.

Ryan Schaefer: Didn’t like reading that much, this one.

Chris Rusk: No, I liked making up my own story in the car with my three different types of Wolverines. You guys made a lot of different types of Wolverine action figures.

Marvel.com: We’re still doing it too. There’s a ton of them.

Sam Stratton: I had the Cyclops shirt that I had since elementary school and it just kept getting smaller and smaller and getting holes. A couple of years ago, Ryan bought me a new Cyclops shirt to replace it.


Dylan Dawkins: Yeah, that shirt’s awesome.

Marvel.com: So you would say that your favorite character would be Wolverine.

Chris Rusk: Yeah, Wolverine was always my favorite. I would say that. I know it’s probably not that cool because everyone likes Wolverine.

Marvel.com: Ryan, you love Nightcrawler.

Ryan Schaefer: Yeah, he was always my favorite.

Marvel.com: Why so?

Ryan Schaefer: I don’t know, I think I liked that he could do the teleporting thing.

Sam Stratton: Bamf!

Ryan Schaefer: He was really fast and he had the sword and could attack people really quickly and then disappear. I always thought that was awesome.

Chris Rusk: I always thought Storm was hot. I had a thing for Storm, which is kinda weird.

Marvel.com: Storm and Wolverine got together recently.

Wolverine and Storm

Chris Rusk: Maybe that’s what it was, because I liked Wolverine. I wanted to be like Wolverine.

Marvel.com: Sam and Dylan, what about you guys? Who are your favorite characters?

Sam Stratton: I always liked Magneto.

Dylan Dawkins: My favorite Marvel character would be the Punisher but my favorite X-Men character would probably be Cable. I like guns. I liked guns a lot; Cable or Bishop from the X-Men for sure.

Marvel.com: What do you still have from when you were a kid?

Sam Stratton: I still have the cards. All the comics are in storage in my brother’s house.

Ryan Schaefer: I actually just recently found a bunch of that stuff from when I was a kid. My dad was moving and he had a box of stuff in his house. I found all these binders that the nine-year-old nerd me had put all the cards in the little plastic slots. It’s super nerdy. It was cool to see. And then we came here today and there’s the complete set of them on the wall over there. 

Marvel.com: My parents threw out all my toys.

Chris Rusk: I still have, somewhere in my mom’s, about 60 action figures. I had a ton. That was like all I wanted was X-Men action figures. They’re still in a box somewhere. I don’t play with them that much anymore.


Marvel.com: What was the coolest part for you all when you went around the office?

Sam Stratton: I think it was just seeing the sheets of the uncut trading cards.

Ryan Schaefer: Yeah. The giant bust of the Hulk in the conference room was pretty impressive. Or the Iron Man suit.

Sam Stratton: The original pencils for the X-Men [90’s cartoon].

Dylan Dawkins: Meeting the editors.

Chris Rusk: Yeah, being in that room and just kind of snooping around or at least trying to.

Marvel.com: Yeah, you guys met Nick Lowe and Jordan White, two of the nicest guys in comics. Let’s talk about the band for a little bit. You guys are on tour currently with Jimmy Eat World. How’s that going?

Ryan Schaefer: Good. They’re super nice dudes and bring out a lot of people every night. Oddly enough, it seems like it might be a bit of a weird fit but the people they bring seem to be pretty excited about it. The shows have been great. People have been pretty receptive to it. It’s been fun.

Marvel.com: Tell the fans that are not aware how you were discovered.

Royal Bangs (photo by Blake Garris)

Chris Rusk: I think you’re talking about Pat Carney, the drummer for Black Keys. He found us on the Internet back when people used Myspace a lot for music. I didn’t know who he was. He was behind the moniker of Audio Eagle Records and was just some guy named Pat that wanted to put out this record that we made in our basement. And we were like, “sure.” And we found out it was Pat Carney from the Black Keys and then it just started from there. He put out our first two records and helped us along the way. I guess that was maybe 2007 when he discovered us. So yeah, he really helped us a lot.

Marvel.com: And he produced the new album, right?

Ryan Schaefer: Yeah. It was really fun working with him. He found the record on the Internet, after Chris message him, but after that we went on tour with the Black Keys and became friends with him. This is the first time we actually got to work together on a record. He was sort of around for the second one because we did it at his studio but he didn’t work on it. But it was really fun because we’ve known him for so long now that it wasn’t like a producer coming in and telling you to change this, change that. It was pretty laid back because we’ve known each other for a long time. I think it was one of the more fun records we’ve made because it was a lot less stressful.

Sam Stratton: Definitely more comfortable.

Ryan Schaefer: Yeah, it was a nice studio in Nashville and we all hung out and made it pretty quickly. It was a good time.


Marvel.com: What would you tell Marvel fans that aren’t aware of the band to get them interested?

Sam Stratton: That’s a tough question.

Chris Rusk: We vary from record to record.

Ryan Schaefer: I think it’s pretty different from the last record that we put out. That record was different from the one before it, but we kind of just move around a lot. This one is a lot more stripped down than the last record. The last record was packed full. Every song had 70 tracks on it. There was all sorts of crazy production stuff.

Dylan Dawkins: We were being creatively liberal.

Ryan Schaefer: We were trying to create a maximal album. Try to put as many instruments into each track, try as many things as we could. This one is a little bit more about the songs. We tracked it live. There’s a lot less over dubs. It’s completely the other direction from that last one.

Marvel.com: Is there any meaning behind the album name “Brass?”


Ryan Schaefer: Sort of. It doesn’t translate directly to the songs but it kind of fits in with the notion of taking a minimal approach to the songs, as something not fancy; for some reason that seemed to connect. We were just tossing ideas around with the guy who was doing the artwork and it was almost more of his idea; something to sum up the bare elements of the kind of music that we make normally. It seemed appropriate to have something that was just sort of a regular kind of metal. It’s not gold. We didn’t call our record platinum or something. It’s just brass.

Marvel.com: Can you mention your upcoming tour?

Ryan Schaefer: Yeah, with Ra Ra Riot? We’re going on tour with them at the end of September.

For more on Royal Bangs, follow them on Twitter @royalbangs or visit their website www.royalbangs.com. Pick up their new album “Brass,” out now on Modern Art Records.



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