Royal Trux Talk Finally Going Streaming
Royal Trux are kind of a pink elephant in band form — a pleasant hallucination of an experience that’s at once bubblegum-colored and slightly ominous.
It was also previously impossible to enjoy said hallucination via streaming services, as their label, Drag City, is one of the last holdouts when it comes to services like TIDAL. However, the band has now moved over to Fat Possum Records, bringing their back catalogue and all future music with them — across platforms. It’s rolling out piecemeal, and will be available in totality in June, which means fans can starting sonically tripping out ASAP on TIDAL.
It’s hard to say if a band like Royal Trux — a.k.a. Neil Hagery and Jennifer Herrema — could have been born today. A product of the freewheeling ‘80s and ‘90s music scene (who openly talked their heroin use in the press), the D.C. band released their first, self-tiled record in 1988 — followed by four albums on Drag City.
They then rode the Nirvana train to a three-record, million-dollar contract with Virgin in the mid-‘90s, as Kurt Cobain and Co.’s success had thrown the music industry into a grunge- and oddball-fueled frenzy. During that same period, outsider musician Daniel Johnston was famously the subject of a label bidding war while residing in a mental hospital.
Major label life proved uncomfortable for the pair, however. Although they did manage to kick their drug habit, their signature scream-singing-at-the-same-time non-harmonies were less radio-friendly than, say, Nevermind, and the band returned to Drag City for the foreseeable. Their last record as Trux, Pound for Pound, dropped in 2000, and the band disappeared for a spell, Hagerty and Herrema releasing music under other monikers.
In recent years, though, the band reunited and a spate of live shows culminated in 2017’s compliation album, Platinum Tips + Ice Cream, their last release on Drag City. Now, it seems, they’re scheming new music with Fat Possum as Royal Trux 2.0. TIDAL recently got on the phone with the band to talk their label move, Royal Trux today and new music.
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On moving to Fat Possum… If we were going to keep working together, Jennifer and I, we had to really not do the things that we did before. And not do the things we did individually in between. - Neil Hagerty
We started at Drag City…we’ve always been there, except for the four years we were with Virgin. We made that live record [Platinum Tips + Ice Cream] because we recorded the first two live shows. We didn’t know if we were going to do anymore. That might have just been it. So for posterity we recorded those songs and Drag City put out that live concert record. Then we decided we wanted to create completely new material and work with some of the people we’ve been working with, but we wanted an entirely different experience.
And as far as digital distribution, Neil and I started talking about streaming over a year ago. I was super against streaming three or four years ago because I thought it was perhaps going to be yet another mode that would become obsolete really quickly, so I didn’t just want to buy in. But it’s obviously not. I listen to streaming all the time. So, last year we were like, ‘We need to be on streaming.’ Because we’re way late in the game. Everybody else in the world is on streaming. We want to do Royal Trux Part II completely differently.
As we all know, there was tons of money in music up until streaming and basically downloads and basically the death of CDs. But that’s fine. There’s a new model that’s just in its infancy. I think it’s all going to work itself out to provide for artists in time. – Jennifer Herrema
On Royal Trux in 1998 versus 2018… It’s the same two people but with all the extra information and lived experience and baggage to bring to the table, lyrically and sonically. So the vocabulary is definitely deeper because we’ve been around longer. It’s kind of like: the more you’re around, the more you got. The vocabulary is always increasing. … Past experiences are not that far in the past. I have a very weird sense of time. Nothing seems that long ago to me.
Some people, they still won’t even record digitally; that’s just their problem. But I’m all about doing stuff that I’ve never done before, and that’s what Neil is all about, too. That’s definitely something we’ve come together on. – JH
On new music… All of our songs have been culled from our life experience. Some of our songs are autobiographical. Some are just riffs on reality. The same will hold true, but we have lot more years and a lot more stories. The stories are just kind of engrained in the recent present and the present, as opposed to harking back to old memories and shit. It’s the way that we kind of move ourselves forward into the present.
We weren’t in contact with each other, and then we were in contact with each other again, but we’re super still on the same page, which is also very interesting. – JH
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