From: Oxford, UK
Genre: Pop Rock
It was not until around 2004, when LA drummer Alain Lotter replaced Chris Hayward on drums, that this four piece renamed themselves The Dirty Royals. Since 1997 they had been wowing live audiences and underground music enthusiasts alike with their unparalleled harmonies and pop rock pleasantries under the guise of The Samurai Seven. Hailing from Oxford, UK, songwriter vocalist and guitarist Simon Williams, along with brother Matt on guitar and Jimmy Martin on bass hit the local scene with a rocket-fueled freight train of pop like never heard before. Almost instantly their scissor kicks and Buzzcocks/Beach Boys style had them on the verge of a metoeric rise to superstardom. After winning best band at that year’s BBC Sound City fringe festival, then having their double A-sided debut Xeroxy Music/Bonnet voted as the best Shifty Disco release multiple years running, they had demoed up an album of glorious songs worthy of even the most critical ears. John Peel had the band cited as one of his top 5 bands of all time and quickly became close friends with them following an appearance on his short Sound of the Suburbs television series, for which the boys recorded the theme tune; a cover of The Members‘ tune of the same name. This was no flash in the pan, as the band were to prove with their following debut LP “Le Sport” in 2002, full of catchy new gems. Having recorded no less than five Peel Sessions with the BBC (the most sessions any band did), including a blistering set of some of the best covers to have ever been aired, The Samurai Seven even earned a place in the late DJ’s box of treasures (unearthed shortly after his passing) alongside his other prized possessions including Jack White, The Fall and of course The Undertones.
Despite such talent and unmatched musical style, there however lurked a touch of darkness, a shadow, which never quite seemed to leave their side… Right after the early success, lead man Simon was shot in the eye with an airgun pellet in what was seen as a freak accident, following a drive by outside a pub in the local area. Unable to perform or continue band duty, the craze, albeit still in its infancy, rapidly died off leaving the band in relative obscurity until the album finally saw the light of day years later. By this time anyone who knew about the band had long forgotten and the short attention spans of the A&R music honchos had moved on. Couple that with a personal issue concerning the band’s manager and they ended up being left in a situation where they had not only been screwed over by the music industry, which is already commonplace, but by life itself. A truly sad tale for the best band to ever come out of Oxford (yes, Radiohead included).
But they marched on.
With hardly even a full national tour under their belt and an album which barely reached the footnotes of the Melody Maker or NME, the band went quiet for a few years before repackaging themselves with a new drummer from the USA. This new leash of life saw them perform a short tour of North America with the odd gig around London and a couple of years hidden amongst the bill at Liverpool’s International Pop Overthrow festival. Whether the band’s stumped rise to fame continues to haunt them remains to be seen, but the fact that none of these shows were even advertised, suggests a sense of bitterness still lingers in their hearts; and who could blame them. In 2006 their “debut” EP Obsessed America was released on CD with some reworked S7 tunes together with new material, before they appeared to go on another unannounced hiatus.
Then in 2013 a few random live videos appeared on YouTube, including new songs “I’m in Love” and the anthemic “Josephine”. By no means a marketing ploy (the vids had been uploaded by one of the handful of people at the gig) a new album sprouted out of nowhere; the Dirty Royals debut LP Star Burrito had appeared for purchase on iTunes. Actually more of an EP, it featured 7 tracks of pure harmonic power pop, all freshly recorded and crisply produced. It was a breath of fresh air but most importantly a sweet little reminder from the band to say yes, don’t worry, we are still here.
Who knows what they are up to these days, but it sure would be great to reach out for a short interview with Simon. The music industry is quite bizarre at the best of times and seeing other great artists disband, for no apparent reason, at the demand of corporate policy certainly doesn’t help to defend the suspicion of having to proverbially sell your soul to the devil in order to gain any form of wide recognition.
Do yourself a favour and buy The Dirty Royals’ Star Burrito on iTunes: Listen/Buy here!
Let us know what you think.