Crooked Royals

Crooked Royals unearth harmony from unpredictability. The Auckland, NZ quintet—Christian Carstensen [clean vocals], Lee Mackley [heavy vocals], Jake Andrews [guitar], Keane Gilles [drums], and Conor Lawson [bass]—infuse metalcore with moments of head-spinning off-kilter prog, alternative melodies, and even nocturnal trap R&B, switching lanes seamlessly and smoothly. They bob and weave past boundaries with a deft and dynamic approach. After racking up millions of streams independently and touring with various genre heavyweights, they perfect this vision on their full-length debut album, Quarter Life Daydream [3DOT Recordings].

“We find accessibility between extremes,” says Lee. “The vibe can be prog-y and more technical with time changes. Or, it can be a little bit catchier. However, we slap everything on top of the metalcore sound—from rapping to screaming—with big choruses. The idea is to combine those spazzy guitars with melodies and give you the whole package.”

“We always try to change,” notes Christian. “It’s different from one release to the next. We don’t stick to anything for too long.”

As the story goes, Lee traded the UK for Australia. He decided to check out New Zealand and wound up finding a video of Jake playing guitar. They linked up and hit it off as the lineup of Crooked Royals cemented with the addition of Conor followed by Christian and Keane (who competed against them in a battle of the bands). “I was going to stay in New Zealand for a year and just work and hang out, recalls Lee. “When I met these guys, I loved what we were doing, and I moved here permanently.

With initial demos, they caught the attention of Veil of Maya frontman Lukas Magyar, who worked with them on their 2018 debut EP, Interwine. In between supporting Northlane, Polaris, Monuments, and more, they maintained this momentum with the Rumination EP in 2019. With the onset of the global pandemic, the musicians hunkered down and penned music at a prolific pace, expanding their signature style in the process around a cohesive theme on Quarter Life Daydream.

 

“A lot of us are in our twenties,” says Christian. “In a quarter life crisis, you’re stuck in that beginner job straight out of university. It’s about the trials and tribulations we’ve gone through writing during the Pandemic and doing those jobs. It’s about balancing the stress we all go through in our twenties. These are referred to as the wasted years where you experiment and see what’s good and what sticks. It’s the main theme of the album.”

Crooked Royals initially bulldozed a path for Quarter Life Daydream with “Copacetic,” generating 497K Spotify streams and counting. Meanwhile, the single “Glass Hands” storms out of the gate on a flurry of double bass and fret-searing lead guitar as the melodic vocals ring out.

“The song is about a person who wants to believe in something so hard that they’ll do anything for it,” Christian goes on. “We want listeners to be critical of this voice though.”

“It’s similar to when people get news from a headline on social media,” Lee adds. “They’ll spout the headline, but they don’t read the actual article. They just believe in it without understanding it.”

Then, there’s “Ill Manor.” It dips in and out of a bludgeoning barrage punctuated by pummeling riffs and another soaring refrain laced with raw melody.

“It’s a song about living in a rough household that’s not healthy or safe,” states Lee. “‘Ill Manor’ is British slang for a sick house.”

On the other end of the spectrum, the finale “Between You and I” showcases a different side of Crooked Royals. A lush soundscape complements a heavenly harmony as a fitting reprieve to the album’s rollercoaster.In the end, Crooked Royals captivate in their own way.

“Jake initially wrote it as an instrumental for his wife,” recalls Christian. “It’s just a beautiful song, so we put it on the album. As the only single guy in the band I found it strange to write a love song, but I thought of my parents’ marriage for the lyrics. They were a huge inspiration, because they’ve been together for 25 years. They love each other the same way.”

 

“We’ve done a lot of serious songs, but we don’t take life so seriously,” Christian leaves off. “This might be the happiest body of work we’ve ever written though. There’s a relief and release to it. We hope you hear this shit happens to everybody, and it’s part of the human process.”

“If this can invoke any feeling whether it’s pissed off, angry, sad, or happy, that’s all we can ask for,” Lee concludes.

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