It was a wonderful accident. I arrived on time at a local Montreal bar / live show venue for my interview with a great Canadian band, that shall remain unnamed, only to find that they were stuck at the American border and were running behind schedule. Assuring me they would arrive shortly, I grabbed a seat and began one of my least favorite aspects of the job – waiting. As I watched another band setting up their gear I was soon approached by someone with a, wait for it, British accent, which I must admit I found quite strange, but my interest was immediately peaked. I was soon introduced to the rest of the band (turns out Mr. British Accent had a name, Ben Chauveau, and was the keyboardist for the band I had been watching set up), heard some tunes and before I knew it I was leading an impromptu interview with what has since become one of my new favorite bands – The Ascot Royals. Was it fluke? Was it fate? Whatever it was, my ears, and my spirit (as cheesy as that sounds), thank me every time one of the songs off their debut self-titled album is blasting through my speakers.
The five-member band is a fusion of Brit brothers Ben (Keys) and Jimmy Chauveau (Vocals) and Canadians Joey Vinegar (Guitar), Jesse Gilroy (Bass) and Scott Cunningham (Drums), who Ben met when he made the move to Ontario and began attending McMaster University. Everyone soon agreed on the prospect of starting up a band and looking for a name they decided to flip one of England’s hallmark racing events, the Royal Ascot. It seems that Ben and Jimmy also brought over some of the musical musings of famed rockers native to their part of the globe, namely The Clash and a even hint of The Stones.
Heading into Catherine North Studios in Hamilton, ON for six months they recorded their debut slightly unconventionally, doing it “off the floor, so it was kind of nice to kind of be able to play with people that you normally play with in a performance instead of being stuck in a booth by yourself playing to a ghost track,” said Joe. That would help explain the warmness, cohesiveness and general ‘live’ vibe that the album emanates, and the first thing that appealed to me (many more to follow.) The best part of the experience? “ The free beer and the final product,” laughs Ben, and no one can disagree with that.
The Ascot Royals offer an open album and what I mean by that is that you can’t narrow it down to one style or genre and fit it into a neat little box, which I find extremely appealing and refreshing. No two tracks sound remotely similar and yet they are all connected. It’s rockabilly mixed with rockin’ guitar riffs, blended with melancholic crooning and mashed up with wit and memorable lyrics. Each song has a highlight, whether it be Joe’s unbelievable guitar riffs that at times rival Slash (really, they do – put on Zap Zap and I challenge you to disagree with me) or passages that make you want to dance and sing like no one’s watching (pop on Awkward When I Stop – which the band is graciously offering as a free download! – and you’ll see what I mean) or melancholic, but relatable (to some!) lyrics like “You’re the kind of girl that makes me drink myself to sleep” on Down – it’s all a fabulous eclectic mix. Not to mention the smooth keys that give spice to the entire escapade and make me think that maybe that’s what’s been missing from today’s music scene.
It seems like others are taking notice too and recently The Ascot Royals shared the stage with greats such as The Tragically Hip and Sam Roberts as the North Rocks The Bay festival.
The band’s hopes for the future, as Ben sums up, are “to make this a career. Whether we make sixty bucks a day or sixty thousand a week, my goal as a band is for people to hear the music and us to be able to make a living out of this so we don’t have to worry about when our next shower is or when we can next eat a hot meal.”
On a lighter note, I ask the five-piece to encompass their sound in one word. Jesse starts with “Danceable, I took the easy one guys. I jumped in there!” Ben follows with “Enticing! Looked it up on my phone,” he laughs and then it’s back to Jesse for “Milkshake.” Lets just say it all went downhill from there.
The most surprising thing about The Ascot Royals? “We are complete goofballs. You wouldn’t be able to tell by meeting us, obviously!” Jesse laughs. At which point it’s photo time and we end up with the marvelous snapshot you see on the left. As gripped with fear as I was (can’t you see it in my eyes?) I couldn’t help but laugh at what Jesse had just said, and that’s when it clicked. The Ascot Royals are a group of musicians who just work. They’re skilled and, perhaps even more importantly, they’re not afraid to be themselves and have a riot wherever they go. This genuine joy and passion for music (and I’d say for life in general too) is reflected in their songs, album, and live performances and adds that certain ‘X factor’ to it all.
I hope The Ascot Royals will become more than just a ‘Band of the Week’ for you all and that you’ll enjoy their music as much as I do, for much longer than seven days …
For more info: http://www.myspace.com/theascotroyals
Courtesy of the band and The Rock and Roll Report download the Ascot Royals’ track Awkward When I Stop for free!