Royal Headache solidifies its status as the king of Aussie garage punk
With its 2012 debut, Sydney, Australia’s Royal Headache effectively ended Radio Birdman’s 40-year reign as the king of Australian garage punk, supplanting Birdman’s surf infl uences with ca einated mod and soul. Although the band—singer Shogun, guitarist Law, bassist Joe and drummer Shortty—bristles at such categorizations.
“We were compared to the Jam a lot by Australians when we started,” says Joe, addressing the band’s alleged mod proclivities. “Generally, everything we’re compared to are bands we don’t listen to a great deal. The Jam have some incredible songs, but overall, I reckon they’re pretty patchy.”
“I always thought of Shogun as having a Rod Stewart thing going,” says Shortty. “We all love the Northern soul classics as much as the next person. However, it always makes me cringe when music press pushes this narrative that Royal Headache are these soul-daddies or something. At the end of the day, we are four white, middleclass guys from Australia. We are aware of our privilege and lived-in experiences. I don’t want us to be perceived as Blueshammer-style cultural appropriators.”
After a three-year absence, and announcement by Shogun last year that the band was splitting, Royal Headache recently surprised fans with a new release, High. “The band has never been a full-time thing for us,” says Law, explaining the delay. “It’s a fine balance maintaining a functioning band, holding a job and living in the real world.”
High avoids the sophomore slump with the revved-up, lo-fi punk of the band’s debut, mingled with the likes of “Wouldn’t You Know,” the closest Royal Headache has come to pure soul, and “Carolina,” an unexpected (and excellent) foray into heartland rock.
Given the premature reports of their demise, what does the future hold for the Aussies? “I personally feel like it’s the start of a new chapter for Royal Headache,” says Law. “It’s like a family now. A fairly dysfunctional one, but a family nonetheless.”