The El Paso quintet The Royalty have a marvelous throwback feeling to them without, somehow, sounding overly nostalgic or out of step. They have the assured vibe of musicians just doing what they do, waiting patiently for the world to come back around to wanting this kind of thing. The band’s buoyant appeal has much to do with big-voiced Nicole Bourdeau, who sings with a verve that channels many decades’ worth of charismatic vocalists, from pre-rock’n'roll belters to girl group powerhouses to new wave chanteuses.
Founded in 2005, the band released its self-titled debut album just last year, and was featured here at that point, for the song “Alexander.” A follow-up album, Lovers, was released this May; it has yet to yield a free and legal MP3 but if or when that happens I’m rooting for the song “Bartender,” which you can check out via the band’s video.
In the meantime, front woman Nicole was kind enough to stop by, virtually, to tackle the relentless but well-intentioned Fingertips Q&A questions.
The Fingertips Q&A, for the uninitiated, is a recurring feature. More than 30 artists to date have participated. The Q&A’s sole intent is to allow actual, workaday 21st-century musicians a forum for discussing the state of music in the digital age. So-called experts and futurists have far too loudly dominated this discussion for too long.
Q: Let’s cut to the chase: how do you as a musician cope with the apparent fact that not everybody seems to want to pay for digital music? Do you think recorded music is destined to be free, as some of the pundits insist?
A: Yeah this is a tough issue. It’s definitely hard to deal with the modern boycott of purchased music. I do not think music should be free. It’s just like everything else, there needs to be money to back you up and give sustenance to what you’re doing. We’ve noticed a shift to live music (i.e., all the festivals) and vinyl that is becoming the new income source for musicians. That’s not a bad thing. It’s cool. But as for digital music, it’s a tough battle and no one in the industry has an answer. But hey, at this second, we’re getting to play and we’re happy campers about that.
Q: What do you think of the idea that music is destined for the “cloud”?
A: There are lots of ways to look at the cloud. As a musician, it’s a little daunting because it’s never been this way before, historically. As a listener, I can see pros to it though. Technology has taken away the artifact (tangible recordings) and made them immortal in a way. So ANY musician is on the same playing field. The likelihood of getting shelved and forgotten is now a lot smaller…because there is no shelf! I feel like I could go in circles on the pros and cons but overall I’d say this new age of transparency is a good and challenging chance for musicians to rise to the occasion.
Q: How has your life as a musician been affected—or not—by the existence of music blogs? Do you miss old-style music criticism, or do you welcome the non-professional music fan into the mix?
A: As a band, I think we’ve greatly benefited from the existence of music blogs. Victory [the band's record label] actually first heard about us through a random blog and it lead to getting signed. We’ve had some really wonderful reviews and it’s always great to get that encouragement. I say let people have the freedom to start blogs and if you are good at giving reviews, your opinion will matter. But there’s a difference between well-thought intelligent opinion and an agro-nerd rant. We keep crossing our fingers because the reviews so far have been pretty friendly…
Q: One obvious thing the digital age has introduced is the ease of two-way communication between artist and fan. Does this feel like a benefit or a distraction, or a little of both?
A: Good question! Well I think the digital age has let the artist/fan relationship reach new heights in the best kind of way. It’s kind of like that transparency I mentioned. The contact level is so solid that you have to be honest about who you are and I say any honesty added to the world is a good thing. It’s a benefit and can be so much fun. Distracting? Yeah maybe, haha. It’s another element added to the job description of musician but it’s an important one.
Q: There is clearly way more music available for people to listen to these days than there ever used to be. How do you as a musician cope with the reality of an over-saturated market, to put it both economically and bluntly?
A: I would say economically speaking, at the moment at least, the over-saturation is hitting us hard. On one side, anyone can record at home (including us) and that’s creatively really great. But it leads people to feel like music is a free resource and that decreases its value on the market. On the other side, I think the music business is still the same ol’ cut throat place. You have to have a stroke of luck plus the talent to back it up. The burst of evolution in the music world is going to proceed in a predictable fashion, musicians need to adapt and become stronger or they won’t make it.