Royce Wood Junior has worked as a session musician, lived and written with Jamie Woon and produced for one of this year’s biggest British stars, Kwabs. Now he’s striking out on his own. His Tonight Matthew EP saw him rise from obscurity to a blogosphere darling, helped with the release of his full-length LP. With new cut ‘Ophelia’ his rise looks set to continue. The track starts simply with Royce’s vocals carrying the opening as the instrumental builds in intensity, finishing full and rich while still allowing his voice to shine through.
His soulful blend of jazz and electronica marks him out as an exciting new voice in a swarm of singer-songwriters. Having premiered the live video for his single ‘Honeydripper‘ at the start of the month, Notion caught up with Royce again as he shares some personal highlights for his mood board, detailing how songs of his are directly influenced by certain places and themes.
Track: ‘Remembrance’ / Inspiration: Sir Thomas Wyatt’s Remembrance.
RWJ: My mum suggested I use this. The sentiment of this poem is just as pertinent today as was when it was written in the 1500’s – most love is fleeting, mere visits in the night, some more potent than others. I love the scale of the lyricism in this. His use of the word ‘newfangleness’ seems like it could’ve been quite a punky gesture at the time and made me realise that it’s entirely okay to break the rules lyrically. His words delivered in a barber shop, Princey close harmony style was the premise for my version of Remembrance. My hope was that mixing two completely different styles from different eras would evoke the feeling that regardless of time or place, some things always stay the same.
Track: ‘Jodie’ / Inspiration: Stevie Wonder
RWJ: This tune was produced at the height of the side-chain era of production… I was quite embroiled in techniques and the tricks that go with making modern electronica. I was trying to make ‘lensing’ a thing, a laborious technique I invented that involved multiple bounces and multiple stages of side-chaining. Of course it never became a ‘thing’ because it was a dreary technique that bore almost no good results ever. I’ve always loved ‘Don’t you worry ‘bout a thing’ by Stevie Wonder. The sheer audacity of the semitonic descending chorus still feels supremely bold and ahead of its time to me.. this definitely was a big inspiration for Jodie.
Track: ‘Midnight’ / Inspiration: Adrian Mole
RWJ: I love the Dirty Mind-era Prince stuff; the up-tempo, uncompromisingly major stuff – ‘Head’ in particular…the driving, positive sound of that record was a big influence on the track ‘Midnight’. At the time I was also really into Van Morrison’s Moondance album (I know you’re supposed to say Astral Weeks). I figured out that Van’s entire melodic lexicon is based around two simple note resolutions – the 6th to the 5th and the 2nd to the tonic – basic! And it’s evident in almost every song on that record. Sadly, not everyone can match the swag which he delivers that simple formula with, and that’s the real secret. I was also re-reading Adrian Mole and drinking too much coffee which accounts for the sarcastic and repetitive lyrics.
Track: ‘Clanky Love’ / Inspiration: Charlie Brown
RWJ: Americana has always appealed, whether it’s the metropolitan sound of Miles Davis’ trumpet or Tom Waits buying bennies from a Lincoln full of Mexicans, the romance of its culture is undeniable. The piano soundtrack from the comic strip Peanuts and the nihilism of it’s central character, Charlie Brown, helped me out a lot with ‘Clanky Love’… The piano is sweet like Californian oranges being filmed in Super 8 and Charlie’s constant struggle with depression seems like something from a Woody Allen movie. He’s probably never gonna kick that football but he keeps trying nonetheless…
Track: ‘Stand’ / Inspiration: The Colonnade pub
RWJ: I wrote this during the most down and out period of my life, living illegally in a tiny recording studio in Brighton. On dole day, I used to go to a pub called The Colonnade in the Lanes and write and drink for the whole day. It really appealed to me because it was a theatre bar which was all brass fittings with sepia lighting and photographs of all of the notable actors that had appeared there over the years on the wall. It fitted that Bukowski down-and-out drunk romanticism perfectly, and I was happy to drink that cliche up and wallow in it. ‘Stand’ was written in there. The lyrics came out drunk-sounding with some potentially made up words. This song still feels like how that period was – drunken, negative and hopeless where even beautiful things felt dull and frivolous. The song’s about waiting it out and believing that one day it’ll turn around. The pub’s name made it into the song – a beautiful French word sadly mispronounced in thuggish English.
Track: ‘Bees’ / Inspiration: Schiphol Airport
RWJ: This song was written in Amsterdam during a really happy period. Spent a lot of time going between Gatwick and Schiphol. The airborne part of an Easyjet flight will take around 45 mins, but the taxi on the other side is one of the longest in the world- you appear to land about 5 miles before the airport and drive the rest of the way which bumps up the over all flight time to a solid hour – weird! The Dutch still have ‘rooms of shame’ for smoking in the airport. I don’t smoke anymore but still, consider that to be an incredibly civilised policy and another example of how Europeans are generally a bit cooler than the English.