Over the past couple of years, Charleston's The Royal Tinfoil managed to take its unharnessed, gritty sound and give it a more honed and polished once-over — and Lily Slay, Mackie Boles, and the gang have done it without losing that raw energy the band is loved for. Want proof? Just check out The Royal Tinfoil's forthcoming full-length Feed These Demons, a record that drummer Marshall Hudson calls a "big, meaty rock album." But creating the band's sophomore release was no small feat.
"There were a lot of road blocks," says vocalist/guitarist Lily Slay. "We couldn't get the sound right. We had to bring in multiple engineers. We recorded at two different studios. It was hard conveying what we wanted to get across at first, but it finally all came together. It took a while, but it's where we want it to be."
The Tinfoil started out as a duo in 2008, with only Slay and guitarist/vocalist Mackie Boles. As more musical guests sat in to play a smattering of random instruments, the band's evolution began. After creating their debut Well Water Communion, the Tinfoil developed into a five-piece band with the additions of drummer Marshall Hudson, Tim Edgar on ukulele and harmonica, and Brad Edwardson on double bass. Edwardson and Edgar eventually left the Tinfoil (independently of each other), and the band's current formation includes keyboardist Whitt Algar and a bassist named John F. Kennedy — yes, you read that right. Regardless of the lineup, the band has made quite a racket, earning the honor of Best Local Band by City Paper readers last year.
The Royal Tinfoil's fierce reputation for putting on one of the best live shows around town has persisted in spite of the group's growing pains. However, fans have probably noticed the distinct absence of the guys on the local scene lately. With recording as their top priority over the past year, the band cut back on gigs in order to focus on Feed These Demons.
The result of the band's patience is a darker 13-track album with a "couple of more jazzy songs, a couple of funky songs, and a couple of songs that stretch the idea of what The Royal Tinfoil sounds like," Hudson says. "You can expect to hear a lot of Lily's almost operatic vocals telling her sultry tales and Mackie's almost animalistic growl of raw, emotional expression."
Slay and company agree that in spite of the big shifts since Well Water Communion, the essence of The Royal Tinfoil remains. "We're pretty sure people are either going to love it or hate it, especially our original fans," Slay says. "But I think they'll see that it's in keeping with the same theme and drive we had before — it's just that now it's way more fully realized."
Hudson adds, "We're not a party band anymore. That was just the first transition."
Of course, there's no need to think the band has gotten too mature for its own good — far from it. "We still like to party," says Slay. "But our sound is a lot darker now, even though there was always a dark quality to it. Now we can actually harness it, and we have a full band to really convey what we'd been trying to achieve originally."
Despite the Tinfoil's more serious approach, the band will always have an arsenal of wacky road tales involving everything from jail time and tow trucks to a certain songstress going AWOL. Slay says the group once thought she was too drunk to come inside a restaurant, so she stayed outside in the van. However, fueled by whiskey and Pabst Blue Ribbon, she then decided to explore the North Carolina mountainside on her own. The entire waitstaff combed the woods, following the "Hansel-and-Gretl-style-PBR-beer-can trail" she'd left behind. The clues led them right to the band's van and, eventually, back indoors to the table where Slay had been sitting for quite some time.
With team-building exercises as wild as that one, it's no small wonder the band has emerged fully in tact. However, the Charleston music community has helped the band harness the beast. "[The community] has definitely gotten better over the years," Boles says, "But I feel like everyone has built it together; we've all supported each other."
To be part of a town with such a thriving pool of talent is ideal — yet with or without that help, it's clear The Royal Tinfoil has grown into a band that can now stand before its fans as a mature, respectable, yet fun group of musicians. They're sort of like your favorite uncle, who sometimes gets out of hand around the holidays. Most of the time, though, he's a successful businessman who gets things done. So, when he has one-too-many drinks every now and then, nobody minds having to search for him in the woods.
The Pour House show will be the only chance to get a physical copy of Feed These Demons before its official wintertime release.