“Let’s travel and make life a little less shitty” is a line from Royal Noble’s song “Travellin.” Traveling life’s lonely highways and exploring the inner geography of the heart inspired the majority of Royal Noble’s music. Personal displacement lends itself as an intrinsic part of this band’s musical creativity and motivation. Lead guitarist/vocalist Justin Craperi just returned to Reno from a summer-long journey across America and reunited with two of his best friends and current bandmates, bass guitarist Josh Koberstein and percussionist Josh Hageman.
As longtime friends who occasionally overlap in each other’s musical projects, the Joshes have only been a part of Royal Noble since last February when Craperi invited them to Olympia, Wash., to play a birthday show for his wife.
The majority of Craperi’s pop-infused love songs are about his wife. “In the beginning of this project, I thought a lot about Amber. She is a well of optimism and the driving force behind most of the things I do.” For Craperi, driving long distances in the name of love is a soundtrack itself.
The other two band mates prefer to drive long distances while listening to a different interpretation of love: Love, Arthur Lee’s psychedelic garage rock band from the late 1960s.
Ray Davies, Bruce Springsteen and Daniel Johnston are other musical heroes of the group. Koberstein says, “I’m influenced by everything my dad listened to.” Their vintage sound and musical sensibility places them in the same genre as 1960s garage rock bands like The Kinks, The Concepts and The Zombies.
Craperi’s pop-infused rock songs are catchy, upbeat and clever. Bass and drums help fill out the sound while adding layers of dance-driven fun for fans to rock out to. Both new members agree they craft their additions to Craperi’s songs according to what fits and complements the original style while also heightening the dynamic of the music.
“I really love Justin’s songs,” says Hageman. “I don’t want to muddle or lose anything … I try hard to not over-drum. The vocals in his songs need to be up front, so I play soft and simple to accentuate that.”
The Joshes’ ego-less musical contributions stay consistent with Craperi’s raw tone, resulting in live sets that are both heart-breaking and rewarding. Audience members have been known to twist their torsos and flail their arms forward to absorb all of the beautiful sounds this group is able to channel. Hageman’s crisp, tasteful drumming weaves seamlessly into Koberstein’s animated yet eloquent bass lines. Craperi grounds the experience with painfully honest lyrics and a vulnerable vocal style. His vibrant guitar melodies and agreeable chord structures convey sincere emotive qualities.
“I try to transmit both my experiences and my current state of mind in my music. I want people to feel how I feel … honesty and passion are really important to what I write,” says Craperi.
“As a songwriter, you want to give back what music gives you,” says Hageman. “If you write a great song, people will remember it.”
Whether the members of this group are taking expeditions on the open road or in their own minds, they never stay put for long. In early November, Royal Noble will embark on its first West Coast.