It’s impossible not to love The Royal Tinfoil. The Charleston-based quintet describes themselves alternately as “fake cousins that like to party” and “fake cousins who fell down a well”, and this charming faux-family plays some really gorgeous tunes that vocalist Lily Slay describes as Americana-rock-meets-gypsy-sex. The end result? One damn good show.
Undefined caught up with The Royal Tinfoil at one of Charleston’s favorite dive bars, Tattooed Moose, a spot noted for its beer menu and unusual taxidermy collection. The band mates straggled in one at a time for the interview, and once we cracked the PBR tall boys and got the cigarettes smoldering, we got down to business.
Tell us a little bit about how you guys got started.
Mackie and [Lily] got started around 2009 and we started as a two piece playing gigs and covers around town. We added a bunch of different people, mandolin players, guest drummers, and then we finally decided we wanted a solid line up. We met Brad and Tim when we played with their old band, Dim Peepers. We picked them up when their band split ways, and we took a rock drummer, Marshall, from Mackie’s other band… and now we’re all congealed.
So you’re scavengers, is that what you’re saying?
(laughter) Yeah. The goal was always to have a solid line up, and as we started to get rowdier and rowdier we knew we were going to need drums and electric bass to tie it all in.
What’s the story behind the fake cousins bit?
That’s our fictitious biography. We’re fake cousins, but it’s very real to us. Well, Mackie actually was caught transporting an alligator. He was picked up on mysterious charges involving a small reptile. That part is true. But the streetwalker bit can be loosely interpreted, pun intended.
Has anyone actually fallen down a well?
Maybe Mackie? But really, it’s just that no one wants to hear your Craigslist success story.
How do you describe your sound? And do you hate that question?
Yeeeeah… It’s difficult for us because most people don’t know how they would categorize us, either. We say somewhere between blues, rock, Americana, and drunken gypsy sex. Is there really any other sort of sex?
What is your inspiration?
We’re inspired a lot by our lifestyle, being goodhearted but deviant hell raisers. Musically, the influences are spread out across several genres, which is why it can be hard to describe our sound. Tim and [Brad] used to play in a jazz band, Lily’s got a lot of soul in her voice, Mackie grew up playing bluegrass and plays blues guitar, and Marshall is a rock and roll drummer. Everybody’s bringing something different to the table. We’re often inspired by the bands that we play with, being on the road and meeting new people, and trying to understand those people’s perspectives.
Where all do you play?
Regionally, mostly Southeastern cities right now… Asheville, Columbus, Athens, Raleigh, Wilmington, Columbia. We play in Columbia pretty frequently nowadays. We really like it there! We’re kind of a band’s band, so we do well in communities with a lot of other musicians because we do what they do, but we party really hard while we do it.
What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you on tour?
Where are you printing this? Rejected Penthouse letters? (laughter) We had a weird experience when we were going up to Wilmington last time. We got a flat tire in the middle of nowhere and didn’t have a spare, so we called AAA to have them tow us over 50 miles to Wilmington, but we weren’t sure they would have enough space for five people in the cab of the tow truck. Mackie, Marshall, and [Brad] decided to hide in the back of the van and cover up with blankets and backpacks while they put us on the tow truck and drove us there. Meanwhile there was plenty of room, so they were up there kickin’ it while we were poking our heads out of the back of the van.
The last several days, everyone I’ve talked to about this interview has had a story about how rowdy your shows are. What’s the craziest thing that’s happened at a show?
There are so many. This one time, this lady was in town for a funeral, and she was partying her ass off. The circumstances that brought her there were devastating, but she was getting wild. When Mackie did a solo, we thought she was literally going to get naked. The hunger in her eyes… There was a lot of shirt lifting and gyrating.
Lily Slay: I used to rip Mackie’s shirt off every time we played, but we started a trend so we had to stop. These random people started coming on stage to rip his shirt off.
What’s next for The Royal Tinfoil?
Our album comes out on May 25th at The Pour House in Charleston. With Shallow Palace from Columbia, and we’ve basically got enough material to do another whole album. And getting another van. Our van is so small it’s insane. We’re all teeth, farts, and knees in the face.