By CHRIS HUSSEY
It was a warm December evening in Waterloo, and the Royal Streets were going through another typical rehearsal. At least, that’s what they would tell you. But the Royal Streets are anything but typical.
The Waterloo-based band was going through their set list prior to their show at the Starlight Social Club in Uptown Waterloo. The band’s rehearsal space is in an inconspicuous warehouse, and walking in, one might think he had gotten lost or received incorrect directions. The band practises in Unit #7, and walking in the front entrance, it resembles more of a workshop than space for a band. But anyone looking for the place would have heard the relentless beating of the drums and the soulful harmonies long before arriving.
Venturing farther back, there is a small room that sharply contrasts the woodworking materials and workshop environment. There are Christmas lights up on the back wall. And on the right, there are many posters highlighting many bands and describing various tour dates. There is just enough room to fit the six members of the band, including their amplifiers and various instruments.
The band members are quite familiar with one another, and that is clear to see in the way that they laugh and talk amongst one another. The Royal Streets started several years after group members left high school and went their separate ways. Algernon Friolet, lead singer and guitarist, reconnected with Mike Demsey, guitarist, and the two of them found that they had some chemistry.
“We kind of realized we had something that clicked … and we said, ‘Alright, let’s see what we can do with this,’” said Friolet.
From there, everything just seemed to fall into place, and not long after, the band was comprised of six members.
The band released its debut album on March 6, 2014, and toured across the country, performing perhaps most notably at the Osheaga Festival in Montreal and the Jasper Folk Festival. They followed that up with a three-song EP entitled Story Weekend, and are prepared to return to touring. Now, with the two compilations under their belt, the Royal Streets are looking to release their third album in the next few months. Their biggest single has been the song Hoes in Mexico, which has amassed 56,153 hits on YouTube alone.
Part of the reason for their success may be attributed to their unique dynamic and sound. The best way to describe their sound might be as folk-rock, but that simply does not do the band justice. The band is driven by acoustic melodies and harmonies, particularly between Friolet and Jillian Dowding, who is also a vocalist in the band. Demsey and Eric Stirtzinger are the other two guitarists, with Demsey occasionally taking over duties on bass. Sam Keating plays drums, and Julia Bannard, the last member to join the band, fills in the sixth slot as keyboardist.
The unique folk sound is only part of what makes the band work so well together, as they also have a great deal of cohesion. During rehearsal it isn’t uncommon for the group members to joke and laugh with one another. This cohesion goes even so far that each member has his or her own role with the band. For example, Demsey, who is perhaps the quietest member during rehearsal sessions, also serves as a bonfide band manager. He often handles media requests, setting up gigs, and ensuring everyone’s wellness and state of mind.
“Mike is the band dad,” said Stirtzinger.
On the other hand, Friolet is the one who leads the group on stage. It’s these positive relationships and clearly defined roles within the group that help make the Royal Streets successful. But the group is quick to remember their roots and members keep in mind where they come from.
“Waterloo is fantastic for us,” said Stirtzinger.” We always get so excited because the support we have in our hometown is wicked. It’s been two and a half years and it’s still going strong which is so cool to see.”