Alt-pop singer and songwriter, Royal & The Serpent, certainly made 2020 her year, reigning on the charts for 22 weeks for her smash single, ‘Overwhelmed.’ Following the single’s success, she recently released her first-ever audio project, searching for nirvana. Inspired both by the legendary band, Nirvana and by the Buddhist term “nirvana” which means achieving inner peace and an idyllic state, she takes us on her personal journey of self-acceptance throughout the seven tracks, leaving her vulnerabilities and her heart, completely exposed.
Truly, there’s only one word to describe the feeling we got from searching from nirvana: chills.
In our exclusive interview with Royal & The Serpent, she reveals the inspiration behind searching for nirvana, including her biggest musical influence Kurt Cobain, finding herself in the recording process, working with her bestie phem, living the dream by virtually touring with Yungblud and some extra goodies just for you! Read all about it below!
You said that the project was inspired by acceptance and self-love. On the self-love and acceptance front, what experiences from your own life are reflected in the lyrics of the entire project?
I think this whole idea of going from an “I can’t” state of existence to an “I am” state of presence is what it’s really about. Learning to let go of the negative habitual thought patterns that hold us (me lol) back and trying my best to replace those thoughts with positive things like affirmations (I am statements/gratitudes/etc).
The second inspiration comes from Kurt Cobain. Why is he an influence to you? Also in what instances of searching for nirvana, do you differentiate and distinguish your sound with Royal & the Serpent from Nirvana? And when do you highlight them?
Ok, so like ever since I was a very little girl I’ve sort of just always had this affinity for him. In my mind, I’ve always glamorized his life and art and dreamt of living in the dark romantics of it all. The very first recording studio I ever stepped foot in was actually where they recorded Bleach up in Seattle. I’ll never forget how it felt to be in that vocal booth. Anyway – Kurt is an icon. Nirvana changed all our lives. I wanted to pay him an homage but also touch on the more blatant meaning of “nirvana” – which is really what we’re all down here on Earth searching for.
Kurt Cobain is an icon. (here’s my message/here’s how I want to make people feel) the title is an ode to an icon – but searching for nirvana is searching for the connection with your true self and being in the moment at all times and what’s the point of life if you can’t experience it fully? And I want to inspire other people to feel that way, to live life fully.
What was the biggest struggle that you had to overcome when writing searching for nirvana? And what was the most rewarding?
Honestly, it was the final days leading up to release that were the hardest for me. For about a month leading up, I started really second-guessing myself and everything I was doing and it all got pretty dark. But as soon as it was out it was such a relief and I had a big reality check of like – holy sh*t – it’s not about me. Like, it’s about sharing these feelings and experiences so that we all feel a little less alone. Seeing people relate to the music is always the most rewarding. You have no idea how much it means to me.
The EP title suggests that you are “searching” for something then “find” it in the song, ‘i am.’ So what have you “found” in the project’s process, it could be about yourself or about your music in general, that has been beneficial or maybe even healing for you?
I think I’ll forever be searching for a sense of self and a connection to my innermost “being.” I don’t know if there is any sort of arrival point or final destination, more like a constant evolution of growth mixed with failure mixed with trying again. haha. However, I will say that I feel way more “myself” now than I did six months ago when I was finishing the project and that getting to constantly create is the most powerfully healing gift.
We love the nostalgia in the EP’s production but mixed with modern elements and the recorded voice memos, what was your vision for the overall sound?
Wow, thank you so much! Aside from taking sonic inspo from classic albums like nevermind – a biiiiig inspiration was my favorite album *of all time* – channel orange <3. Frank is otherworldly and I’ve always found his ability to tell stories sooo perfectly sincere.
The EP has seven songs, what was the decision behind this? Did you have more songs that you originally wanted to include that didn’t make the cut because they didn’t fit the vibe or tell the story of searching for nirvana?
So we played around with a LOT of different combos and ultimately landed on the seven that made the best sense for the story. It was really fun trying to put all the pieces of the puzzle together – and the interlude was really the icing on the cake for me as far as cohesion goes. There was only one song I was bummed to see fall off the project but hopefully, I’ll be able to bring it back on something else soon!
You get deep on the entire EP, especially with your accompanying inner monologues described particularly for the songs ‘gay interlude’ and ‘girls’ that reveal your sexuality. Why did you feel it was important to open your vulnerabilities?
Listen I mean I’ve always felt like being honest and vulnerable is what I’m here for. If anyone is gonna relate to what I’m making it’ll only be because I’m telling the whole damn truth of my experience – you know? The goal is for people to feel heard and seen when they listen – what better way to do that than by laying it all out there.
We love the 90s throwback grunge/punk vibe in the music video for ‘girls’ with the color changes, it’s super cool! What was the director, Kyle Cogan, and your inspiration for the music video? And what was it like working with phem?
Oh wow, thank u so much! Kyle is the sh*t!!! He was such a pleasure to work with and he really took my creative ideas and ran with them. Next level stuff. And phem is one of my besties. She’s the coolest I’m so blessed to have her around. What a f*ckn star that girl is!
You recently went on a virtual tour with Yungblud and he’s a fave of ours at THP, how did this come about? What did you learn from him that will help you in your musical journey?
It must’ve all started when I wrote his name at the top of my “dream acts to tour with” list back in early 2020. Then I guess the universe heard me and did its thing because the next thing I knew I was getting a call from my label saying I was going on a virtual world tour with him. I don’t know if I’ve ever screamed so loud. haha. and GOSH – what did I learn from him?? SO MUCH. He is SUCH an inspiration. The energy he gives to his audience is soooo important and palpable. He really is such a positive light/figure IMO. He’s so inclusive and caring towards his fandom and really been a big role model for me in how he interacts with them (”BHC”). It’s pretty incredible to watch.
And finally, if you could create a playlist of at least ten of your favorite 90s songs, which ones would make the cut?
Oh shoooot this is a fun one… ok! This is like so hard but if I HAVE to choose only 10…
- ‘Wannabe’ – Spice Girls
- ‘Come As You Are’ – Nirvana
- ‘Karma Police’ – Radiohead
- ‘Torn’ – Natalie Imbruglia
- ‘Santeria’ – Sublime
- ‘Summer Girls’ – LFO
- ‘Barbie Girl’ – Aqua
- ‘Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)’ – Green Day
- ‘If It Makes You Happy’ – Sheryl Crow
- ‘Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)’ – Quindon Tarver Josh Abrahams
Check out her picks in our playlist below! And while you’re at it, remember to stream/purchase searching for nirvana here!
What did you feel the first time you heard searching for nirvana? What’s your fave Royal & The Serpent song fresh off her new album? Let’s keep the conversation going by tweeting us @TheHoneyPOP or commenting below!
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Featured Image Source: Courtesy of Conner Sorensen, Photographer & Andreaa, The Honey POP Graphic Team