Royal Teeth bucking Southern roots 

click to enlarge You will have to listen intently to discern Louisiana's influence on sextet Royal Teeth's poppy alt-rock sound. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • You will have to listen intently to discern Louisiana's influence on sextet Royal Teeth's poppy alt-rock sound.

Louisiana's rich musical history is packed with trumpets, washboards and accordions, and jazz, zydeco and blues are its mainstays. Southern Louisiana sextet Royal Teeth features none of those traditional elements.

The band, headlining in San Francisco for the first time Saturday, stars the harmonies of singer-guitarist Gary Larsen and Nora Patterson, along with powerful synthesizers, plenty of percussion and stadium-sized choruses.

One listen to its first single, "Wild," demonstrates that Royal Teeth sees the world in Technicolor.

"Location was the last thing on our minds. We just wanted to write really catchy pop music," Larsen says. "People aren't really going to identify us as being a Louisiana band. We've even had people come up to us and say, 'I could have sworn you guys were from L.A.'"

The emerging act converged serendipitously after bassist Joshua Wells' former group disbanded and he and Larsen began writing together in 2010. Wells recruited friends Josh Hefner (percussion) and Andrew Poe (keys).

Lead guitarist Stevie Billeaud signed on after seeing an early show.

Patterson, who sang blues and folk at open mics and coffee shops, but had never been in a band, joined in 2011.

"I just wasn't used to being in a band with five other guys," she says. "I'm still learning and catching on to things."

Patterson, the artistic one in the bunch — she graduated from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette with a degree in interior design and worked as a fashion and home decor consultant — designed the band's T-shirts and fliers, as well as the artwork for an EP and the band's August debut album, "Glow."

Hefner, meanwhile, was in law school at Loyola in New Orleans and dropped out to concentrate on the band.

"He's our acting tour manager, so he basically takes care of all the tour stuff for us and keeps us organized," Patterson says.

Larsen and Wells are the only ones who didn't graduate from college.

"I was a naive kid who just wanted to be in a rock band. I was working at a Starbucks for a few years as a coffee slinger ... [and] I used to be a piercer at a tattoo shop. He used to be a tattoo artist [and] then he was a manager of a music shop in New Orleans," Larsen says.

While Royal Teeth's sound may not be traditional Big Easy, the band is inspired by its roots. One song on "Glow" is named after a French-Creole phrase about friendship.

"It's about two people falling in love in the city, and we used to call it 'Nawlins,'" Larsen says. "We hold on to it, but it's just not as obvious as people would think."


Royal Teeth

Where: Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., S.F.

When: 9:30 p.m. Saturday

Tickets: $12

Contact: (415) 626-4455,

About The Author

Roman Gokhman

Roman Gokhman

Roman Gokhman has been writing about the music scene in the Bay Area since 2006, with a focus on indie rock, world music and the local scene. He's also seen U2 live more than 50 times and expects to add to that total in 2014, if their next album finally comes out.
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