Boundary-Pushing Group Palaye Royale on Their Journey and Getting Back on the Road

Words by Mike Giegerich
Photography by Jesse Lirola 

Doubling as one of the hottest bands in rock’s revivalist movement and at the same time cutting edge creatives of multimedia art, Palaye Royale are in the midst of a personal renaissance. With their fourth studio album Fever Dream on the horizon alongside a North American tour with fellow trailblazer Yungblud in 2022, the outfit has steadily grown from touring while homeless to an inescapable worldwide sensation.

Founded by brothers Remington Leith, Sebastian Danzig, and Emerson Barrett, the trio was raised in the Las Vegas area and had their sights set on individual pathways until music eventually united them. They hit the road in 2015, performing at high schools across the country before being evicted in the midst of the debut run which left them scrambling upon their return. After signing a record deal, Palaye Royale quickly jumped on bills again and began earning their stripes while slotted with bands whose genres ranged from heavy metal to metalcore. It was an admittedly awkward fit, but there was a silver lining as Danzig recalls, “it was one of those things [where] we really learned how to become the punk band that we are on stage. The music isn’t punk on recordings, but the live show is that because we’ve evolved into a really great live band.” The onstage presence they’ve grown into is indeed potent. Leith can be found climbing balconies or hanging from the rafters while the band thrashes away on any given night. The amenities have improved as well, levelling up from packed cars to shuttle buses, although they’ve lost a wheel and had transport set on fire in the process. Emerson reflects that “we’ve been through multiple experiences on tour that it’s like, we’re meant to be here,” but Leith quickly rebuts, “or some- one’s trying really hard to kill us [laughs] and they just have not succeeded yet.”

Beyond the travel troubles, Palaye Royale have also experienced their fair share of turbulence on tour as the close quarters eventually led to conflict between the brothers. Danzig succinctly states that “we hated one another,” but Barrett opts for a literary analogy adding, “it was very similar to Lord of the Flies. We’re always looking for the Piggy to kill, you know what I mean?” When the pandemic forced the world indoors, it offered a welcome respite for the three personalities and gave them much needed breathing room that would eventually nurture the creative spark for Fever Dream. They tapped producer Chris Greatti for the record who immediately stipulated the trio had to be kind to one another if he was to work with them; his demand was received loud and clear. The brothers became genuine friends again—boogie boarding at a Malibu beach house and all—and made what Leith calls “our greatest piece of work to date.” The return to their carefree roots undeniably impacted the project’s gestation as Barrett reflects, “I think that’s where magic is in anything creative, from art to music to philosophy to whatever, as long as you’re comfortable in your situation and you feel open to create, you’ll create your best stuff.”

Palaye Royale are now teasing the Fever Dream era with a series of brilliant singles that have elevated their sound to new heights. Roaring with invigorating commentary and sizzling compositions, the fruits of their progression are equal parts catchy and intellectually captivating as they lucidly swing from personal to societal anxieties. The revealing “Paranoid” deals with creeping doubts and insecurities, ones that especially impacted Leith during the pandemic without having performances as his outlet, causing him to lean on his bandmates and support system when he needed them most. Each of the brothers have developed their own ways to circumvent the negative self-talk, though, as Leith points out that “finding something that you love to do just helps. Emerson has artwork and Sebastian has his hair that he loves [laughs].”

One of Palaye Royale’s grittiest songs to date is “Punching Bag” taking a swing at cancel culture that’s dominated online discourse and boiled over to a point of frustration for the band. Leith exclaims, “I’m getting so fucking sick of it, like you sneeze the wrong way and people come after your fucking head,” while Barrett analyzes the emotions of the moment: “I think people are getting increasingly angry, especially on the internet. They just use you as a punching bag, you know? If you’re in a certain position, you’re just automatically an asshole apparently.” Leith turns inward and says, “we have our moments, we’re not perfect human beings, but we never said we are, we’re not fucking politicians, you know?” before Danzig clarifies, “those guys aren’t perfect [either],” with a chuckle.

Continuing their broad assessment of the cultural landscape, the anthemic “No Love in LA” finds Palaye Royale examining the plasticity of Los Angeles. Danzig affirms: “It’s how we actually feel about this fucking city. It’s everything we’ve experienced. We’ve seen it all here, you know? Leith interjects, “the city’s just filled with cokeheads, we wanted to talk about it [laughs].” While they’ve grappled with the social underbelly of California’s capital for an extended period, their frustrations came to a head when a rapper and his friends became regulars at their house. Barrett clarifies the artist is personally sweet, but he candidly discloses, “the people around him, it’s like they’re vampires, you know? I’ve noticed specifically in LA, if you have pure energy or any creativity about you, people will stick around you and suck it out of you as much as they can.” He has a solution to the soul depletion, though, as he expresses, “my advice to anyone, even not in LA, is if you have something within your soul and within your heart that you wanna protect, protect it with everything you have because that’s important. If you can hold on to the magic within you, that’s all that matters in life.”

Equally essential to the narratives of these songs are the high-concept music videos that have come to define Palaye Royale. They’re intensely precise, ensuring each shot matches the exact word uttered in the song so that it comes to life in full. There’s also the wealth of Easter eggs peppered throughout their visuals that send fans down rabbit holes which Barrett describes as an “existential Where’s Waldo? scavenger hunt.” One of the most recent examples is Leith drinking a milk branded Red Eve Farm in the “Paranoid” music video, an anagram for Fever Dream that astute fans unlocked before the album title was officially announced.

They have also manifested their vision into The Bastards: Volume One, a graphic novel series about an imaginative universe with accompanying classical music and instructions to burn incense from Barrett that will eventually transcend print. “We’ve got a big potential director, so we’re just working so hard on the script and can’t wait for the comic book to come to life on film,” reveals Leith. As if the shift to theaters wasn’t enough, Barrett is also hard at work on a metaverse iteration of the band’s comic book world that will eventually evolve into a video game. It’s this dedication to detail in their artistry that makes Palaye Royale much more than a traditional rock band, instead masters of a terrain where frozen clocks symbolize future release dates and entire cyphers are embedded in panels for fans to decode.

Headed into 2022, Palaye Royale are prepared to join Yungblud on tour which is a thrilling, full-circle moment. Originally meeting on the Vans Warped Tour in 2018 and finding inspiration as fellow performers, Palaye Royale are conscious of the broader movement that themselves and Yungblud are now at the forefront of; rock seems to have its day in the sun again. “We’ve just been doing it for so long, now it’s cool, now we’re relevant,” Danzig laughs. As to elaborate, Barrett adds, “Everything is cyclical, you know? It comes, it ebbs and flows and goes away and it comes back. I just hope the Renaissance comes back, so I can start dressing all nice and shit.”

As for what they hope their fans take away from this Fever Dream era, Leith sums it up in one word: hope. He admits, “the world sucks sometimes, it can be a harsh place but we also want to let people know you can make it anything that you want and that there’s really good moments, so try to enjoy it and try to take away the positives in life. Even when you think you’re at your lowest of lows, just try to find that one beacon of shining light.” Barrett perfectly concludes: “It’s easy to focus on the negative and the dark but it takes courage to find hope. We really just try to instill that in our fans and we’re excited to see them again. It’s been two years and it’s gonna be a hell of a reunion.”