Sound and Driven Episode 3: Palaye Royale and Chris Greatti Test Track ‘Fever Dream’ in a Porsche Taycan 4S
PHOTOGRAPHY by JESSE LIROLA
Music producers have endless anecdotes about shepherding bands to realize their artistic vision and create something big, together. For Chris Greatti, producing music with Palaye Royale—the Canadian-American band founded by three brothers—is sometimes a matter of laying down the law…of peacekeeping. “They’re brothers so it’s very easy to fall into the communication issues of growing up, and little digs. I knew they would get into little tiffs often so [when we went to Malibu to record] I was like, ‘if anyone says anything rude to each other, I’m closing my computer and running into the ocean.’”
The proviso proved successful.
Greatti finessed the energy of their conflicts and individual passions into an album that the Kropp brothers—frontman Remington Leith, guitarist/keyboardist Sebastian Danzig, and drummer/pianist Emerson Barrett—and Greatti himself, of course, are all in love with; their upcoming fourth album Fever Dream is a culmination of where the band’s many influences and Greatti’s own self-defined “speed metal sorcery” collide and overlap to create an intense and introspective album bred of diverse voices, that he designates with great specificity.
“Remington loves modern recording styles. He loves his vocals to be right up in your face, obviously he loves My Chemical Romance influences but he also loves modern pop music. And then Sebastian is Mr Brit Rock, Oasis, Kasabian, Kings of Leon, and Emerson is Mr 1800s, Mr Avant-Garde. He loves Chopin, piano. And if you literally meld all that together, that’s what the album sounds like (in my humble opinion)–oh, and then I like Queen, The Beach Boys, Radiohead, Björk…I like to pull from everything in an attempt to make a unique sound that no one else is going to make.”
When our Sound & Driven team asked Greatti about putting the sound of music to the Porche test, he was quick to convey the importance of the experience. “It’s changed my life to test mixes in the car. I’m a night owl so I’ll finish a song fully before going to sleep, usually the sun’s coming up. All the creative is out, I’ve got all the ideas in. But at that point, I can’t tell if it sounds right or not.”
It takes a good night’s sleep (possibly until noon) but first thing in the morning, Greatti gets the night’s music to his auto. “In the car, it’s a different perspective, you’re not in the studio. It’s 10 minutes, listen to it twice and be like, ‘oh, I just need to change this and this’, come back in and boom it’s done. It’s like that every time. I do that with every single song, test how it sounds in the car.”
Fever Dream was mostly created at Remington’s rented Malibu house during lockdown during a profound period of what he calls “pure expression” and Greatti refers to as the “comfortability” of being in a room with kindred creative spirits–a vibe that lends itself to good musicmaking. Because the pandemic had shut down studio spaces all over LA, they converted the living room into a makeshift recording room. Budgets weren’t vast enough for professional soundproofing but they created a vocal booth by stacking towers of sofa cushions with a mic fitted inside and Remington would record with a blanket over his head. There’s video.
Emerson has mentioned that “symbolism is in everything we do and touch” and perhaps those tucked intimate spaces inspired his brother Remington to finish “Fever Dream”, a track nine years in the making. And one he feels is the highpoint of his career to date. “I’ve searched my whole life to write this one piece of music. Every time I heard the song, my heart was smiling. And then as we were making it, it was stuck in my head. I couldn’t sleep without hearing it on repeat. It is definitely my most proud piece of work.”
While the house did come with bombastic professional speakers, checking the tracks in the car was also a part of Remington’s process making the new album. “We did that all the time because Chris fucking loves Del Taco,” he laughs. “But yeah, just driving around. If your head is still bobbing and you’re still getting the same feeling hearing it in the car, you know you’re onto something.”
The brothers all mention how important Greatti’s contribution has been to the flow state of the band. The producer’s mandates to be respectful and get along no matter what, forced the brothers to fake it till they made it and now, they’re the closest they’ve ever been. No wonder Sebastian recently tweeted: “Chris Greatti, this man is Palaye Royale’s producer, best friend, collaborator and therapist.” When the album Fever Dream was final, Greatti once again summoned his sunshine vibes and got everyone together for a drive.
“It’s changed my life to test mixes in the car.”
“When we got the album done, the first time everybody listened to all the final mixes together was in the car. We took it for a spin on the [Pacific Coast Highway] and we drove to the house where it all started in Malibu, and we got out of the car and onto the sand. Lots of high-fiving. It was very wholesome.”
It’s all part of the energy that emanates from this talented set of musicians, who are also artists, and world-builders, and futurists; each taking their time to think it all through, delicately and truthfully. It’s a thoughtfulness that translates; when they tour non-English speaking countries, audiences connect and sing along with every word. Emerson feels their loving audiences have made them better human beings. It’s a typically moving observation from a band who named themselves after the dance hall in Toronto where their grandparents—“two souls very near and dear to our hearts”—met in the 50s.
His brother Remington concludes, “I get so many people that come up to me after shows saying, ‘you saved my life’, and I’m like, ‘you guys got it so fucking wrong, you guys saved ours’ because I get to wake up and live my dream every single day, create music, sing songs and travel the world. It’s incredible and I can’t do it without the fanbase. I owe them my life.”