Album Review: Royel Otis make a stunning debut with their luminescent album ‘Pratts & Payne’ ahead of Australian, North American and European tour

Feature Photograph: Alex Wall

The Breakdown

'Pratts & Payne' from beginning to end captures in some way the zeitgeist: an air of anxiousness, a little unrest, a waft of naïve innocence and earnestness tempered by melancholy and the reality of the vicissitudes of life. An anthem for the youth, perhaps, but filled with melody and restlessness, a caffeinated energy drink.
Ourness/House Anxiety 9.0

We here at the antipodean outpost of Backseat Mafia have followed Royel Otis (consisting of members Otis Pavlovic and Royel Maddell) ever since hearing their single ‘Oysters In My Pocket’ back in 2021 with great fascination. This single has been followed by a series of indelible releases that have cemented their place in indie pop royalty.

Undoubtedly their recent viral cover of ‘Murder on the Dance Floor’ has catapulted their visibility but the fact remains that Royel Otis have built up an impressive body or work resulting in a well deserved ascendancy – as indicated by their sold out shows across Australia and an impending North American tour. This is a band going places fast.

Royel Otis have just today released their debut album ‘Pratts & Payne’ through OURNESS and House Anxiety (in the UK), and the result is nothing less than spectacular.

Named after a pub the duo often decamped to during a period in the UK recording the album with producer Dan Carey, ‘Pratts & Payne’ is a refreshing collection of sonic jewels that put on display the band’s diverse song writing and musical skills. The golden thread throughout is that of melody and sunshine, irrevocably entwined in the genetic code of every track. Of the time recording in London, Maddell says:

Dan would ask us to record vocals and we’d say, ‘Just give us half an hour, we’re popping to Pratts & Payne’, and we’d have a pint, a few shots, and get some lyrics down’.

There is an inbuilt incandescent ray of filtered sunshine emanating from every track, delivered in a laconic couldn’t-give-a-fuck style that’s louche, distant and observational. It’s too easy to label the sound as slacker rock, because that implies something lacking in style and design. ‘Pratts & Payne’ from beginning to end is far more complex and clever than that. It captures in some way the zeitgeist: an air of anxiousness, a little unrest, a waft of naïve innocence and earnestness tempered by melancholy and the reality of the vicissitudes of life. An anthem for the youth, perhaps, but filled with melody and restlessness, a caffeinated energy drink.

Opening track ‘Adored’ with its cantering pace sets off proceedings with a sparkle and verve. The instrumentation is sparse yet antithetically layered and complex with jangling guitars over the relentless percussion and tricky mixing and production that swerves the track off on a tangent. A scaling chorus drives the track but ultimately it is a transfixing almost psychedelic trance with a touch of soul.

Given their tasty single ‘Oysters In My Pocket’, the duo continue with their whacky food obsession with ‘Fried Rice’ which sizzles like the eponymous dish in a wok, effervescent and fragrant. The unique delivery of the band is insouciant and louche with a distant observational style and a bucket load of class. The tone is filled with a blinding, radiant emission of sunshine, a quirky pop bounce that positively shimmers with a sort of ADD-infected brittleness.

There is a delightful whimsy to the lyrics that matches this tone:

Cause I’m never gonna rust
My blankets soaked
My headaches gone
So come on Eileen
And I drink too much
More tv shows more videos
Now come down with me

Royel Otis says of ‘Fried Rice’:

Being into someone at the wrong party. They want everyone there but you, so you turn on the charm you think you found at the bottom of a bottle. You succeed in your head but that’s just not the case on reflection. Moral of the story is make sure you know the type of party you’re getting yourself into. Keep your eyes wide shut.

The accompanying video directed by Ady Neshoda is packed full of the same whimsy, as the band performs in real time against a backdrop of speeded up chaos and general bacchanalia, archetypal outsiders at at party:

‘Foam’ is marked by dappled guitars that patter throughout and yearning vocals backed by vocalisations in the background. There is an aching delicacy in the delivery and again a subtle production that makes a crystalline sound all the more complex. ‘Sonic Blue’ has an almost Middle Eastern twang to the guitars before morphing into a vibrant, bubbling, aquatic track with the featured gentle guitar sound. layered vocals deliver the trademark laid back style but there is a little steel on the delivery – an almost shouty chorus over a fuzz backdrop.

‘Heading For The Door’ continues their mastery of whimsy, creating an unique sound that seems to mix the cheekiness of Supergrass with the melodies of MGMT and the antipodean sunshine of Empire of the Sun. There is a delicacy and subtlety in the sound, infused with a hint of melancholy and filtered sunshine. The band says of the single:

Some of us understand that peace is precious but when the chaos starts to overcome just sit and accept it. Stop heading for the door.

The video is an atmospheric one-shot visualiser directed by Ady Neshoda. The video follows the band along a highway median strip, balancing imagery of the calm and chaos explored in the track.  

‘Velvet’ thunders out of the speakers with its soul-inflected slamming, rollicking instrumentation and a thrilling chanting style singing that quickens the pulse. I imagine played live this would as incendiary as a lightning strike on a parched wood.

‘IHYSM’ typifies Royel Otis’ deadpan humour:

I hate you so much but you don’t want to hate me

There is a synth rivulet running through the song, a more motorik beat and hyperkinetic thrum.

‘Molly’ has an off kilter discordancy that recalls The Velvet Underground with its flailing violin sounds and driving percussion punctuated by a relentless high hat hit, whereas ‘Daisy’ with its fuzzy ambulant sound is the sound of Royel Otis at their indie pop best with its stirring falsetto chorus.

With a refrain that sings out you’re so fucking gorgeous with an impish, exultant delight, ‘Sofa King’ is utterly enchanting. The rambling refrain and the floating melodies mark out something that is euphoric and joyous with a raffish demeanor and a thread of melancholy desire.

The lyrics have about them a childish innocence tempered by sobre realisation of being out of someone’s league, coupled with a defiant resolve and ultimate acceptance:

I can barely lift my eyes
The Holy Ghost should hold your hand for me
Curve my flaws to fit the jeans
But as it stands I need some more to drink

So if you ever need to find
Someone to get along with every time
Don’t take another chance with me
I’m not the man I’m supposed to be
But your so fucking gorgeous

The last line is just filled with a nuanced mix of utter devotion and acceptance of someone who is unattainable. There is a thread of self deprecation and a glint of humour in the layered vocals while the music and instrumentation lightly skips beneath the surface with a gentle refrain. This is a brilliant track deeply infused with the blistering pain of unrequited love and critical self-appraisal.

The band says of the song:

 A baggy beat, jangly guitars and a soaring synth to bring home what you really want to say. You are couch royalty in a messed up world. Own it with pride!

The accompanying video directed by Ady Neshoda captures the duo captured en plein air with the windswept sand dunes and the urgent almost plaintive performance evoking the bleakness in the lyrics:

‘Glory to Glory’ has a rampant bass and splashing guitars and soaring guitars – anthemic and thrilling

‘Always Always is a dreamy reflective track, a delicate romanticism about it that is achingly beautiful (I’d hate to get old without you). It positively floats in the firmament and shows that the band is not limited in its delivery: displaying a gentle subtlety with its anthemic melodies and yearning instrumentation. A highlight of an extraordinarily good album.

The album ends with the swaggering, strutting ‘Big Ciggie with its almost Rolling Stones bluesy blowsy style framed by a synth bass punch and the usual self-deprecatory sense of laddish humour.

‘Pratts & Payne’ is out today through OURNESS/House Anxiety and available to download and stream here.

Royel Otis’ Australian tour has completely sold out (but look out for a review by Backseat Mafia) and their North American tour is going the same way. You can get more details below and tickets (where available) here. The following dates have also been announced for Europe:

May 30 – Immergut Festival – Neustrelitz, Germany
June 1 – Primavera Festival, Barcelona, Sant Adrià de Besòs
June 2 – Primavera in the City, Barcelona, Sant Adrià de Besòs
June 6 – NOS Primavera Sound Porto, Porto, Porto District
June 28 – Lincoln Castle w/ Kaiser Chiefs – Lincoln, UK
June 29 – Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod w/ Kaiser Chiefs – Llangollen, UK
June 30 – Guildhall Square w/ Kaiser Chiefs – Southampton, UK

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