U.S. Royalty frontman John Thornley and his brother-bandmate Paul used to live about 10 houses down a Washington, D.C. street from Ian MacKaye, the frontman of the Capital City's trailblazing hardcore band Fugazi. But while they shared the same zip code, the two bands' sounds could not be farther apart -- get a taste of U.S. Royalty's slick, California-tinged rock'n'roll sound on "Monte Carlo," which you can download above.
The song, culled from the buzzed-about quartet's debut, Mirrors, draws from '70s West Coast hitmakers like Fleetwood Mac, whose music was Thornley's earliest influence as a tween growing up in southern Maryland, and whose spirit reverberates through "Monte Carlo."
"I remember, in 8th grade, a friend of mine taped this Fleetwood Mac PBS show around the time when The Dance came out, when they reunited," Thornley tells SPIN. "I was so enchanted by this 'Rhiannon' song. They sounded like rock 'n' roll, but they had this mystery to them." Soon after, Paul was learning how to play guitar like the Mac's Lindsey Buckingham, and John aimed to handle a drum kit like wild man Mick Fleetwood.
"Monte Carlo" was also a turning point in the band's evolution as songwriters. Their self-titled 2008 EP caught our attention with songs like "Every Summer," which had a decidedly rougher, Strokes-y vibe. But after two years on the road, Thornley says they decided to scrap almost everything they'd written up to that point and start from scratch.
"We always liked the idea of an album that you could listen to from the beginning to the end and really enjoy as a whole," he explains. "Right when we decided we were going to buckle down and do an album, ['Monte Carlo'] was the first song that came out."
Lyrically, the song deals with the transience of relationships, and the difficulty of maintaining a connection with someone who won't be tied down. Thornley, a film buff, then called upon an influence even older than Fleetwood Mac to source the song's title. "When I first started working on the song in the fall, I had just been re-watching To Catch a Thief with Cary Grant and Grace Kelly," he says. "Watching the whole scene, driving through Monte Carlo, I thought, 'Ah! I'm going to call it this!'"