Danish quarter Royal Mob release their debut album Cinematic on the 25th May, so in the lead up to the release we had a quick chat on the songwriting process, the art of storytelling through song as well as some favourite lyrics. Get the full scoop below.
MOSH: How does the lyric writing process begin for you – Does the music come first, or the lyrics? Do you collect fragments and ideas when inspiration strikes?
RM: I don’t have one process. It changes depending on my mood, what the band does and what I am going through in life. With the band, the music usually comes first, but when I write the song from start to finish the lyrics dominate. I do collect fragments and ideas every day, and when I write I try to the best parts and integrate them. Especially when it comes to themes, or the idea behind a song.
MOSH: Is this process always straightforward for you? Have you ever struggled with ‘writer’s block’ or similar?
RM: Sometimes it is straightforward, especially when we jam. For me, inspiration is almost tangible: You can feel it in the air, as a sort of vibe, when something great is going to come out. Other times, there is none. That is when the hard work starts, because then you have to use your experience and collected ideas to craft something. So writers block isn’t so much a thing as inspiration block. When no new or good ideas appear. But it is always possible to work through.
MOSH: Do you go back to lyrics you have previously written and edit or refine them, or is it a case of ‘one and done’? Do you collaborate or share lyrics with other band members and take their feedback on board?
RM: I do edit; I write a lot in my spare time, and it is horrible, but I can be very perfectionistic. But I do think sometimes the best lyrics are of the “one and done” kind, the ones you almost regurgitate on the spot. There is beauty in intuition. But as I said above, sometimes that isn’t possible, and then its just classic, hard work.
I do try to collaborate, but mostly the lyrics are my domain alone. I share with others around the band, and I have a few friends who are great sparring partners.
MOSH: Are there any bands or artists that have impressed or inspired you lyrically? Do you try and emulate any other lyricists in particular?
RM: I don’t try to emulate, because I think that is almost impossible if you want to be original or personal with your idea. But I am heavily inspired by especially singer-songwriters such as Bon Iver and Lukas Graham, and bands such as Arctic Monkeys and Nothing But Thieves. Mostly in terms of flow and theme. But singer-songwriters especially play a genre where the lyrics are very nakedly presented, and therefore they have to be up to par. That necessary lyrical quality, and the ability to tell a story, is something I am continually working towards getting better at.
MOSH: Do you draw lyrical inspiration from outside of music, such as authors, films or artists?
RM: Not so much, but I ground them heavily in emotion and everyday experience. So life, and the stories people I know tell me are a large source of inspiration. I like telling stories from the point of view of people I know, and I think that can be a great starting place. If you don’t have a story on your mind, why not tell one you enjoyed yourself?
MOSH: Is there a specific space (mental or physical) where you get ‘in the zone’, or can you write anywhere at any time?
RM: Anywhere at any time. But at nighttime or, crazily, on my bike while I am getting exercise are great. I use a recorder a lot, and when a melody or a line hits me I try to record everything, no matter the place.
MOSH: Do you choose to publish your lyrics or keep them personal? Is it important that fans be able to access lyrical content?
RM: Definitely public, because I love reading other people’s lyrics. But it is also scary, because lyrics are so personal. But I feel like, to be able to share a song with all its different aspects, it is important to give people access to the lyrics.
MOSH: Can you remember when you began writing lyrics? Was it a conscious choice? Something you drifted into out of necessity?
RM: At age 12. Just slowly at the start, but I have always loved it. It just happened, as I sat at the piano. When you play music, you often find that point where you want to create yourself. It just happened naturally.
MOSH: What is your favourite lyric and why?
RM: Classically, I love songs such as “Bridge Over Troubled Water” or “Sound of Silence”. They are classics for a reason, and I think there is so much vibe and emotion packed into the words. If you close your eyes and listen, you can feel what the lyricist was trying to convey. And at the same time, they can be interpreted very individually depending on the person.
At the moment I am also crazy about the lyrics in “Sorry” by Nothing But Thieves. I can totally connect with what he sings: “Now it hurts what we’ve become/cause you taught me how to love/it’s me who taught you how to stop/and you just say I drink too much”. I think we have all been there, in a relationship we really wanted to work, but just couldn’t make happen. And just wanting to apologise but knowing that apology will never be enough to save it, because it just didn’t work.
MOSH: What is your favourite lyric that YOU have written?
RM: So much harder. I like many of my lyrics (and some I dearly wish I could have back and change) but I wrote a commemoration song for a friend who died 6 years ago and played it at the funeral, and there was power in that lyric. It was both sad, but also tinged with hope. And I felt I struck a really good balance. And, mostly, it was just so raw and from the heart, because it all circled this terrible tragedy, that I was in the middle of.
MOSH: Is there anything you actively try and avoid when writing lyrics? Any topics or themes you think are overdone?
RM: Not really. I can’t help but write about love, but I am trying to avoid it more and more. I want to become more political in my songs, but that is something I am finding difficult because it sometimes comes across as cheap, in my opinion. But a really good protest song, about the state of the world without becoming too hyperbolic; I would love to write that.
MOSH: Is it important to you that lyrics always tell a story or have meaning?
RM: Mostly, but not always. If something comes from the heart and it just sounds great, maybe conveys some kind of emotion, that is absolutely good enough.
MOSH: Does your knowledge of your vocal delivery have any impact on how you write lyrics? Do you write to fit a vocal style, or fit the delivery to the lyrics?
RM: I fit the delivery to the vocals. I think you sometimes have to, if you want to convey what’s behind the lyric. It goes hand in hand; a lyric with delivery that doesn’t fit won’t come across the same way in my opinion.