Ferocious lo-fi group

By David Kenney

After 12 hours on the road, Aaron Riches isn’t much for talking. The vocalist/guitarist for Toronto low-fi group Royal City seems somewhat in a daze, perhaps induced by reading during the trip. Engrossed in a Bob Dylan biography, Riches rises when discussing his idol.

"You can’t help but just sort of be at once inspired but also intimidated by the sort of ferociousness and creativity at the beginning [of his career]," Riches says. "You can never hope to aspire to that but be a minor in comparison.

"There’s only one Dylan. The rest of [us] will only be fucking footnotes."

Royal City has a such a strained ferociousness. The Toronto-based band play acoustic-pop Hayden fans can warm to and early Wilco fans can swoon to. Their carefree offerings remind one of a show they walked into by accident and left totally drained yet refreshed.

For Riches, it’s a complete feeling. His involvement with drummer Nathan Lawr, bassist Simon Osborne and guitarist Jim Guthrie are enough for him to forget his musical past. He feigns partial amnesia when comparing Royal City to his past two solo albums.

"I don’t know if I’ve done any of those things," he says. "Just what’s happening now is enough.

"I don’t really care for my own life. I try and better myself in the smaller things I do in my private life but no, I don’t analyze my own life."

Royal City’s debut album At Rush Hour the Cars is something not easily analyzed. Riches’ drawn-out and weary vocals shade sometimes apathetic lyrics. Yet for a seemingly deep guy, he doesn’t put his own words in context.

"I have my own thoughts but they don’t really matter any more than what time I had lunch today," he says rather dryly. "Playing in a band you get this kind of mission–it’s not this precious little thing you do in your bedroom. I don’t want to be a singer/songwriter."

With his new band, Riches feels part of an experiment. He’s just trying to see how far the thing can go. The latest thing has the band opening for Sarah Harmer across Canada, including a stop at the MacEwan Hall Ballroom Thurs., April 5. Riches says the band is self-sufficient.

"We don’t need a major label, we don’t need anything," he says. "All we need is a band and an amplifier. We’ll play wherever the fuck we can play, we don’t care. We’re like Woody Guthrie; we’ll play wherever the people are."

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