Despite all the chaos, Royal Bliss plays on
By Dan Nailen
The Salt Lake Tribune
Jake Smith, left, Neal Middleton, Chris Harding, Taylor Richards and Brent Bruschke of Royal Bliss.
Bruised egos can split up a band. So can the frustration of trying to make a living on tour or dealing with shady music-industry types. Some acts simply run out of steam.
Salt Lake City’s Royal Bliss has been making music and touring the West for eight years, but the past three have been the most trying, offering plenty of chances for the five members to call it a day. Despite a run of bum luck that included a temporarily paralyzed lead singer, an unexpected pregnancy, several broken bones, totaled cars, ski accidents and surgeries, as well as lawsuits, failed recording sessions and broken relationships, they survived to record a new album, “After the Chaos II,” arriving in stores Tuesday.
“It was like the forces were working against us, trying to stop us,” said singer Neal Middleton, who was paralyzed from the waist down three years ago when he fell about 35 feet from a Southern California balcony. That led to a couple of surgeries and a slow progression from paralysis to performing onstage with the help of a cane.
Middleton and his bandmates – guitarists Taylor Richards and Chris Harding, drummer Jake Smith and bassist Brent Bruschke – never gave much thought to quitting even as they weathered “low, low points,” especially after Smith unexpectedly found himself a father-to-be and the band realized it needed to keep earning money because, as Middleton said, “our only form of working was playing with this band.”
“We’ve always told each other, as long as we keep moving steps forward, we’ll never give up, we’ll never quit,” Middleton said. “As long as each year we advance as musicians and we advance as people, then we’ll never give up. It’s kind of like going to school to become a doctor for eight or 10 years. That was our college, playing in a band.”
The recent disasters – including Smith wrecking his car and Harding breaking his jaw and needing reconstructive surgery after a ski accident – forced Royal Bliss to take its time in recording its sixth album. The musicians started work in a million-dollar California studio and finished it nearly two years later in a Salt Lake City home studio, and the resulting set of straightforward, anthemic rock cuts is sure to please fans who have helped the band sell more than 20,000 copies of
Bliss national radio airplay.
“It’s the first CD that all of us collectively agree that this is the one we need to go out and shop to labels and tour on and really push as heavily as we possibly can,” Middleton said. “For the first time, we’ve hired a radio promoter and we’ve hired a publicist and ended up signing a distribution deal” that will get “After the Chaos II” into stores nationwide, while giving Royal Bliss control of all the music.
Royal Bliss had opportunities to leave Salt Lake City for greener pastures, but “it’s always been our goal to come from Salt Lake City, because we believe the talent in Salt Lake deserves to be noticed.” And with the Internet, it’s even easier for bands to make an impact without leaving their hometowns.
Royal Bliss plans on touring and pushing “After the Chaos II” as far as it can. And with their recent travails now in the rearview mirror, band members are optimistic.
“It’s actually starting to feel better than it’s ever been before,” Middleton said. “We’re all feeling good and we’re all healthy. I still don’t have all the feeling back in my leg, but it doesn’t bother me.”
Contact Dan Nailen at [email protected] or via his blog “Urban Spelunker” at www.sltrib.com/blogs. His phone number is 801-257-8613. Send comments to livingeditor @sltrib.com.
Royal Bliss plays an acoustic show tonight at 9 at Cabana Club, 31 E. 400 South, Salt Lake City; hosts a CD release party Tuesday at 4 p.m. at the Taylorsville Graywhale CD store, 1763 W. 4700 South; and plays a free show Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the Gallivan Center, Gallivan Plaza, 239 S. Main, Salt Lake City, with The Contingency Plan, Holloh and Spencer Nielsen.