Photo: Nas Bogado
As the crisp chill of autumn makes its triumphant return, so too does the inevitable itch for our playlists to reflect that familiar chill in the air, and LA-based singer-songwriter Royal & the Serpent is here to satisfy our craving for those gloomy sonic vibes with her latest release "Chips," featuring American Teeth. Fans of Royal may be surprised at the stylistic shift from her typically gritty, high-energy production, but "Chips" represents a vulnerable, softer side of Royal while keeping the irresistible bite of The Serpent stinging in the background.
"Chips" is a testament to intimacy in the face of an unyielding and unforgiving world. Royal's soft voice accompanied by acoustic guitar open the song as she laments the hopeless nihilism of living, "It's all the same in the end / This life's a sitcom, play pretend." American Teeth, the musical moniker of Elijah Noll, perfectly accentuates Royal's darker tones with a glimmer of hope. With a hint of gravel in his voice and impressive control of his falsetto, Noll blends seamlessly into the arrangement, providing both a musical and lyrical complement to Royal's narrative.
While Royal's previous releases have employed production techniques like vocal distortion and driving beats, "Chips" proves that Royal's voice and lyrics stand well on their own. She masterfully evokes an emotionally claustrophobic and simultaneously bittersweet narrative of leaning on our imperfect relationships to face an oppressively relentless world, singing "Spend your money / Say you love me / Let's just kick it 'til we're dead." The title pulls from the repeated refrain of eating chips on your bed with 68 unread texts, a testament to Royal's lyrical ability to make even the most mundane a meaningful portrait of emotional turmoil and anxiety.
The release was preceded by several cryptic and unsettling social media posts, depicting Royal and American Teeth sitting bloodied and dejected on a mattress in an empty room. Though the song may be stylistically lighter, Royal's characteristic grittiness and flair for the dramatic shine crystal clear through her online persona. Writing on Twitter, Royal set the dreary stage with the words, "we’re okay for now. it’s bleak and boring here but at least we have each other. we discovered the easiest way to communicate with the waking world is through music. sending a song friday in hopes to find a way out. keep us in your prayers."
The past year and a half have been quite eventful for the young artist. Her 2020 release "Overwhelmed" captured the quarantine anxiety of millions, garnering massive popularity on TikTok as society was collectively stuck inside. She recently wrapped her first major tour as support for PVRIS, released an EP and several singles, and is set to perform at Delaware's Firefly festival. Royal and the Serpent clearly shows no sign of slowing down, and we can't wait to see what else lies in store for this captivating artist.
Listen to "Chips" below: