You may recall that scene from The Mask where Jim Carrey turns into a dog howling at Cameron Diaz before they dance to a swing band and he lets out that catchphrase, “Smokin”. Well the song is “Hey Pachuco” and the band is Royal Crown Revue – the act most responsible for the resurgence of ‘90s swing. These seven hardboiled cats started rocking ‘n’ rolling LA clubs like the infamous Derby in the early 90s, as well as scoring films, opening for KISS and enveloping punk kids on the Vans Warped Tour.
While being the “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” on Bette Midler’s Australian tour, RCR trumpeter Scott Steen enjoyed “20 or 30 days hanging out and drinking wine. My wife came out and her and I and Bette and her friend did the Bridge Climb. We had a great time in Sydney. Tell the Australian people not to change, because I could move there someday when I get really sick and tired of everything going on in the States.”
Scott, you’ve been to Australia a number of times. What places do you recommend?
I think I would split my time up 30/30/30 per cent to Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide and leave 10 per cent for the rest. I’d have a hard time deciding where I’d live. The wine coming out of the Barossa Valley is great, the Harbour is beautiful in Sydney and there’s some great shopping in Melbourne.
Explain your style of music – it’s not entirely swing, is it?
We can’t even explain ourselves because we borrow from so many decades. Without thinking about it we haven’t just done swing. It’s like Duke Ellington listening to James Brown and MC5, Madness, The Clash and The Drifters. Take seven guys with different influences and you’re going to have a wild time. We did get caught up in the swing wave and I’m very thankful it happened, but the band had been doing things a little different to that. In the beginning it was hard to pigeonhole us.
Were you guys from a ska and punk background?
Definitely. Our singer Eddie was into punk when he was a kid and I was into punk and ska, mostly ska. I was a child of the ‘80s so I listened to a lot of Two-Tone and dancehall as well as Dead Kennedys and Agnostic Front. In the ‘70s I was too busy learning trumpet and about jazz like Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis. Mando was into Doowop and jazz. Daniel was into a really eclectic mix of stuff. The energy has been different with this band.
What’s the story behind you guys and the film Swingers?
Writer/actor Jon Favreau was hanging around that scene when he wrote the movie Swingers, that was the backdrop to his screenplay. We were happy to help out when he asked for it, but then we signed to Warner Bros and they wanted a bunch of money for licensing songs. Since we couldn’t be in the film we ended up doing the score under the name The Jazz Jury which had been a side project of ours for a long time. Swingers was a very small budget film and since we built the scene at the Derby there’s no reason why we shouldn’t have been in it, but Warner came along and said “You shouldn’t devalue yourselves, you’ve got to keep striving forward to earn more money,” and we were like “Okay, well you just completely devalued us by sweeping the rug from under us.”
What other films have you contributed to?
Something’s Gotta Give with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton. In fact the movie didn’t have a title, it was a work in progress and we did the song “Something’s Gotta Give”. They liked it and ended up making it the title. We’ve done Buffy the Vampire Slayer the TV show, Kevin Spacey has taken a shine to us so we’ve been in a few films, Albino Alligator for one. We’ve been in commercials. We’re the most famous unfamous band, people will go “I’ve heard that before, who is it?” Our stuff has been exposed to more people than we’ve been exposed to.
How many suits do you tour with?
When we do two-month tours we’d take four suits each and dry-clean them along the way. There’s some suits you don’t take on the road because they don’t make them anymore. But they’re often the ones you want to show off too. We’re really trying to shed off that zoot suit thing though. There’s a million bands doing it and we’re more than that. We still want to look sharp, so instead of The Mask in yellow suits, imagine more Reservoir Dogs – still gangster but not like a Dick Tracy cartoon.
Royal Crown Revue play Thursday 22 November at The Tivoli, Brisbane, Friday 23 at the Gaelic Sydney, Saturday 24 Beach Party Newcastle Uni, Wednesday 28 The Palais in Hepburn Springs, Thursday 29 & Friday 30 Corner Hotel Melbourne, Saturday 1 Dec Fowler’s Live Adelaide. Tix $50. Visit www.myspace.com/royalcrownrevue.