Royel Otis: new kings of alt rock

Guitarist and bassist Royel Maddell and vocalist Otis Pavlovic, who make up duo Royel Otis, sit in front of their amplifiers. The duo is from Sydney, Australia and just released their first full-length album “PRATTS & PAIN.” // Photo courtesy of Vasili Papathanasopoulos

Move out of the way Tame Impala and Arctic Monkeys, Australian guitar-pop duo Royel Otis are the new princes of alternative music. Vocalist Otis Pavlovic and guitarist/bassist Royel Maddell debuted their first full-length album “PRATTS & PAIN” to listeners on  Feb. 16.

 Although they have been compared to Passion Pit and MGMT, Royel Otis has cultivated a genre of their own, drawing inspiration from the British rock bands of the 1970s and the modern, synthesizer-based sound of the early 2000s. Pavlovic’s nonchalant, monotone lyric delivery evokes a sense of indie melancholy in their music while Maddell’s bass drives each of their songs with a deep and haunting rhythm. 

With more than four million monthly listeners on Spotify, Royel Otis has accumulated an intense following, selling out their entire Australian tour and most of their North American tour this upcoming year.

The band’s most popular song is the groovy, bass-heavy “Oysters in My Pocket,” which originated as an inside joke between Pavlovic and Maddell. Additionally, the band recently covered Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s “Murder on the Dance Floor.” The video went viral on TikTok, amassing almost nine million views.

“PRATTS & PAIN” was produced by Grammy Award-winner Dan Carey. In a recent Instagram post, the band explained Carey’s influence on the album title, “Dan would ask us to record vocals, and we’d say, ‘Just give us half an hour, we’re popping to PRATTS & PAYNE,’ and we’d have a pint, a few shots, and get some lyrics down.”

Royel Otis kicks off the album with “Adored,” a fast-paced, head-bopping song that elicits an unexplainable sense of anxiety through the inescapable tempo and rushed lyrical execution. 

The chorus merges a jangly guitar riff with Pavlovic’s repeated whines of, “In my head.” The urgent and unsettling indie beats of the song make it the perfect first taste of “PRATTS & PAIN.”

“Fried Rice” is a standout on the duo’s album. 

The nostalgic verses contrast with an angst-ridden chorus that was born to be shouted at summertime music festivals: “‘Cause I’m never gonna rust / My blanket’s soaked / My headache’s gone / Now come on Eileen.” Pavlovic’s nonsensical lyrics and off-handed mention of Dexys Midnight Runners’ “Come On Eileen,” add to the overarching whimsy and mystery of the track.

The next song is “Foam,” which Royel Otis calls “an ode to all those who need their mouths washed out with soap.” Pavlovic sings, “Think you need to stay off the prowl / It’s piling through your crooked teeth / I’m here to floss it.” 

These blatant allusions to dentistry create an eerie, psychedelic environment for listeners to live in. 

The band also uses copious sonic experimentation to try out different sounds. For example, “Sonic Blue” sees Pavlovic’s vocals reaching a new level of peculiarity and fervor, and “Velvet” uses a pounding, old-school piano to power the song’s cadence. This 1960s-esque instrumentation packs a vigorous punch to the chorus: “I’m suffering, I’m suffering, I’m suffering, suffering, suffering.”

“Sofa King” is the album’s dreamy climax. Even though it was previously released in an earlier EP, the song fits perfectly into “PRATTS & PAIN,” connecting the anxious, hurried energy of the first half of the album to the calm leisure of the second half. 

The song’s simple, sunny chorus makes it the perfect windows-down, singalong song for the upcoming summer months. 

Finally, the album’s parting song is “Big Ciggie.” The track has a vintage, glam rock aesthetic, reminiscent of David Bowie’s “Aladdin Sane.” Maddell’s funky guitar riff is the life force of the song, and it bids a classy and confident farewell to the album’s listeners.

As a whole, “PRATTS & PAIN” is a refreshing take on the indie rock genre. 

Some tracks may feel repetitive and bizarre, but the album forms a solid base for the band to build their empire. 

It is safe to say that the duo’s success is not fleeting, and the talented pair will continue to grow their unique, eccentric style. “PRATTS & PAIN” is just the beginning for Royel Otis.