Duality is at the heart of everything that Los Angeles artist Royal & The Serpent creates, from the push and pull between her songs to the meaning behind her name. A true Gemini through and through, the polar opposites that make up Royal & The Serpent’s artistry have been part of her life for as long as she can remember, and they’re clear as day from the first time you hear her music. Passionate but pensive, sensitive but self-possessed, the singer/songwriter otherwise known as Ryan Santiago currently has her eyes set on releasing two new EPs, aptly titled Castor and Pollux after the original Gemini twins.
With her latest single, “Overwhelmed” out now and more new music coming down the pipeline soon, we caught up with Royal & The Serpent to reflect on her start in music and discuss her plans for the coming months.
Prelude Press: What first inspired you to get involved in music?
Royal & The Serpent: Growing up in dance and theater most of my friends were all very musically inclined. We would sit around and sing songs in 5 part harmonies for hours for fun. Even when I was younger I grew up around a lot of music. My Pop Pop played every instrument under the sun. My mom sang me to sleep every night. It’s always kind of been a part of who I am.
Although you’ve been writing and playing for quite some time, you just made your debut as Royal & the Serpent a few short years ago. What was the inspiration or the drive behind finally kickstarting this project?
I wasn’t really pursuing anything in music until a longtime friend heard me sing maybe 5 or so years ago. We were bartending at the same joint and he heard me play a song some night after work. By the following Monday he was my manager and we were writing down big-picture goals in composition notebooks. The birth of “Royal & the Serpent” transpired quickly after getting clear on what I really wanted out of my career.
There’s a duality to everything you do – how does this reflect who you are and the stories that you want to tell with your music?
Royal & the Serpent translates to “Me + my Ego” – which is like, the ‘thinker/the I am’ or the ‘object/the observer [we all have within us]. Duality is the essence of our human experience. In my music I’ve always wanted to separate projects into a series of smaller ideas that eventually tell a cohesive story over time. My two upcoming EP’s are called ‘Castor’ + ‘Pollux’ – after the original Gemini twins (one following directly after the other). The EPs are my representation of what it’s like to feel troubled, vs what it’s like to feel free. Hopefully these are the first of many.
You kicked off 2020 with the release of “MMXX” and most recently, “Overwhelmed” – what goals did you have in mind when you first started working on the music that you’ve been releasing this year?
I wrote ‘Overwhelmed’ long before I wrote ‘MMXX’. I remember feeling so empowered after that session. Not only could I tell what we were creating was special, but it felt so freeing to unload everything I’d been experiencing. The session we wrote ‘MMXX’ was the coolest. I don’t know what came over me, but something about that studio and those guys made me feel like I was already a rockstar and could make anything happen in 2020 (lol). Since the beginning the goal has always been – ‘make music, share music’.
Can you tell us a little bit about “Overwhelmed”? What inspired the track?
I was having a really hard time with some newer things I was experiencing like social anxiety & panic attacks. Everything was total sensory overload and my mental health was struggling. Getting the opportunity to transmute my feelings/fears into music/art is something that I am unbelievably grateful for. From top to bottom I got to give my heart and soul into the writing, production, & music video – so to see and hear that the song is helping/affecting people really means the world to me.
“Overwhelmed” marks your Atlantic Records debut. What made the label the right fit for your music and your vision?
Not to sound cheesy but it was kind of love at first sight. My now-A&R caught a show I had at Davey Wayne’s and from the second I met her I was like – this chick is cool. Everything from that moment has been nothing but pleasant. My team really lets me do my thing and is incredibly supportive of my vision which I know is a is such a blessing. Also their willingness and excitement to develop me in the stage of my career that I met them was such a selling point.
You also celebrated the release of “Overwhelmed” with a “drive-in” livestream performance. What was that experience like?
Wow it was so interesting and fun. We had an FM transmitter and streamed the audio to everyone’s car radios in the parking lot. We had a ton of technical difficulties but it was mostly close friends so it was just fun to be up there and seeing their faces from a distance. Even though it was totally still different from a real show – it felt so good to be singing to more than just my phone screen.
With “Overwhelmed” and “MMXX” out now, what can fans expect next?
Soooo much more music. I have another single coming out really soon called ‘Choke’ that’s about self-observation and feeling suffocated by negative thoughts. The rest of EP1(Castor) is centered around feeling out of control. Soon following we have EP2 (Pollux) which is about the desire and journey toward freedom/fun.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with us! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Just that I’m so grateful to everyone taking the time to listen to the music and watch the videos and enjoy all the art we make for them. I seriously can’t wait to share everything else we’ve been working on – it’s some of my favorite stuff yet. And thank you to everyone on my team for everything you do.