As Walker & Royce tour to support their album No Big Deal, they sat down to talk about releasing music, hidden unreleased gems, touring, and more.
House duo Walker & Royce have always had a signature sound while also avoiding being put in a box. Their house sounds often fall into a category fans would call “quirky and fun,” but that hasn’t stopped them from dropping some heavy bass over the years. Yet with the release of No Big Deal (released as Part 1 and Part 2) they are going further to broaden their style. Tracks like “Stop Time” featuring Glass Petals and Elohim, and “Tha Tea” show the opposite ends of their sound spectrum.
We caught up with Sam (Walker) and Gavin (Royce) before their set at Knockdown Center in Brooklyn. The lineup featured local support from Lloyd and Lauren Flax, followed by the duo, then a b2b with and before closing act Justin Jay. We missed Lloyd but caught nearly all of the banging set from Lauren Flax, who really stole the hearts of the local crowd.
The Walker & Royce set was perfectly crafted for a dark warehouse vibe with lots of bass, lots of lasers, and lots of their signature fun energy as well. It was also a set designed to feature new sounds while mostly bypassing fan favorites. (Make note of the “Rave Grave” comment in the interview.) And while many artists might get points off for skipping the hits, Walker & Royce had this crowd wrapped around their finger. It was absolutely obvious that they loved what they were spinning, and the audience tapped right into this as well!
Stream Walker & Royce – No Big Deal, Pt. 2 on Spotify:
Hey there, Sam and Gavin. Welcome home to NYC! How does it feel to take your tour through your hometown, even if briefly, while on a big tour? And will you get to spend any downtime while here?
Royce: That’s a loaded question because it’s been so crazy for us. Sam still lives in New Jersey, so I feel like it’s still his hometown. For me, I left about five years ago, so it feels weird to come back sometimes. I definitely wish had more time here. I’m gonna have a little bit of time tomorrow, but I’ve just been so busy with other stuff that I’m not getting to stay for very many days. Sam, how’s your relationship with New York these days?
Walker: To me, it’s funny that New York is always the same. It’s always just the same.
The No Big Deal Tour comes with the eponymous album release. All but one of the tracks is a collab and/or has a featured vocalist. Do you enjoy working with others? And how do you make sure these songs still have the Walker & Royce sound?
Walker: We’re doing most of the production on the tracks, so we create the Walker & Royce sound. But the feature vocalists usually take us in directions that we never would have thought of on our own. We’re doing this track with James Patterson, and when we sat down in the studio together, he said, ”I’ve got some cool ideas!” It’s stuff that Gavin and I would never think of. So we take it, and we build something cool out of it, and it just starts to sound like Walker & Royce.
Royce: The job of what we do is being inspired by other people, and that’s how we get to where we want to be. Even when we are doing stuff that doesn’t have as many features, it’s always built around a sample. Now, we’re essentially just trying to get better samples.
Speaking of the Walker & Royce sound, words that come up regularly when describing your music include: “quirky, bouncy, and fun.” I’m guessing you embrace these descriptors, and were these the words you had in mind when you came together as a duo?
Walker: When we started off, probably, no. Then, over time, we found out what we were good at and we found out what people would respond to. And then we were like, OK, that’s the way.
Royce: Yeah, it also kind of came from us. A couple of years after we started, we felt like music was in a very serious place at that moment. We felt like no one was really dancing on the dance floor, and that drove us to our sound. As soon as we started trying some more quirky, out-there stuff, it really started to work for us. We said, “Oh yeah. This is what we’re supposed to do!”
I came to your act through “Rave Grave” in 2019, as I’m sure so many have. I saw VNSSA live recently, and she played moments of that track throughout her set but never played the track. We all just loved the tease! Does a successful track like that ever get boring for you, or do you embrace the love it receives each time?
Royce: I gotta say that I’m not listening to it on my own at home anymore. I wouldn’t put it on in the car. And sometimes, I want to save it and not play it at every gig. But it feels good when it goes off, it feels good to have a track like that, that when you do play people really love. There are people with tattoos of the artwork, which is crazy to me.
Speaking of popular tracks, Dancing Astronaut called “Stop Time” one of the most anticipated ID releases of 2023. How does it feel to get so much love from fans before the release? And how do you feel now that it’s out there?
Walker: That track was an achievement of ours. Full credit to Glass Petals and Elohim, too, but especially from our side. We’d always wanted to write something more like a regular song. Something not so quirky because we’ve done that. We’re good at that. We asked ourselves, “Can we write something with a chord progression in it?” And it’s got this whole chord progression that I’m so proud of. And it goes from this melodic thing to this kind of banger and then back again. I’m just proud that we were able to do something like that. Something that isn’t just weird, glitchy, stuff like that.
Royce: I really like that track because I kind of felt like it started us on the path to doing the album. We put it out on our label as a single and then put it on the album because we felt like it fit with what we’re doing for No Big Deal.
I heard “Tha Tea” from the new album on its own the day it was released, and I loved it. It also got me thinking if 2024 is going to be the year electronic music (re?) embraces bass, hip-hop, and trap. With other artists making notable shifts into bass and trap, like your bud Barclay Crenshaw, do you think this is a movement? And do you feel validation that the sound is coming to you instead of the other way around?
Royce: It’s something that Sam and I really liked even before we even knew each other. And then we kind of found out that we both liked the same drum and bass back in the day. It was like we’d stopped listening to it. But then we’d been talking about doing something outside the box. And I don’t know if anything will come of it; maybe we’ll make some more.
Walker: During the COVID lockdown, I just started writing random stuff. It wasn’t just all house music. And out of that, the beginnings of, say, three drum and bass projects I started, that was one of them. It was the best one. We decided, let’s finish this and put this on the album because where else would we drop a drum and bass track? Put it on the album cause it fits. And now we’re playing it, and it’s really working!
When I read about your inspiring partnership with HeadCount to get out the vote, I also learned that you’d been hiding USB drives around venues where you perform. Both of these are putting unreleased tracks in the hands of your fans. Tell us a little more about the drives and how this influenced the HeadCount partnership.
Royce: With HeadCount, we wanted to find a way to help people register to vote, and we wanted to give something positive back. This was a way to do that. And no one had ever given a track away with them. So, we had the idea of doing this thing where we gave USBs of unreleased tracks. We have all these edits and stuff that we’re not going to release because maybe the sample can’t be cleared or whatever other reason.
We wanted to start sharing more music. I feel like we went through a period where we didn’t share very much music. We had a few releases a year, and I feel like this was our way to change that. Let’s get the music into people’s hands. And working with HeadCount was great. I’m really glad we were able to get a bunch of people to register! We’re really proud of that, and I hope to do more things like that.
Let’s wrap up with a little silliness. Gavin, you said in 2017 that fans finally stopped confusing you for Eats Everything. Was that such a bad comparison? And does that mistake still happen?
Royce: I got mistaken for him a couple of years ago at Dirtybird CampINN. Right after he played, somebody said, “Great set!” And I thought, “Oh man, here it is. All over again. All over again.” And he didn’t really believe me until it happened in front of him. I told him, and he was like, “Oh yeah, whatever, man.” And then someone made the mistake right in front of him. I told him it happens all the time!
Finally, is there anything you want to share with the fans as we wrap up?
Royce: Thank you guys for the support. We also have RDA (Rules Don’t Apply) Records, which is where we’re putting out some stuff. We just put out a track with Taylor Pearson. We got some more stuff with dances coming. We’ve got a release with Artillon coming. We got this new kid we signed that we are not going to talk about just yet. I think he’s going to be a really big deal. He’s a young kid, 20 years old. Also, please, if you like our music, we are putting out some really great music on RDA, stuff that we’re playing in our sets, so please get involved with RDA Records.