Royal & the Serpent (Ryan Santiago) is on a roll with her rise to fame and brand new EP following her latest single, “phuck you.” The LA based artist continues to impress with her fresh sound and unique sense of style. Writing “overwhelmed” at peak quarantine anxiety, the track is a beautifully tragic time capsule of the emotions of our society and each generation’s struggle over isolation, anxiety, fear, and an overwhelming pandemic that locked us in our homes for over a year.
As things return to that new normal suddenly, there’s a hesitant attitude and cautious steps made to find our footing after spending so long going through the motions. Royal joined forces with YUNGBLUD in the “Weird Time of Life” livestream tour, which captures much of this hesitance. Read our review of the performance here.
There’s a gritty and broken but childlike innocence in the sound of Royal’s voice, blending into one of the two persona’s she claims her own- a “sweet sunshine angel”- and a “freaky devil maniac” (the Serpent) being the second. Combined, these two aspects of her persona make for a beautiful allure of sound and shape for her brand new EP, searching for nirvana.
Our friend, Alex, joins with Royal & The Serpent to chat about the new EP. Check it out below, and keep scrolling to read our full album review!
searching for nirvana is both an expression and journey through self love and acceptance. For Royal, this self-acceptance was sought, first, through lust/love and material gain, only to find that true nirvana must come through self-acceptance – hence, searching for nirvana. A lot of the songs and Royal’s personality are inspired by Kurt Cobain. While writing the EP, she was constantly influenced by his personality and his sound, but also wanted to be careful not to try and be a copycat. Therefore, searching for the perfect balance of Nirvana and Royal… here are our thoughts about the album, song by song.
Beginning the album, “i can’t get high” introduces a powerful message about a toxic relationship. Paired with an incredibly moving music video to match, we are thrown into the world Royal creates: a desert space where two lovers intertwine and connect. A poem penned under her name is read aloud, gripping the soul to the relatable message it holds. Wrapping in the concepts of addiction, toxicity, and a relationship that once was sweet, now gone sour, the layers can be peeled apart only to find more layers.
Partially filmed in the Joshua Tree desert, the music video shares the incredible directing and acting skills of Royal on full display, where she opens her heart wide for love and can’t get enough. About the performance, she states:
I was really lucky as I got to hire somebody that I was seeing at the time. A lot of what you see is charged by very real emotion. We actually got into a big fight on the way out to the desert, so all of that fighting stuff is super real. It worked out perfectly in a weird way. Everything fell apart while making the video, so we got to sort of have this real depiction of heartbreak and heartache on camera. I’m so grateful because I’ve never really acted before, so it didn’t feel like acting. I mean, it was really intense, and more than it would’ve had it been just a normal actor that I didn’t know. But I think you can tell and it shows through while you’re watching it (1).
With the raw chemistry of a relationship falling apart, the crawl in desperation to keep looking for the highs when all that’s happening is a downward spiral, and fearing the darkness that lingers at bottom, “i can’t get high” has endured many revisions over the years, and finalized itself in the dark pop-rock scene.
“phuck u,” Royal’s latest track before the EP’s release, follows the previous single in its styling, concept, and sound. Embracing the anger, the broken, the unhappiness. The track is real; just as Royal’s career is on the rise and all dreams are coming true, she finds herself stuck in a rut in what can truly be defined as happiness. Success, “good weed,” the big break, is not what makes someone content in life. It’s only when you’ve reached for the stars and actually touched them like you’ve always dreamed that in human nature, there’s going to be thoughts like, “Now what?”
The song is too, about thoughts post-relationship. When life is good and you’ve strived for happiness and the world seems to be turned in your favor, and all you’re thinking about is the anger and the heartbreak, it calls for introspection and understanding of those emotions to find healing.
Next, “fanny pack” begins with an acoustic intro, where Royal breaks down childhood, upbringing, and the pursuit of happiness. As the track progresses, the genre transcends into a dance beat coursing through the being. It preaches a simple message that many of us may put up the act that we have things figured out, but at 27 she herself has only figured out that life tends to twist and turn and have its ups and downs; and she knows that she’s not the only one who feels this way. Though we all fall down, we need to keep getting back up, grasp onto the good things in life, and “embrace that s***, just to feel something.”
The shortest track in the EP, “gay interlude,” questions sexuality and identity as a whole. The most vulnerable in the album, instrumentally and lyrically, Royal expresses the feelings of missing something in her life in a few words and asks herself the question, “What if I’m gay?” Then the song concludes.
The remainder of the album processes through the embrace of identity, pursuit for wellness and mental health, and finding a silver lining amid the storms of life. All in all, the album is straightforward, open, and raw as Royal expresses the bittersweet journey in her latest chapter of life in the pursuit of finding happiness.
Stay tuned for more updates regarding Royal & The Serpent. Stream searching for nirvana, now available on all streaming platforms: