Meet the future of rock ’n’ roll: Nashville’s Royal Sugar.
The glam group is the most exciting new band to emerge on the scene, a mix of ‘70s and ‘80s nostalgia made fresh by their penchant for modern pop. In concert, they channel everything from Def Leppard’s rawness to Jim Morrison’s swaggering flamboyance.
Royal Sugar’s Tyler Cohenour (frontman) and Garrett Carr (bass/vocals) first met in college in Florida, the same state they both hail from. Growing up, both musicians had a penchant for the type of rock music their dads raised them on, like AC/DC. Upon meeting and becoming friends, they realized they may be musical soulmates.
“First couple times we played, we’re like ‘There’s chemistry there. We should run with this and see what happens,’” Carr recalls.
And run with it they did: Cohenour and Carr ended up relocating to East Nashville in 2016. They bought a house and turned it into a studio where they began their writing relationship. While the Music City is known best for its country scene, the pair were more interested in the great rock bands that were either born there or also gravitated to it, like Jack White and Kings of Leon among others.
Royal Sugar only became Royal Sugar in fall of 2021, a product of pandemic isolation and a reinvigorated desire to make things happen for real. Cohenour and Carr ended up being separated for nearly two years during this time; Cohenour has an immune disorder and decided to move back to Florida when COVID hit. Even with a harrowing pandemic as the backdrop, the two kept themselves productive by writing together and covering their favorite songs over Skype.
“Quarantine pressurized our feelings that life is extremely precious and art is extremely precious,” says Cohenour. “What’s holding us back from doing exactly what we want to do?”
To begin promoting themselves, Royal Sugar turned to TikTok, where they began to amass a following of Gen Z fans who were hungry for a band like them. The band’s page has racked up over 60k followers and nearly 1M likes on the platform for their covers, jokes, and original songs.
“We were blown away by how many people on there shared the same desires that we did to see this rock resurgence, specifically people who like pop and glam rock,” Cohenour adds.
In 2021, Royal Sugar made their debut with a cover of Harry Styles’ “Medicine.” They attended the pop star’s show in Nashville back during one of his first solo tours and were blown away by the track, which the former One Direction member has played live frequently but never released officially. Royal Sugar had dropped a cover of “Medicine” on TikTok that blew up so they decided to record it.
But for their first original song, they led off with “California Nightmare” in July 2022. It’s a proper introduction to their shimmering fusion of the past and the present that positions them firmly in rock’s future. It was also the first song they were able to write in person when Cohenour returned to Nashville.
“Ty’s a super talented producer, so he’ll get in there and build out these tracks,” Carr says of his bandmate. “He’s got a really great ear for how melodies come together so he’ll usually get the structure and the bones and then we’ll go back and forth on arrangements. It’s definitely a collaboration, based off Ty’s vision for the initial concept.”
Next up is “Fleeting Love,” a song they wrote years ago and planned to release back in 2020. The song’s narrative is a timeless one of being dependent on a toxic relationship. The relationship is likened to a drug.
“It resonated with both of us,” Cohenour explains. Carr describes the feeling as “that dopamine hit” that can leave you worse off than you were before.
Royal Sugar are gearing up for more shows, hoping to start properly taking their glam energy on the road. Cohenour has even started to rehearse in heels.
“We’ve witnessed some really special moments in venues of just about every size,” Carr says. “It’s an out-of-body experience when you’re in these massive stadiums and amphitheaters and everybody’s engaged. That’s something that fascinates, scares and motivates us. To be able to facilitate that would be such a special thing.”
-- Written by Brittany Spanos
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Photo credit: Dillon Jordan
Photo credit: Dillon Jordan
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