West Coast act Royal Oak aren’t playing Pretend with their poppy, new sound and approach

Van troubles for a Canadian touring band is a right of passage.

Usually, though, they happen a few weeks in and in the middle of nowhere on some godforsaken secondary highway — not day two and before you’ve even left your own backyard.

Perhaps that’s why Austin Ledyard is a little more hopeful and optimistic about the transmission issue that’s briefly sidelined his band Royal Oak’s mode of transportation before they’ve ventured too far from their Port Coquitlam base.

“What’s a tour without a little bit of adventure,” the vocalist says while their vehicle is getting the “asap” treatment at the garage. “On the bright side, we’re still in B.C. and we actually have a friend in Castlegar who really saved us. So I think being here made it the best possible situation of the worst possible situation.”

Luckily Ledyard doesn’t think it will keep the quartet from the second stop on the tour — a Friday, Aug. 10 show on this side of the Rockies, at The Palomino Smokehouse.

The summer run is in support of Royal Oak’s new five-song EP, Pretend, which dropped late last month and finds them travelling in a “slightly different direction” musically than previous outings, including last year’s full length Younger.

The songs are decidedly more “poppy” and synthy, Ledyard acknowledges, with Vancouver producer Ryan Worsley (Dear Rouge, Said the Whale) coaxing huge melodies and choruses out of them, polishing them up with a radio-ready and -friendly shine and sheen.

First single Tell Me, for example, is buoyant and bouncy as hell, while Mistakes, which features guest vocals from fellow PoCo artist Chersea is summer in a song — sexy, sultry and with a little steam rising off of its skin.

Rather than it being a case of the four longtime friends — Ledyard along with Brayson Wong, Michael Kragelj and Myles Philpott — chasing a sound and success, Pretend is, he thinks, what they’ve been working towards for the past half decade.

“As you grow you find new artists, you appreciate new and different things,” he says.

“So really every record is a byproduct of our environment, what we’re listening to at the moment, what inspires us … so everything always changes. In that sense I think every record is kind of a good timestamp of where we are. But I really think that with this record I think we’ve really found a sound that is both true to us and something that we’ve really wanted to put out. It’s really nice to have it out to the world.”

And that sound is one that he thinks is “definitive” and one Ledyard imagines Royal Oak will continue “pursuing in future releases.”

“This is it,” he says simply.

As for how the new material is playing live, he admits he’s “reaching for guitar a lot less,” but that the essence of the band remains the same — a little poppier but still a rock band at their very core.

“It’s not necessarily about the music, it’s about the energy, it’s about the passion, which I think is the most important part to a rock show,” he says.

“People can stand there and play music, that’s no problem, but in a rock show, people are moving, you’re interacting, you’re dancing, it’s electric, is truly what it is.

“So while the music in itself may not be rock, I think the show that we portray is definitely more rock in the terms of energy and the way we present ourselves.”

(Photo courtesy Mackenzie Cholowski.)

Royal Oak perform Friday, Aug. 10 at The Palomino Smokehouse.

Mike Bell has been covering the Calgary music scene for the past 25 years with publications such as VOX, Fast Forward, the Calgary Sun and, most recently, the Calgary Herald. He is currently the music writer and content editor for Follow him on Twitter/@mrbell_23 or email him at He likes beer. Buy him one.