Australian duo Royel Otis reps indie rock

The indie rock duo Royel Otis makes first stop in U.S. tour at the Pavilion Toyota Music Factory, electrifies the metroplex

Mia Nguyen | Mercury Staff


Royel Otis’ addictive vocals and electrifying instrumentals quickly made their way onto the playlists of indie and alternative rock fans with their viral cover of “Murder on the Dancefloor.”  And with the arrival of their debut studio album “Pratts and Pain” and their first U.S. tour stop at The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory on April 20, the Australian duo “won’t settle down” any time soon.  

Although known for subdued charisma in their music videos and live performances, Royel Otis were quick to share boisterous chuckles and endearing jokes in their conversation with The Mercury. Lead vocalist Otis Pavlovic and guitarist Royel Maddell began their tour in a lineup of bands along with Blue October, lovelytheband and The Unlikely Candidates.  

“If you want to feel like you’re welcomed in [a new place], playing a show does that,” Pavlovic said. “Afterwards, not at the start. You’re not sure if you’re gonna get something thrown at you, but [performing in a new state] does help you feel welcomed.”  

The band renews the indie genre with seemingly effortless vocals and atmospheric guitar riffs, describing their music as euphoric, like looking out the car window on road trips. While a joy to blast through car speakers, Royel Otis is at their peak on stage. 

“I love playing ‘Heading For The Door’ because it’s the song that I sing the least in, and I can just focus on playing guitar,” Maddell said. “And I always fuck up the guitar lead line, and I like the challenge of trying to move around the stage and get that delicate guitar line right.” 

The band began their set with “Sonic Blue” in a flood of electric blue strobing lights. Despite Royel Otis’ strong musicality, their stage presence is gentle, allowing the audience to enjoy their unique beats and catchy lyrics without unnecessary flare. Pavlovic joked that this sense of calm is a coping mechanism, and their seemingly mellow nature comes from the pressure of performances.  

“Otis seems chill most of the time, which makes me feel like a madman, I throw up before every show,” Maddell said. “People say, ‘Oh, really? Because you look so confident on stage.’ But no, that’s nerves. I’m wigging out, pacing around the stage. That’s not because I’m performing, I’m pacing because I’m just terrified to be there.”   

Because of time restraints and heavy rain the night of April 20, the duo did not get to venture around Dallas, but they did partake in one Texas concert tradition: donning cowboy hats. Maddell wore a red cowboy hat with shimmery ribbons and Pavlovic a black hat with sequined stars. As the hats found their way to the stage, Maddell chirped, “Oh, shit, we got hats!” The duo wore them through their high-energy performances of “Heading For The Door” and “Going Kokomo.”  

“As a kid, I loved cowboy films,” Pavlovic said. “And so when I was young, like ten, I wanted to move to Texas and live on a horse ranch.”  

Throughout the set, the group’s introverted charm was palpable, from Pavlovic’s modest rhythmic arm movements to Maddell’s faded red hair covering his face throughout the show, just like in their other performances. Their album and EP covers either feature Maddell with his face covered or leave out the two faces completely. Pavlovic said he has mixed feelings about being the more public-facing member of the duo. 

“I kind of always wanted to … be a band that doesn’t really show our faces,” Pavlovic said. “But we always have artworks for the covers and things that kind of mask, but I ended up just always being [more visible]. I’ve kind of gotten better at it, but it’s weird.” 

Since the release of their first three EPs, Pavlovic said their sound and tone have shifted dramatically from the calmer energy of their previous work. They attribute this change to the ever-changing influence of collaborators, environment and emotions when making music. While the duo, along with their keyboardist and drummer, played an array of songs from their debut album, their older fan favorites such as “Oysters in My Pocket” and “Going Kokomo” made their way onto the setlist.  

“You adopt or inherit some of the environment around [you],” Maddell said. “The stuff we did record in Byron Bay, I think it does sound more beachy. And this stuff we recorded in South London, it sounds a bit darker and a bit more bleak because it was winter at the time, so it’s not an intentional thing. I think it just comes out, but we try to have fun in the studio nonetheless.” 

Royel Otis’ setlist ended with their iconic cover of “Murder on the Dancefloor,” previously featured on the “Like a Version” segment on Australian radio station Triple J. While this single caused their rise in popularity, the duo never planned on performing covers, feeling more confident playing their original songs.  

“I love other people’s music,” Pavlovic said. “But in my head, because we were talking about this earlier, we never really wanted to do covers. That was never the plan, but obviously, ‘Like a Version,’ you have to do it. But it wasn’t our music, it was a cover. But you can’t be too upset about those kinds of things.”  

Royel Otis will return to Denton May 9 to perform a full set at the Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studio. 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *