The Killers and Imagine Dragons are two hometown bands who have turned into household names. Now there may be one more on the way.
Alternative rock trio NakedElephant—comprised of members Josh Royse, Mikey Tucker and Taylor Hatty—formed in Las Vegas four years ago. The band got its start playing gigs for Station Casinos four times a week and at Downtown venues such as Gold Spike and Container Park. Thanks to their grandiose, pop-driven sound, the group recently signed a five-album record deal with Virgin. They’re currently in the process of branding, whittling down their music library for their major label debut and taking on other creative pursuits such as experimenting with 360-degree video. NakedElephant will premiere their new video on October 20 during a free show at Bunkhouse Saloon. We caught up with frontman Royse to talk about their start in Las Vegas and saving the elephants.
How did you get your start in Vegas?
It started by cornering Monica Reeves [the director of entertainment Station Casinos]. She was scouting at one of my [solo] acoustic gigs and the people who were hosting the event wouldn’t let me perform for her. So I waited until like 2 in the morning and she was in a corner and I just took a guitar off the stage and was like, “I need to play you a song.” And she was like, “Don’t. Stop.” She was super pissed about it (laughs). [But once I played] her a song she started crying and then I left without leaving my card. She eventually figured out who I was. She got a hold of me on my little flip phone that I had to load with minutes and, a week later, I was in Vegas playing in her casinos.
Tell me about this video you’ve been working on.
The label had their idea of what they wanted the video to be and I was like, “absolutely not.” They wanted two models making out in cat suits in space, so I locked myself in my room and wrote the video. It has very many layers.
[After convincing the label] they gave us the budget and said you’ve got two months to make this thing happen. So Taylor and I flew to Austria. We only knew two people in the entire country. We ended up casting the video, renting a castle, renting a gorgeous theater and meeting a bunch of dancers and empowering them to dance in a place that would never have let them dance there and became this huge magical family. We filmed it all in 360-degrees with a crew from Germany that we also met from our travels.
What’s it about?
The video is for “Raspberry Kiss” and “Raspberry Kiss” is a song about how we are all deeply connected, how we’re all one. The [lyrics say] when the sun comes undone / we are one raspberry kiss. The idea behind that is the scientists put a probe into space looking for amino acids—the building blocks and proteins of life—and what they found was ethyl formate, which is a chemical that forms the taste of the rasberry. So there was this joke in the scientific community saying that space tastes like raspberries. The idea for the song is a raspberry kiss is like being kissed with the universe, with the source of life. I wanted to make a video about that.
[In the video] we go into a castle where these diplomats are organizing warfare and we’ve been kissed by raspberries, by life itself, to say, “Yo, go take the wealth from these people organizing war and distribute it to rebalance what’s going on out there.”
Have you been touring at all?
It’s all creative time right now—preparing the record, building our brand. We’re flying to Indonesia soon to create a [music] video of us decorating elephant tusks with rubies to raise money for the elephants in the Leuser Ecosystem [in Sumatra], which is the last ecosystem on earth with tigers, elephants, rhinos and orangutans that live together. And it’s a serious deal. This is what we have left on planet earth. We feel like we can do something about it by making a cool music video. We’re donating a percentage of our merchandise to this particular problem so we are going to go there next and film. We don’t have any tour plans until the next year.
Why are philanthropic causes important to you guys?
It’s literally everything. We’re so fortunate we get to do what we’re doing for a living. We’ve worked really hard and we gave up everything we have. Mikey and I lived in our cars. I’ve played on the streets for burritos. I absolutely had nothing for five years. We put everything we had into it, but we are still so lucky. This is the only thing that we want to do and I know that I can speak for all of us when I say we want to give back more than we take and this is an opportunity. There is so much power in speaking to the world and we feel like we are in a very fast-track position to do that.
Friday, October 20, The Bunkhouse Saloon, 124 S. 11th St., bunkhousedowntown.com