Royal and the Serpent is the band name and the personas of Ryan Santiago.
“I definitely feel like I’m two people living in one body, where I can just slip at the drop of dime and become a totally different person,” notes Santiago, who equally identifies as a “sweet sunshine angel” (i.e., the Royal persona) and a “freaky devil maniac” (the Serpent).
Santiago was a competitive dancer and into musical theater. She credits Donna Missal for teaching her guitar.
The band released the Searching for Nirvana EP in June which features singles “I can’t get high”, “girls (ft Phem)”, and “Phuck U”
The band’s 2020 EP Get A Grip featured the hit single “Overwhelmed.” Royal and the Serpent (RATS) has had a rapid rise from “Overwhelmed.” They were part of a live stream tour for Yungblud in 2020. They have been releasing edgy videos to their gripping music on a regular basis. Now they are finishing their first tour opening for PVRIS. RATS is a visceral experience mixing raspy vocals with a blunt force. They mix the ferocity of Halestorm with the theatrics of Garbage. FEMMUSIC was honored to have an e-mail interview with Santiago about the band and tour. For info visit @royalandtheserpent
FEMMUSIC: What was the biggest challenge making the Searching for Nirvana EP?
RS: Honestly releasing it was the hardest part. I couldn’t stop second guessing myself and I was so nervous until it was finally out. It was like a huge weight was lifted from me. Shoutout to my team for helping me get it across the finish line.
FEMMUSIC: What were your goals for the EP?
RS: It was the first “full” body of work I had ever put out – so I think cohesion was my number 1 goal. I really wanted to make something that was meant to be listened to front to back. I wanted it to tell a story – a little introduction into my world and brain.
FEMMUSIC: What changed in your approach to making Searching for Nirvana vs Get A Grip?
RS: I think stylistic choices. We really leaned into the rock space a little further than we had before. I also had a bit of a heavier hand in the production than before. Marky and I got to spend almost a whole month polishing it up before it was ready to be heard.
FEMMUSIC: Tell me about working with Phem & Yoshi Flower. What do you look for in collaborators?
RS: Gosh two of some of my favorite people on earth. Yoshi is a longtime friend and collaborator. Phem and I met for the first time the day we wrote “Girls” – and we immediately hit it off and are now still very close. I think vibe is key when it comes to working with others. It’s all energy – when the vibe is right the music speaks for itself.
FEMMUSIC: You’re signed to Atlantic Records. What made you sign to Atlantic? What do you look for in a label?
RS: Atlantic was the first major that showed interest in the project – and I knew immediately that they were the ones for me. They were so welcoming, so warm, it felt like home the first time I walked in the doors. I think most importantly the #1 thing I was looking for in a label was a team that cared about the project, the music, the vision, etc. I knew from the first meeting I took that they had real interest in what I was doing and that meant more to me than anything.
FEMMUSIC: You’re touring with PVRIS. I’ve read you’ve had social anxiety in the past. How do you manage touring? What do you most like about it?
RS: Ooooof. Hahaha. We’re still in the midst of it and we’re almost halfway through. I’m not gonna lie – it’s been an adjustment! I’m also HIGHLY claustrophobic so that’s probably been the toughest part. Sometimes I get random panic attacks in the van. But for the most part we’re staying out of the crowds and staying safe with covid and all. Aside from some of the smaller hurdles – I love everything about touring. It’s my first tour and I can’t even begin to tell you how grateful I am to be getting to play shows every night with my best friends. I wouldn’t trade this life for the world.
FEMMUSIC: What challenges, if any, have you faced as a woman in the music industry? And how did you overcome them?
RS: In the beginning of my career it was a lot harder to get people to listen to my ideas and suggestions. People would easily steamroll right over me. I’ve really learned how to own my voice in a room and keep my energy strong. As a woman you sometimes have to command the attention. A little spice never hurt anybody 😉
FEMMUSIC: Can you describe your songwriting technique?
RS: Sure! For the most part I co-write everything. So it usually looks like: showing up to a studio with another writer and a producer, hanging for a bit, jamming for a bit, and seeing what pours out. It’s always based on personal experience/emotion/whatever I’m feeling at the time. I think the best songs are written when we take our brains out of the equation and we just let the music come through us.
FEMMUSIC: What song, not your own, has has the biggest influence on you, and why?
RS: This is like such a tough question? Because SO much music has shaped me to be who I am today. I think if I had to pick one in this very moment it would have to be “Welcome to the Black Parade.” It’s a masterpiece in every sense of the word. A modern day Bohemian Rhapsody if you will. I could only dream to someday make something even half as iconic.
FEMMUSIC: What one thing would you like to change about the music industry?
RS: I guess if I could change one thing it might be the competitive edge a lot of people seem to have. I wanna believe there’s room for all of us to do what we love and still make it to the top.