One-time U of O music student’s band The Royal Streets hit it big
Photo courtesy of The Royal Streets
It’s not always easy telling your folks you want to take time off of school to pursue your dream. For Eric Stirtzinger, he followed his passion and it paid off.
Stirtzinger is the guitarist and backup vocalist of The Royal Streets, and studied music at the University of Ottawa from 2011 to 2013. As a student he wrote and played music in his free time, performing at open mic nights and coffee houses. At the end of every semester, his friend Algernon Friolet, from Kitchener-Waterloo, would say they should start a band together.
“‘Eric, drop out of school and come play music with me. It’s going to be sweet and going to be way more fun than school,’ he would say,” Stirtzinger recalls, “I would always laugh it off.”
Friolet kept it up by sending him music to study while Stirtzinger was back in Ottawa. The two eventually met up with their childhood friend Michael Demsey to form a band and record some songs. In time, they added more members, while Stirtzinger communicated from afar.
“They would send me links to all these new songs from Dropbox and tell me what kind of shows they had,” he says. The band released some demos over the Christmas break last year.
While he was back in his hometown over the summer and had an incredibly successful tour across Canada, Stirtzinger knew what he had to do. He decided to leave in third year to pursue his dreams of playing music full-time with his friends.
“Finally I had to approach my parents diplomatically and tell them I’m not going back to school to finish my last year right away. I want to do this,” he says. His parents, both musicians themselves, were supportive and understanding.
Much like the qualms of working with family in a professional setting, Stirtzinger knows how to handle the catch-22 scenario of working alongside childhood friends—it can result in some of the worst fights.
“We have fought over the stupidest things, so you know the best ways to approach someone to talk about something,” he explains. “You know them so it’s good because there’s no fear of them being like, ‘Fuck you, you’re not in the band anymore,’ and having all these hatred feelings. There’s a mutual respect and comradeship with all of us.”
The band released its first full-length album Kings & Queen this past March. Stirtzinger says that due to the overabundance of streaming websites like SoundCloud and YouTube, it’s best to tour as much as possible and have listeners see their name in as many cities as possible. It’s crucial to show people how much you love and appreciate the craft of making music, he says.
But it’s also due to social media that they got to play at one of Canada’s most coveted musical festivals this year: Osheaga in Montreal.
Molson Canadian held an online contest and with the help from fans using Twitter hashtags and Facebook mentions, The Royal Streets won the opportunity to play their set at the prestigious summer festival this past July.
“It was so cool to see and to get that much support,” says Stirtzinger. “We were hanging backstage with the Sam Roberts Band, July Talk, and Foster the People. It was just so cool seeing our name and people we grew up listening to all the time. It was wicked.”
Royal rock at the Rainbow
In front of a packed audience, The Royal Streets invigorated the tired crowd at the Rainbow Bistro on Oct. 18 with their catchy chords, seamless harmonies, and boundless energy.
The Streets’ blends of acoustic folk and electric rock is intriguing enough, but what’s fantastically obvious are the mesmerizing vocal talents of lead signers Algernon Friolet and Jillian Dowding, that make the band shine. The two singers’ vocal styles could not be more different, with Friolet’s cautious precision countering Dowding’s luxurious rasp. Yet coupled together, and as sharp as they both were Saturday night, the result is near flawless harmonization and a very unique sound.
The crowd seemed to be blown away. If you’ve never heard of this local band, Google them immediately. Unlike Bono from U2 says, these Streets do have a name.