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On the road and \"always free,\" rock band Blacklist Royals mixes influences and makes friends

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Blacklist Royals with Nothington
10 p.m. Monday
The Hi-Lo Club
1221 N.W. 50th
www.myspace.com/hiloclub
843-1722
$4

This time last year, Blacklist Royals found itself in the midst of turmoil within the ranks and without a keyboardist and guitarist. These days, the act is touting a completed lineup, promoting a new album and making a tour stop in town.

Things are looking up.

The members of the Nashville, Tenn.-based band will show off their good fortune Monday by bringing their brand of "punk 'n' roll" to The Hi-Lo Club, with San Francisco's Nothington. As for what audiences can expect: "a unique blend of musical influences" would be an understatement.

Vocalist Nat Rufus calls the group's sound a mix between Ramones and Tom Petty, while critics have defined the music as country-tinged punk rock. But guitarist Jamie White said it's simpler than that.

"I like to just say it's rock 'n' roll, though, you know? I can call it a million different things, but it is what it is," he said.

The broad definition is necessary for an act whose members revere everyone from The Allman Brothers Band and Bob Dylan to Hank Williams and Johnny Cash. But no matter the decade or the genre, Blacklist Royals draw influence from artists and musicians with heart. And that's exactly what the bandmates are hoping to make. Still, Rufus said it's hard to get away from people's conception of what the group's music is.

"I mean, we wear cowboy boots and (our bassist) has a pompadour, so we're going to get the country reference no matter what," Rufus said with a laugh. "I don't think it'd matter if we played ska or something."

Regardless, all the sounds and influences can be heard on the band's latest effort, "Semper Liberi," which dropped earlier this summer. Filled with what White calls "blue-collar, heartfelt music," it is the first full-length album released on the act's new label, Paper + Plastick. And the attitude of both the band and the album start with that title, "Semper Liberi." The phrase, part of which translates to "always free," comes from the state motto of West Virginia, the home state of Rufus and his twin brother, drummer and vocalist Rob.

Rufus said the Latin sentiment perfectly describes life in a band.

"You're broke. Nobody cares. It's totally depressing," he said. "But it's not, at the same time, because it's what you love doing. I can't imagine doing anything else."

Something else Rufus can't imagine is the time before White and keyboardist Alex. The two joined the band last September after what had been a revolving-door lineup. "Semper Liberi" was recorded with only three core members and studio fill-ins. But just after the Warped Tour concert in Atlanta last year, the core musicians were introduced to their current bandmates, and they've been going strong ever since.

In the fall, Blacklist Royals will head overseas on a tour across Europe. But for now, their eyes are on Oklahoma City, a stop particularly special to the band because of the opportunity to see their friends and label mates, Red City Radio, White said.

"We've heard nothing but good things," Rufus agreed. "And everyone I've met from Oklahoma City is cool, so I'm hoping that show is rad."

Both Rufus and White emphasize community as an important component of Blacklist Royals. Their music is for the people, and they hope to see new faces in out-of-state audiences while on tour. They'd also be much obliged if some of those faces brought their open wallets or offered up places to crash.

Thus is the life of the small rock band, White said.

"We're not making a ton of money, so we need these people who are willing to hang out with us all night," he said. "We can go and visit them any time and know we have a place to stay, and that's just the most meaningful thing."

In the meantime, Rufus hopes locals here know that Monday is the new Friday.

"So everyone should just call of work the next day and come out and have an awesome time," he said. "And somebody should give us a place to crash." --Nicole Hill

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