It was in a slightly more relaxed atmosphere than normal that ØF KINGDØM AND CRØWN was born. Diary cleared by COVID, Robb continued to play music. Friday nights, he would go and do the band’s Acoustic Happy Hour livestreams, then hang out with his wife.
“My wife and I started having a date night,” he explains. “I’d go to the studio and do the Acoustic Happy Hour, then I’d come home and we’d hang out. It was the first time in probably 13, 15 years that we had really been able to do something like that. Our kids are teenagers and just kind of do their own thing, like watching their phones or the computer. So it was the first time in forever we could really hang out, like, ‘Let's just go get drunk in the garage.’”
It was during one such sesh that Mrs Flynn made a suggestion. Listening to My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade – “It's one of our favourite albums of all time, we've listened to it forever” – the big themes of the record struck a chord. You should do this, she told her husband, do a concept album.
“I had tried it before, and I bailed on it!” he says of his response. “I don't know. It might be like a shitty concept record. And I don't want to be the guy who puts out a shitty concept record.”
But she persisted. And she explained the story of The Black Parade. And, “super-drunk”, Robb began to understand.
“She sat there and went through it, song by song, lyric by lyric, and she broke it down for me,” he recalls. “And I was like, ‘Wow, that's fucking really cool. I’ll try it and see what happens.’”
Robb had already been working on music. Stuff was coming, but he was yet to properly get a hold on the shape things were taking.
“Lucky for me, I've got my own studio,” he explains. "I was going down there, and the building owner would let me in – he wouldn't let anybody else in, but he would let me in. I would go down there and just be alone, and have my vocal mic and my guitar, and have my laptop set up. I’d just try ideas, but I didn't really have any lyrical ideas or anything. Somewhere in there, I wrote the intro to SLAUGHTER THE MARTYR, which is the opening track. I was like, ‘I have no idea where this is going like, this could be the end of the record or the beginning.’”
It was another member of his family who gave him what would become the album’s story and concept. He’d started work, and it was classic good vs. bad. And it wasn’t quite sticking. And then he watched TV with his sons.
“At first, my concept was a very American story arc. It was like, good guy, bad guy. Good guy wins,” Robb says today. “It was well written and it was it flowed good, but it just… I couldn't connect to it. I felt like a robot singing words.
“At some point over the pandemic, my kids start watching a bunch of anime for the first time in their lives. They were on their computers all day and they started going down this anime rabbit hole. And you know, unbeknownst to them, I was a super anime nerd when I was a fucking kid. I started off as a Star Wars nerd, collecting all the action figures and the Deathstar, the Millennium Falcon. And then I became an anime nerd, obsessed with Akira, and Space Cruiser. And then I become a metal nerd, trading tapes and collecting imports. So, I started watching all this brand new anime that I'd never seen before with my kids. It was brutal!"
It was Attack On Titan that gave Robb the brainwave. Basically: no-one is the good guy.
“If you've never seen Attack On Titan, it's just fucking weird and psychedelic and brutal and crazy and such a cool story. And it's really long seasons,” he says. “Around like season two or season three, I'm just like, ‘Who's the good guy here? Who's the bad guy? I don't even know what's happening anymore.’ Both sides are so fucked up, but they both believe the other is evil.”
It changed Robb’s perspective, not least because he’d never written like this before.
“I've done nine albums of singing about the world, through my eyes are experiences that have happened to me how I view society,” he reflects. “Now I'm writing through this character who lives in a futuristic, crime-ridden wasteland where the sky is always stained red. And then I got to write from the polar opposite character, who murdered the love of this guy’s life. As an artist, it was super inspiring. It put me in a different headspace to write music, and it was really cool.”