Interview - Royal Blood
The buzz may be well-deserved but Royal Blood aren't to sure how to deal with it.
Royal Blood's rise to the top is already becoming mythologised after Arctic Monkeys drummer Matthew Helder wore their shirt when he played at Glastonbury 2013. Furthermore, they were later asked back by the Monkeys to play their two-sold out Finsbury Park gigs. Finsbury Park holds around 40,000 people. That's 80,000 people. Furthermore, they already have over 60,000 fans on Facebook, and only one EP.
When Liam Apter spoke with Mike Kerr (lead singer/bassist) and Ben Thatcher (drummer) they took a fairly aloof stance towards questions about their management, debut album, the recording process and coming from Brighton with dead-pan humour. Indeed, it provided a refreshing break that the band could readily joke about whether Batman was alive or not. But it also raised questions about how comfortable Royal Blood are with their newfound stardom, either that or it's really not too high on their agenda at the moment.
I wanted to ask a question to both of you, can you explain briefly why you ended up in Royal Blood? You can go first Ben.
Ben Thatcher: I grew up drumming straight away, pretty much as I came out of the womb. I was inspired by lots of different music and then by the time I was 15 I was in a band. I played in loads of bands and did lots of different gigs. I met Mike on the way...
Mike Kerr: Hello...
BT: We played lots of music together and then Mike did a bit of travelling and then Royal Blood came along.
And with the band that you started with when you were fifteen Ben, was that the same genre?
BT: I played in so many bands, with a variety of tastes. I played with a soul band one time and I played for a wedding band and did a variety of different covers. Anything from Bon Jovi to Kylie Minogue.
MK: Good bands.
BT: Yeah. I played in some with Mike, he played keys. That's how I actually met him. He was playing keyboard bass on a keytar in the first band I saw him in. So yeah that's how it all came about.
MK: Correct. It's basically a keyboard that has a strap on it and it allows you to run around. It's very liberating especially for a keyboard player as the stand gets in the way. It can be a bit of barrier for achieving what you want to achieve, which is obviously chaos.
Why the change to bass?
MK: It's because I wanted to and that's the beauty of being in a band. You can play what you want to play and do what you want to do. I just decided to pick up a bass and make more noise.
Sweet. Lets fast-forward a bit now. How was the show in Melbourne?
MK: It was good. That was probably the biggest headline show that we have done to date. It kind of felt like a crowd for the taking really. We just walked up and played our songs. We did what we did. It felt like a real connection; there was crowd-surfing, there was legs in the air.
BT: This was my first time in Australia so it was crazy to turn up in Melbourne and have a sold-out venue to see us play. It was really overwhelming. It was just like a party waiting for you. Mike showed me the ropes as he had been before, he showed me where was good to go in Melbourne and stuff.
MK: The McDonalds.
BT: Yeah! [Laughter] You can't go wrong with a Cheese Burger. The food here is great.
Where else did you go in Melbourne?
MK: We went to Fitzroy and that was very enjoyable. It's kind of like a Gap catalogue. We went to that Little Creature's foodhall place and that was great. Where else did we go?
BT: We went to the Black Pearl for some drinks down there. It's just a great little strip. What's the street called?
MK: Brunswick. We were in the main city but I don't know... It's hard to remember where you are sometimes.
Okay, you guys have also had a big gap between the Melbourne and Sydney show tonight. What have you been up too?
BT: We did some swimming. We went to harbour and that was real swell.
MK: Triple J!
BT: Yeah we've done bits of press but it's quite nice to be a bit more relaxed because the schedule from the beginning of this month has been crazy. We haven't had any time to ourselves and it's been a rollercoaster of gigs. In Australia the schedule has been a bit nicer for us so we have had a bit time to look around.
Great. You guys are also part of Wildlife Entertainment...
BT: Yep there he is, our manager! [walks into the room].
Hey! But yeah, they are obviously home to the Arctic Monkeys amongst other bands. How did they pick you up?
MK: We chose them and they chose us. We got introduced to lots of people shortly after we signed a publishing deal and yeah.
BT: We had an instant connection, we liked them, we liked what they had done, we liked their roster. We had a good connection.
Okay and you guys are working on a debut album. Can you tell me about that?
MK: Yeah. It's nearly done and it'll be out in August. It's going to have lots of rock'n'roll on it featuring Ben and myself.
BT: Yeah we both play on it.
MK: It doesn't have a title yet and it'll be released on CD and vinyl. We want to get on cassette but...
BT: It'll be on iTunes!
MK: We're going to put it on most websites.
MK: Yeah Google, Spotify are going to have it. There'll be posters about it I hope and we'll play all the songs at gigs.
BT: Yeah most of them anyway.
MK: Probably extras as well. What else can we say about it?
BT: It's almost all recorded.
MK: Literally we're almost done but we're going to do a few more songs so it isn't rubbish.
BT: It's going to be amazing.
MK: When it is done we will put out.
Sweet, so it's pretty exclusive if you're putting it on Google?
BT: Yeah, good guys at Google. They know what they're doing.
MK: We're going to upload it to the images section as well.
BT: And the maps.
MK: Yeah so you know where it is.
BT: Yeah we're going to put it on Google Maps. You're going to need to have a special postcode...
To hear it?
MK: To see it.
BT: You can definitely see it. With your eyes.
[Laughter] What else can you say about it? How was the recording process?
MK: Yeah we produced it ourselves with our friend Tom. What did we do? I don't know. I don't like talking about it because then people will do what we did. But how many microphones did we use?
BT: We used at least 10 microphones.
MK: Neumann 367, we used that one a lot because it's got a very luxurious top-end to it.
BT: Throughout the last year we into a studio and we wrote about five songs. It went in kind of batches, recording them. Maybe three of them were album-worthy and the rest weren't. We did that all of last year until we tricked ourselves into having this catalogue of songs which will now be the album. I guess.
MK: Kind of like the Argus catalogue.
BT: Yeah, you pick your serial numbers but it's all in stock.
[Laughter] Mike, you said you didn't like talking about the recording process, why?
MK: I don't know. It's just the way we do it I guess. It's part of the creative process. It's the same way with what pedals I use, what amps I use. It's private, it's creative. And being secretive is much better because everyone loves a good secret, don't they?
BT: You never know if Batman is dead or alive.
MK: Is he?
BT: Is he coming back?
MK: Is he even real?
BT: Is out for the count?
MK: Is he a man or is he a bat?
BT: Exactly. Is he a woman or is he cat?
I guess we'll never know.
MK: No one knows. That's the beauty of it.
[Laughter] Mike, do you take any influences from travelling around?
MK: No. Not really. There isn't much that is luxurious or inspiring about travelling. Particularly the airport. Here it has been great because we have had time to experience what is around us but a lot of the time you go in and you do your show and you're out. I find inspiration more on down-time and easy-jet flights.
You nodded Ben, where do you stand on this?
BT: I think I'm inspired by what is around me. You meet new people and go to new places. No matter if you're travelling or not you're always being inspired. Doesn't necessarily come out of the music that we create.
Okay and you guys list yourselves as a band from Brighton on Facebook. Does that have any influence on your music at all?
BT: Again it is just where we live. It's where we write our songs but there is so much music and culture in Brighton. So everyone is different and they're doing their own thing I guess. So it's not really a 'Brighton Sound' or a Brighton influence-based band.
MK: We're inspired by the bands we grew up listening to. Which is a lot bands from America, not necessarily The Kooks or Fat Boy Slim.
Where did you guys originally come from?
MK: We're actually from very small seaside towns outside of Brighton. Brighton is our hub.
What are the town's names?
MK: My town is Worthing.
I know Worthing.
MK: Ben's town is Rustington.
And I don't know that town.
MK: You know Worthing? You been there before?
I'm from the UK originally, from Hertfordshire but I know people from BIM (Brighton Institute of Music).
MK: Ah right, the accent sort of gave it away. But yeah we're from those towns orignally and Brighton is where we formed and where we are based currently.
Yeah Brighton often gets associated with a Garage-like scene but you guys wouldn't say you are part of that?
BT: I think that there is lots of music going on in Brighton and we were so new to the area because Mike was fresh from travelling so we didn't have time to fit into that world.
How do you feel about that?
MK: Being part of any club will mean that you leave people out. I don't know. We have lots of friends in Brighton who have friends who are in bands but I don't necessarily feel that it is important.
You guys said a lot of your influences came from America, yeah?
I assume Queens of The Stone Age is one of them? If I'm right, Mike you said you saw them when they played at Leeds and Reading back in 2010 was it?
MK: Yeah I was. I was up the front for that. They definitely rubbed off on me and that band changed the way I think about rock music. I don't know if you have seen them live but they are fucking incredible. That was the first time I ever saw them play live so it was great.
Would you agree Ben?
BT: I've never actually seen them play but I'm hoping to see them as we are playing a few festivals with them. I mean I'm a big fan of the band so I can't wait.
Are there any bands you draw particular affinity with?
BT: There are lots. I'm a big fan of music really. I like a lot of different stuff.
Okay. And I've read that Harry Robbins is the one who designs artwork, am I right?
MK: Yeah he is a good friend of ours.
And he also runs a tattoo parlour in Brighton? Can you talk about the concept behind the artwork so far.
MK: Yeah he runs a place in Brighton. And in regards to the art it is kind of his thing really. He was a friend from early on and one of the first to hear the band's music. He was doing drawings of us and he kind of just started presenting a few ideas to me and over time they grew as the band developed. So by the time the band developed we had a lot of concepts that were already in action. A lot of it is based around his style which is quite mythological and links to religion. It's all quite subliminal, it's cool. When he gets on it now he just chooses to not to explain it because it's part of the mystery.
And does that sense of mystery come into Royal Blood?
MK: Well if I told you it wouldn't be very mysterious would it?
Where is the mystery though?
MK: Where's the mystery? Hmmm. I don't know if there is a mystical place or a emotional place. I don't know. Like I said, he does the goods and it is his work. So I don't know how much more of an explanation I can do for you on that.
Okay and what's next for Royal Blood?
BT: We go back to England, doing a little radio session back in the UK. And then we do a lot of European festivals, we also do Glastonbury, Download, Reading and Leeds, T in The Park. It's going to be fun.
Anything you are looking particularly forward to?
Are you going to bring out anything big for it?
BT: We shall see.
I haven't got anything else to ask but is there anything you want to say?
MK: Nah it was sweet. Thanks.