UK duo Royal Blood quickly climbing its way to rock royalty
For just two guys, Royal Blood is certainly making a lot of noise.
The British rock duo of Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher has been building up a lot of buzz over just the past year, performing at high-profile festivals like Glastonbury and South By Southwest and gathering up a fan base – including fellow Brit rockers Arctic Monkeys.
Now, there have been plenty of rock duos before Royal Blood, but the twist here is that instead of the usual guitar/drum combination, Kerr plays the bass. The result is some impressively loud, raucous, rockingly thrash-happy music that's been impressing music fans on both sides of the Atlantic.
With their debut album set to arrive next month (Aug. 25, to be exact), Kerr and Thatcher are now on the road, with a stop at The Rave Monday, July 28 next up on the schedule. Before then, however, OnMilwaukee.com got a chance to chat with Thatcher about the band's origins, its inspirations and the all-too-deservedly forgotten '90s band Aqua.
OnMilwaukee.com: How did you guys come together? How did Royal Blood become Royal Blood?
Ben Thatcher: We were friends and got a job playing music together. So we decided to do it, just write some music together and become a band.
OMC: What were kind of your main musical inspirations back when you guys were first starting up?
BT: Well, I grew up listening to a lot of pop music and chart music, and Mike grew up playing the piano. We both were into rock music at quite an early age, and we're now into a lot of different things.
OMC: How does it feel with this album coming out? You've built up a lot of buzz in preparation for it.
BT: It feels really good! We've had this album done for quite a while now, so we're excited for other people to hear it.
OMC: When did you wrap the album up?
BT: We finished it completely about a month ago.
OMC: How long was the recording process? And how'd it go for you guys?
BT: Well, we kind of tricked ourselves into writing the album. We wrote like four songs at a time and went into the studio and recorded them throughout the whole of last year.
OMC: And then you picked the best ones from there?
BT: Yeah, each time we went in, maybe three songs would make it out as good tracks that could make it on the album. So by the end of the year, we had a good pack of songs to choose from.
OMC: Now, you guys are a duo, which isn't a horribly unique attribute, but one of the things that certainly makes you stand out is that you guys are a bass/drum combination. Were there any thoughts about that?
BT: Well, Mike played the bass, so … (laughs) He wasn't a guitar player, but he could get that sound from a bass guitar, and it worked for us. He made it sound full and great.
OMC: Did you look at other duo bands to see how they got a full sound out of just two guys?
BT: Not at all. We just enjoyed playing music together, and that was the sound that came out. I mean, we listened to The Black Keys and The White Stripes and Death From Above 1979 and all the two-pieces, but we also listened to a lot of three-pieces and four-pieces and nine-pieces. The number of people in the band didn't effect the music that we wanted to make.
OMC: Has there been a moment for you guys yet where it's like, "Wow, we made it"?
BT: I think every time we play a show, it's a little bit like that. We've had so many huge gigs and big events that we've played at. It's a strange feeling. I don't know what "making it" really is, really. I'm just enjoying the shows we're playing and the gigs that we're playing and the attention that we're getting from it all. It's nice.
OMC: Through this all, you've met up with a lot of famous rock stars, like Arctic Monkeys and Muse. Have you gotten any advice or any memorable interactions from those guys?
BT: Not really any advice. They're just normal people like us, and every band is different. You go through different things. Like the Arctic Monkeys went through a different experience; they were only 18 when they started. The stuff they went through is a lot different from how we're doing things. But we've had really good conversations with bands like that and shared some stuff, so it's cool.
OMC: A lot of people have said that you're leading the way on a rock/grunge revival in the UK. Would you agree with that statement? How do you feel about that title?
BT: I understand, but we just do what we do. We just play rock music. I don't think it went anywhere because we've always been playing it, but I guess there's other music out there that's being really popular. Singer-songwriter, rap, R&B, hip-hop; those are always in the charts.
OMC: Do you listen to any of the Top 40 radio, or do you try to avoid it?
BT: Yeah, all the time. I think it's good music, and I think there's some great ideas and songs on the charts. Obviously, they're doing something right because they're making money and selling a lot of records. You can learn from that, but I'd also say there are other bands also making great music that aren't on the charts. So I think you can learn a lot from both.
OMC: Is there anybody in particular on the charts that you listen to?
BT: We're listening to a lot of different music at the moment, a lot of different stuff from playing a lot of festivals. We got to see a lot of really good bands that we like, and we're still listening to a lot of old classic rock records and some other stuff that's completely different from the music we play.
OMC: Is there anything on your iPod that you think would completely surprise somebody if they found out?
BT: Everything on my iPod would probably surprise you. (laughs) There's a lot of things on there that most people wouldn't be proud of, but I am. I would listen to Mariah Carey, Snoop Dogg, Queen … probably the worst band on my iPod would probably be Aqua. Do you remember that band?
OMC: Yeah, that was "Barbie Girl," right?
BT: Yeah, well, I have that whole album on my iPod. I think that was the first album I ever bought, so that's in there. The Spice Girls. A lot of sing-a-long van music on there.
OMC: Aqua's kind of been forgotten by history, fell off the face of the Earth.
BT: They are, a little bit. Probably a good thing, I think. They were for their time. They were for me when I was 12 years old, listening to it on repeat.
OMC: Since it is just the two of you guys, have you ever been tempted to add members or instrument?
BT: No, we've never felt we needed to. We cover a lot of ground with the sound we're making. To have another person on the road with us, I'm not sure what they would do really. Unless they were a gorgeous looking girl that was good at dancing or something; then we might consider it. We feel that we're writing good songs together, and there's a good chemistry between us.
OMC: How does the songwriting process work for you two?
BT: All the songs start with Mike and I in a room together, jamming. We would just play songs together and come up with some good ideas and some really bad ideas. And we'd just use all the really bad ideas.
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