Interview: Royal Blood – “Strings can break, limbs can break, hearts can break-that’s rock and roll.”
Few bands have achieved success as quickly as Royal Blood has, but again, few bands are as unanimously lauded and talented as Royal Blood is. Made up of Brighton friends Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher, Royal Blood received ample critical acclaim purely based on their EP material. For unfamiliar audiences, they sound a bit like a garage rock offspring of Arctic Monkeys and Queens Of The Stone Age, but with their stellar debut, “Royal Blood,” Thatcher and Kerr have managed to win fans of their own.
After opening for the Arctic Monkeys (who were fans of the band), the band went on to play major UK festivals like BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend, Glastonbury, and Reading and Leeds Festivals. Less than a month later, the duo released their LP. It not only debuted at number one, but also became the fastest selling rock album in the UK in three years. To put things into perspective, “Royal Blood” outsold The Strokes’ “Is This It” and Vampire Weekend’s self-titled debut.
A week later, the band announced a UK/European Tour, and that too made headlines when tickets for their shows sold out in less than two minutes. And about another week later, “Royal Blood” was nominated for the Barclay Card Mercury Prize (whose past winners include James Blake and Alt-J) and have been critically named the favorites to take home the award by NME.
The duo is playing in Los Angeles at the Troubadour on September 29th, and unsurprisingly, the tickets have already sold out. So if you weren’t lucky enough to snag a ticket this time, be sure to catch the band the next time they’re in town.
Amidst these hectic times, I luckily had a chance to chat with Mike Kerr, the bassist and lead singer of Royal Blood, about their band, touring, and what makes live rock music so damn good.
Congratulations on debuting at number one, staying there for two weeks, and outselling The Strokes and Vampire Weekend! How did you guys celebrate?
Mike Kerr: Well it was very unexpected, we didn’t really plan any post release celebration. We had kind of done all of our celebrating when we finished making it you know. But when we heard the significant amount of records, we had our knees up, had a few drinks. We were just very surprised I think. Having everything move so quickly, we didn’t expect everything to move so quickly. It is still surprising and impressive as it should have been.
Gene Simmons recently said “Rock is dead.” Do you think there is any truth to that saying?
Kerr: I think, if he is referring to what he knows and what’s around him, then it is true. But I think it’s not dead and that it’s alive you know? It just depends where you’re looking and what you’re looking for. I mean it’s not 1972, but there are a lot of great rock bands out there and no one is repeating anything. Maybe it is out there, Gene, but maybe it’s not as you know it.
Do you remember how you first reacted when you first heard your song on the radio?
Kerr: It was very strange, very bizarre. It’s cool, I felt like music was powerful, which it always has been. But the fact that so many people were subject to our music and at such a large scale…it’s crazy.
How do you make your sound so massive with just two people?
Kerr: We play together, I don’t know how really. I don’t know, we just want to sound as big as possible, so we…do. I don’t think it’s something you can really explain, I don’t think I’d want to find out, really [laughs]. I think it is just what it is. [Sounding big] was never really the goal of the band, but we knew what feelings we wanted to put across, and we realized we could do it with two people, so that was the answer. But I think in hindsight, it’s made things bigger than what we had originally thought. Less is more.
Have you been tempted to add another member, or should it just be the two of you?
Kerr: Right, why should the conversation start with adding? Less really is more. Adding wasn’t really the answer. It just is that way.
How does your songwriting process go?
Kerr: We just jam together, that’s how we write.
I also heard you wrote a song drunk once, can you tell us the story?
Kerr: [Laughs] I don’t remember it really. It was the song “You Can Be So Cruel,” and it was fitting for that particular evening. But yeah it’s true, I was intoxicated with alcohol, I don’t fully remember it.
You just released this album, but what direction do you see yourselves heading for the second album to avoid sounding repetitive?
Kerr: Well that would be telling wouldn’t it. We have a very clear idea of where we’re going, but I don’t wanna talk about it, because that’s gonna be the next round isn’t it.
Your UK dates sold out in two minutes, that’s crazy?
Kerr: Unless it’s one person who bought all of them [laughs].
So it’s known that there is quite a bit of moshing at your shows. What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen in a crowd?
Kerr: A guy in an inflatable boat, crowd surfing, no…crowd sailing in a boat. It was at Reading Festival.
Royal Blood is a very live-sounding band–what do you think makes a great live band?
Kerr: I think the more it is live, the more exciting it is. That is what I love. That’s why I love it, and that’s why I love bands. The best bands for me are the ones that take the most risks…they’re not playing to a fucking clip, you know? They’re not playing to a backing track, there are just three or four or five guys, playing instruments together, and making something fucking special. That is why it’s good, there are some great bands that don’t do that, but for me, that’s what I love. When there is a drum kit, a guitar, a singer, and they’re doing something which is special and exciting, and there is risk involved. Strings can break, limbs can break, hearts can break, that’s rock and roll, you know? [laughs] You want blood and sweat, that’s what you want.
Do you have any pre-show rituals because your shows are so loud and energetic?
Kerr: Because it is the way it is, any ritual really, is to chill the fuck out. I don’t wanna walk out on stage pumped! I want to walk out on stage like a calm ninja. Because I’m gonna get pumped anyway, so I want to keep things kind of light.
Have you guys played in America before?
Kerr: Yeah, we did a tour of the East Coast in July. We did South by South, a few shows in NY and in LA, in May. We love coming over, we can’t wait. We haven’t really come to the West Coast. I can’t wait to see more of it. We’re fucking excited, it’s going to be great!
Three smaller acts that people should check out?
RB: I would highly recommend a band called Tiger Cub, they’re from Brighton as well. There’s another band that’s actually coming on tour with us in the UK, we’re big fans. They’re called Turbo Wolf. And…the Marmozets, they’re great, I’m a big fan. They are my weapons of choice.
Dream festival line up.
Kerr: Jimmy Hendrix, Led Zepplin, and Queen.
Three Royal Blood songs people should listen to?
Last google search?
Kerr: Japanese Whiskey.
Guilty pleasure music?
Kerr: I have no guilty pleasures. It’s all guilt free. [laughs]
Describe Royal Blood in 10 words or less.
Kerr: It’s a self-descriptive name, so just, Royal Blood.
Originally posted here.