2014 was quite a roller-coaster ride for Royal Blood. It’s taken the Brighton-based duo little over a year to move from playing small indie bars to being nominated for three Brit Awards, while also managing to bag a number one album in process.
This astronomical rise to prominence is perhaps not exactly something Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher would have envisioned when they spontaneously formed the band on their way back from an airport in 2013. Their first gig took place just two days after their first practice together, and the madness hasn’t stopped since. In 2014 alone Royal Blood played more than 150 gigs around the world, and 2015 is set to be even bigger as they support Foo Fighters on their global tour. The new faces of British rock have the world at their feet – and they’re enjoying every minute of it.
THE RED BULLETIN : 2014 was quite a year for Royal Blood. How would you sum it up
MIKE KERR: Yeah, it was all a bit of a roller coaster. We went from being a band that no one knew anything about to be extremely well known. We saw and did some pretty amazing things going from A to B as well. It’s been a life-changing year. Going around the world and playing music to people was an unforgettable experience.
Jimmy Page was at your gig in New York, you’ve hung out with Lars Ulrich, Dave Grohl is a fan, you recently met Tommy Lee and Tom Morello. What’s the most important piece of advice you’ve been given?
BEN THATCHER: No one has really given us any advice I don’t think, oh wait, actually Tommy Lee gave me some advice. He said “don’t f**k up!”
MK: I remember getting advice from Damon Albarn, and he just told me to write music everyday, and make sure you do it every single day. I’ve followed his advice ever since.
BT: The advice that we’ve been given is very different isn’t it?!
MK: Well drummers, you know…
What do you do to stay grounded given everything that’s happening to the band at the moment?
MK: We don’t go home, so it’s really just trying to stay in contact with our mates. We’ve got a really good crew around us who have pretty much been our mates from a very young age anyway, so we’re on tour with friends. I feel grounded on the bus!
BT: Yeah, there’s a lot of banter on the bus. We try to not take it too seriously and we have a lot of fun doing it.
MK: But there’s also a time to not ground yourself and enjoy yourself, so it’s all about trying to find a balance between the two.
How would you describe your music to someone who is about to pick up the record for the very first time?
MK: I don’t like describing it because it kind of ruins it. It’s like when someone goes to the cinema and they come back and they’re like, ‘Oh I’ve just seen this amazing film,’ and they start telling you the whole film and then you don’t want to go see it because you know it all already.
What about a flavour? What flavour would your music be?
MK: Hot and spicy, I think.
BT: We’re like a sweet wine from 2013.
You’re able to create a sound that many bands with four or five members can only dream of, what’s the secret?
MK: Just plug a bass into octave pedals and then plug those cables into as many amps as you can afford and turn them all up. It’s not very clever, but that’s just what I do, and it’s become my go-to instead of playing a guitar.
So no guitarist in the future?
MK: No, I don’t think so. We wouldn’t want it. This is about me and Ben. Not having a guitarist in the band is what makes us so special.
BT: Yeah, Royal Blood is us. I think it’d be pretty silly, and I don’t think we need to do it. We can always do collaborations, and just because you collaborate with someone doesn’t mean that they’re in the band. The premise of the band is that we don’t have a guitarist.
So how do you come to a democratic agreement if there are only two of you?
MK: I think a good idea to us is when the both of us agree on something. So we’re in this together, and if we don’t both agree then we don’t do it. That’s the point.
Anything you haven’t been able to agree on?
MK: We mostly agree on everything. The things we haven’t agreed on we haven’t done. I personally thought wearing no clothes for the first show was a good idea, for example.
BT: I wanted to wear all our clothes. Literally everything.
MK: So we met in the middle and just wore a normal amount of clothes.
You’re a rock band, what would you say is the most rock ’n’ roll thing you’ve ever done?
BT: I don’t want to say. [Laughs.]
MK: Yeah, I can’t think of anything that I could repeat in public.
Then what about anti-rock ’n’ roll?
BT: Ooh, the most anti-rock ’n’ roll…
MK: I’m just so rock ’n’ roll I can’t think of anything.
BT: Got one! I went to a zoo on my day off, that’s not very rock ’n’ roll is it?
MK: I think it is very rock ’n’ roll!
BT: Well, maybe our definition of anti-rock ’n’ roll differs slightly!
So you’re on tour a hell of a lot at the moment – what are the most important things you need to have with you to survive life on the road?
MK: You need to have a Nutribullet.
BT: Yeah. I got woken up with a lovely smoothie by Mike this morning. He brought it to my bunk and it made me feel great.
MK: You need to use the Nutribullet. It’s important to party in the evening, but you need to make sure you use the Nutribullet in the morning.
BT: It’s like having a good mullet, that’s all I am going to say. You know, business in the front, party in the back.
What tracks have you been giving major playing time recently on the tour bus?
MK: Busy Earning by Jungle. We’ve been listening to that a lot. It really gets me in the mood for a show. It gets me pumped up and I feel like I’m in my own little Rocky film or something on the tour bus.
What do you like to do on your days off from touring?
MK: Depends where we are. If we’re in a city I’ll try and find a museum or a cool thing to do there. It’s important to not take it for granted that you’re in a cool place, somewhere that you probably would have never been able to see if you weren’t doing what you’re doing. Seize the day!
BT: A lot of time is just spent sleeping though. When we finally get to a hotel on our days off we’ll spend it in a hotel so, you know, there’s no point when we actually stop travelling. Even when we’re asleep we’re moving, so sometimes you take those opportunities to just be on your own to just chill and relax for a bit. But we like to explore a bit as well.
After such a mammoth 2014, what does 2015 have in store for Royal Blood?
BT: Foo Fighters tour! It’s going to be incredible, we’re going to get to play Wembley which is obviously going to be fun. We’re going to start writing the 2nd record. We’ve got some great ideas and we’re looking forward to getting into some studios and rehearsal spaces to do that. We’ll get to travel a bit more too.
Have you got much material for the second record yet?
BT: Yeah, little bits on the go. But it’s kind of hard to focus when you’re on tour all the time. But we’ve got little snippets of ideas that we’re playing about with, which we’re excited about – so yeah, it’s good.
Do you feel under pressure to create given the success of the debut album? It’s not called the difficult second album for no reason.
MK: Well we’re not writing tunes for anyone other than ourselves, so the pressure is all ours really. It’s the pressure we put on each other to make the best record we can so I don’t think anyone elses pressure is anything we value.