Tom Beard

Royal Blood – Championing the New British Invasion

Four million monthly listens on Spotify alone… and climbing everyday. Rock never left, but this band is still helping it come back in a big way.

UK rock duo Royal Blood know how to put the rock into rock and roll. Their riffs, drumbeats, and sharp vocals have been a part of the modern scene since their self-titled album in 2014. Singer and bassist Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher make crowds of all ages and all sizes fall in love with rock music once more. Consider this the next wave, the new British Invasion of bands, with their tourmates being Bad Nerves (also from across the pond). Together, this tour that they are on and bringing to the tri-state area is this weekend, is a rock show not to be missed.

Royal Blood started out playing open mic nights overseas in West Sussex as they found it difficult, at first, to break into the industry officially. Soon enough, though, they found a team and some success with Warner Records. They were received well by critics and fans alike. Their sound, influenced by the greats – Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd – has evolved since then, since their 2014 debut, and even as recently as their early pandemic releases. The band is always on the move for something more, something rocking and memorable. Their singles “Loose Change,” “Lights Out,” and “I Only Lie When I Love You” have made the duo a staple at festivals, and they bring them even further to life at their own concerts. 

The Aquarian’s Robert Frezza sat down with Kerr to chat about being in the current rock scene, the impact Royal Blood is making, and their new album, Back to the Water Below.

How did Royal Blood get together? I read that there were some tough times when the band first started playing; not even getting get a real gig in the homeland.

I think getting a gig is a hard thing. Sometimes a promoter wouldn’t give you a show unless you could bring ‘x’ number of people along. There were all these hurdles to jump through to get through to be a band. We resorted to open mic nights – that’s the easiest way to get a gig. You don’t even have to organize it when you could just show up.

Back to the Water Below is your fourth No. 1 album. Do numbers and/or sales mean anything to the band?

It’s hard to take anything that deep from it. That’s why we make records. It’s a mixed bag; it’s amazing that that’s happened, but it’s not the driving force to make music. All the celebrating that takes place is when the day the album gets mastered or the day when we hold the vinyl for the first time. Those are the real ‘Holy Shit!’ kind of moments. Everything else after that is out of your control and depends on the musical climate. 

This album sounds very seventies-era rock. Did you listen to that before making the album?

How could it not? Because it is so riffed based, we are clearly standing on the shoulders of the bands that coined the riffs. It’s funny – making most albums for us, we close off to listening to too much music so we could zero in on what we are making. I think it allows a healthy amount of your influences in a more subconscious way. I think you can start over-questioning what you are doing sometimes.

Was the “Shiner in the Dark” video biographical?

I think that song, to me, is about thinking you are invincible when you really are closer to the opposite of that. When you’re a kid and you think you can karate chop everyone in the room… it’s a sense of delusion, which is what the song is about. It’s how we fool ourselves we are invincible and how damaging that can be. This video was a really fun way of displaying that concept. 

Photo by Tom Beard

You called the BBC One Big Weekend crowd out for not being familiar with rock music. What do you think is, in fact, holding back the public from embracing rock and roll again?

I think I was being ironic. We do very well in the UK playing big shows. We have our feet firmly in the rock and roll genre. There is always an ongoing conversation that rock and roll is dead, though. I think there are so many amazing genres. It’s never going to be like seventies again where [rock] is one a few genres. I think it’s just sharing the limelight now and I think there’s brilliant rock music right now. 

How do you think rock becomes so trendy? From the grunge movement to nu-metal moments.

I think some have their place in time. Some have dated well and some of them have not. I think those that have dated well are the ones whose foundation was in great writing and great music rather than jumping on aesthetic. I think time has to pass to understand that you understand the gravity of the [music]. It takes people dying sometimes to realize their greatness. 

Festivals versus venues?

I’d pick a venue over a festival.

What can we look forward to on your US tour?

This new album – if it has any preconceived ambitions – was to make something to serve our live show. We feel so equipped now to put on something that is more dynamic than it has ever been. I think our live shows were very aggressive and very heavy. Now, this show has some additional moods that allow it to be more epic. There’s a journey in the show now and it feels a bit more nuanced, as well. 

What songs do you enjoy playing live and why?

“Shiner in the Dark” because there’s something about a song that locks into a groove; you could hold people there. We experienced that with “Boilermaker.” It necessarily gets heavy and doesn’t have a sing along vibe part to it, but – fingers crossed – you can get the crowd into some sort of a trance. It’s a different connection to make with the crowd.

How have you evolved since your first album?

I feel like the first album was like a skeleton. As time has gone on, we haven’t changed the foundations of who we are, but we just added muscle. I think evolution is good as long as its natural. I think when artists or bands force an evolution or step into something in a contrived way, to me, that’s coming from the wrong place. We found something that feels like a step forward that felt natural and something that’s been led by inspiration.