Royal Blood

Royal Blood

The first time that Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher played in a room together as Royal Blood, the noise they created was so ferocious that it made frontman Kerr burst out laughing in astonishment. “How can we be this loud with just bass and drums?” they wondered. “From the first note, it was just like this energy exploded in the room,” Kerr tells Apple Music. “I was just like, ‘Oh my god, this sounds so good.’” It was a sentiment shared across the globe over the next year and a half as the pair’s blend of heavy riffs, bluesy licks, pummelling drums and anthemic choruses earned their 2014 debut a Mercury nomination and made it one of the biggest British rock albums of the decade. It was a surreal period for Kerr and Thatcher, who knew their music was connecting on a huge scale—not just because of lofty chart positions and a rapidly growing diehard fanbase, but also because of the rock icons watching on from the crowd. Jimmy Page, Muse and Metallica were among those who turned up to witness Royal Blood’s blistering live show in those early days, performances that prompted Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello to tweet, “I’ve seen the future of riff rock and its name is #RoyalBlood.” “It made us realise how small the rock community had become, because it meant that we were flying a flag for something that wasn’t really being represented either very well or by anyone that has actually had success,” says Kerr. The torch had been passed. Royal Blood’s debut heralded the arrival of a brilliant rock talent. Kerr and Thatcher guide us through it, track by track. Out of the Black Mike Kerr: “It seemed like the ultimate entrance. I was thinking of ‘Killing in the Name’—if that’s your opening statement, it’s just so bold. We were actually in the middle of writing ‘Loose Change’ when we wrote it. The beat was an alternate beat to ‘Loose Change’. There was a moment where I was tuning, or doing something, and Ben was rehearsing it on his own. And I just copied what he was doing. Because of the way we were writing in the room together, it just felt very immediate. It was so heavy. And so simple and dumb. It’s the simplest riff we have. I think it’s really important to have a song on your first record that says, ‘This is who we are.’” Ben Thatcher: “It’s in your face. As soon as the first beat hits, you know it’s Royal Blood.” Come On Over MK: “This was a song I’d always done at open mic nights, which is really how I started singing. I would get really, really drunk so I had the confidence to get out and do it. I would try and impress a girl that was there, and probably fail. ‘Come On Over’ was a sort of bluesy song that I had, and when we were making the record, we put it into the way we were playing songs and it fit perfectly. It was very bluesy, but it had a metal thing to it as well. Everyone who’d seen me play it at open mic night would say they really didn’t like the version that I did in Royal Blood. They said, ‘Oh, you should keep it acoustic. It sounded really cool. And now you’ve ruined it.’” Figure It Out MK: “Again, this was a tune that was always in my back pocket. It was sort of written, or at least finished, live. It was always in pieces and the music was the bit that was always established. I never really knew what I was going to do on the vocals, so I would always ad-lib. I would just put so much delay on my vocals that you couldn’t hear what I was saying because I never had lyrics. I would just mumble. That wasn’t a rarity. We’d sometimes go out and play festivals with songs that weren’t finished. The song gives up on itself after the second chorus, and just sort of goes off into this other thing. I realise now it’s something we do a lot. It’s almost like a signature move.” You Can Be So Cruel MK: “I think this started off acoustically. It’s very inspired by Goldfrapp, who I love. We were thinking about what kind of rhythms and feel we didn’t have on the album. We were like, ‘We should have one that does that swung thing, that glam thing.’” BT: “The ending is the same thing as ‘Figure It Out’ and you can tell it’s come from a batch of songs written around the same time, because...” MK: “We get to the second chorus and just do another riff...” BT: “Exactly.” Blood Hands MK: “I actually started this when I was picking up weed, when you have to linger around a stranger’s house. I’d get way too stoned, and I’d listen to this guy playing his songs and they were really, really bad. While he was rolling this massive joint, I started playing this. It’s why it’s so stoned, that intro, it’s just like one note. For the lyrics, I was just really inspired by Jeff Buckley. I really didn’t know how to express myself honestly then. I was a lot younger and I hadn’t written that many songs. I wouldn’t say there’s a common lyrical theme that runs through the record, but I was born very religious and I was leaving that behind—that reveals itself time and time again. I’d gone through a breakup as well.” Little Monster MK: “This was born out of jamming together. I was listening to a lot of Them Crooked Vultures, and also we were really into that kind of ‘Foxy Lady’ real swung riff thing. I think Foo Fighters had just released Wasting Light and there’s a song on that called ‘Rope’. I think I subconsciously had the chorus of ‘Rope’ in my mind. It’s not a rip-off, but it’s the same feeling in the chorus.” Loose Change MK: “When we first started playing together in this band, I very much had my rock brain on. But Ben comes from a much more varied background and has a lot more of a hip-hop influence. This was a cool moment where it was Ben bringing music he loves, and grooves that I wouldn’t have thought of, into the band. We were really into Jack White as well. It felt like a hip-hop take on a Jack White tune.” BT: “It was quite a hard song to write. We were always searching for the chorus and one never really came. It has this break moment which I guess we would call the chorus now.” Careless BT: “Musically, this was the first one where Mike had some ideas for the sound of his guitars.” MK: “I put two guitar strings on the bass and tuned them up to whatever they could take. And it’s quite an unusual riff. You try and play that on a standard guitar, it’s like jazz. Because I tuned the strings in such a way, I was playing very simple shapes, but it created that melody. This song was like really born out of playing live and bouncing off each other.” Ten Tonne Skeleton MK: “We’d finished what we thought was the album and then our label and manager were like, ‘I think you need to come up with more songs,’ doing the intelligent thing of just pushing us further. But we were already on the road and were really busy. There was a lot of writing in hotel rooms and seeing if there was any scraps left over, things we could use to get songs going. This and ‘Better Strangers’ were the two songs we wrote and finished in the same session, just before Glastonbury 2014. I think we got to the point where we were so immersed in the world we’d created, and you know exactly what it is you’re chasing. Right at the end in the process you’re so well-versed in what you’re doing.” Better Strangers MK: “It felt like a natural end. I think we also liked the idea of the album being slightly chronological as well. There’s a natural progression.” BT: “We’d got more used to being in the studio by this time—knowing what protocol was, and what you do, and how to get those sounds. We just were a bit more experienced. Having been through gigging, and touring, we were a bit more confident in ourselves, so when it came to these last two, they just sounded a bit different.”

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