In January 2019, Royal Blood traveled to LA to record with Josh Homme at the Queens of the Stone Age frontman’s Pink Duck studio. The sessions produced “Boilermaker,” a track from the Sussex rock duo’s third album Typhoons, but it was also a trip that generated two important changes for singer/bassist Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher. Firstly, Kerr stopped drinking. On a weekend break from recording, he headed to Vegas. “I was at a real crescendo,” he tells Apple Music’s Matt Wilkinson. “I was a nutter. I was like Ron Burgundy at the bar, washed up. And I could hear the same old monologue going on. I could see I was bored of my complaints about myself. I had a very clear moment of ‘Something’s got to change. I can’t expect things to get any better if I don’t really take responsibility for this.’”
Secondly, Homme encouraged Kerr and Thatcher to worry less about perfection and explore the untapped possibilities for their music. “There’s a lot of wigs, a lot of fancy dress,” says Kerr about Pink Duck. “It’s a place to have fun. He is very good at creating an environment where you feel comfortable putting forward an idea no matter how crazy it might be. I think he says, ‘What if?’ more than anyone I’ve ever met. That mantra got drilled into us and we’ve carried that into the rest of this record.” Both developments resonate through Typhoons. Across two previous albums—double-platinum debut Royal Blood in 2014 and follow-up How Did We Get So Dark? in 2017— the duo minted ferocious, divergent rock from just drums, bass, and effects pedals.
Even more free-spirited, Typhoons retools their sound for the dance floor, marshaling riffs to four-to-the-floor beats. It’s a limber, swaggering sound they’ve nicknamed “AC Disco”—but factor in the big pop melodies on “Million and One” and “Trouble’s Coming” and you could also call it Black ABBAth. And like all the best disco, Typhoons bears plenty of emotional weight, with the songs unflinchingly tracing Kerr’s turbulent path towards sobriety. “It was the only thing I had to write about,” he says. “I got to the point where I really understood who I was, and having that kind of genuine confidence is crucial for being creative. It allowed me to trust myself with it rather than second-guessing anything. I felt a little less exposed: It almost felt like the lyrics were a bit disguised because the music was so upbeat and euphoric. I felt amazing and so positive that I was in a much better place, yet the only thing I had to write about was incredibly dark. So it’s a strange duality on the album.”
Only at the very end do the music’s rigor and strut drop, when Kerr swaps his bass for a piano on the airy, psychedelic ballad “All We Have Is Now.” “Perhaps it points towards the unknown of where we’re going next,” he says. “It ended up on the record because [we thought], ‘That’s really great.’ It doesn’t matter whether it aligns with what we’ve done before or what people say we’re allowed to do. As long as we’re not trying to fight for someone we used to be, or trying to jump too aggressively forwards to be a band we’re not yet, as long as we stay true to who we are in the moment, then we’ll be OK.”