Brighton duo Royal Blood had their big break in 2014, releasing their self titled debut album. The singles, "Figure It Out", "Out Of The Black" and "Little Monster" landed vocalist/bassist Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher an immediate nr 1 on the UK album charts. The boys visited Norway several times during that album run, and when I spoke to them last time, they were struggling to grasp what exactly was about to happen to their career.
Three years later they've become experienced artists with numerous concerts, TV appearances, awards and gold records in the bag. They've toured with Foo Fighters and Pixies, and have done a whopping six US tours!! So you'd think it's all been smooth sailing for the boys who recently released their sophomore album 'How Did We Get So Dark?'... right? But, as the album name reveals, it hasn't all been rainbows and unicorns.
"The period of time when we recorded the album was dark in every single way, Mike explains when I meet the guys at Warner HW in London on a rainy afternoon. "For me in particular, but also literally; we were in a gloomy part of the world, in Brussels. It was practically medieval, with a fog that never disappeared, it was freezing cold the entire time, and there was nothing to do so we just sat in a flat in the studio when we weren't working".
"But when we were finally done and left the place, we'd gotten all the darkness down onto the album, and now we're cheerful as fuck", he states with a grim smirk.
ICP Studios, where the boys recorded the album, was built by Americans, and made to look like a 50s diner.
"El Divo recorded their albums there", Mike chuckles. "That's why we went there! We wanted the El Divo sound on ALL the tracks. You could tell, right??"
The result has become a relatively personal album, but Mike promises it's still very energetic, and very Royal Blood. The first half is energy, fun and adrenalin, and the second half is personal and a bit gloomier.
"But then again, what's personal to me might have a completely different meaning to the listener" Mike ponders, and smiles, "people come up to us and go «I LOVE these lyrics» and then it turns out they've misheard all of them. They got literally all the words wrong. They go «yea, it's as if it was written about my life!» and I say nothing, haha!"
As well as spending time in the studio, the boys have spent most of the last few years on the road. When I last spoke to them, they could reveal that there had been a couple of accidents here and there, like broken fingers and band members who had been left behind in petrol stations. When I ask them whether they're still as unlucky, both of them break out into a raw giggle.
"I don't know if I should tell this one", Mike chuckles, while Ben leans back on the sofa with a catlike smirk and arms crossed: "Take it away!"
"Well, we had a crew member who lost a testicle..." Mike begins and hesitates for a second, "it got... twisted, I guess you can say. He had to go to hospital in the middle of the night.
"Dare I ask what happened?" I ask while the guys are suppressing more laughs.
"No. Trust me, you don't. I wouldn't" Mike laughs. "That part of the story is irrelevant. It's by far the most interesting part of the story, but..." he's interrupted by Ben roaring with laughter, tears running down his face.
"But this is a good lesson for anybody reading this interview!" Mike states, "If you ever happen to have trouble down there, GET HELP! As quickly as possible. You have about six hours befor the blood is completely cut off and you end up in surgery. That's what happened here. We just woke up on the bus the next morning and he was at the hospital having surgery. But he was working at the show that night! He has balls! Well... one ball".
Royal Blood have been playing with new instruments and sounds on this album, in addition to the standard bass/drums lineup. The studio had a big box of percussion, and Ben says that when they arrived there, it was like a music lesson in first grade. The first half hour was spent banging on absolutely everything that was in the box, and eventually, almost all of it ended up on the album.
"We were like, fuck it, why not?" says Mike. "We finally figured it out in Brussels, that even though there's two of us, and we're bassist and drummer, we can do exactly what we want. We created our own lineup, so their our rules to break however we want".
"It was still important to us that we'd be able to play all of it live ourselves" Ben adds. "We've used keyboards on this album, but Mike is the one playing them. And live it'll be the same experience as before, we won't have to get any extra people on stage to be able to play the music off the album".
"Royal Blood is me and Ben playing Music together" Mike says with a nod. "No matter what it ends up sounding or looking like. So long as the two of us playing together, Ben could play the cello and I could play a triangle, and it would still be Royal Blood".