From tiny open mics to some of the world’s biggest stadiums, Royal Blood have emerged as a modern rock success story. They have conquered the charts with two number one albums in under five years, and have breathed new life into guitar music.
So, how did it all happen? BIMM Manchester welcomed Mike Kerr (bass/lead vocals) and Ben Thatcher (drums) to Manchester’s Deaf Institute for a hotly-anticipated masterclass, ahead of their huge Manchester Arena show.
The duo – whose new single ‘How Did We Get So Dark?’ has just been released – left no stone unturned during an informative and entertaining interview with BBC Introducing Manchester’s Natalie-Eve Williams. She began by asking about the early days and Mike explained:
“All the energy went into trying to win people over. It became so tiring spending the gig talking about MySpace,” he said of trying to make it with their first bands – Flavour Country and Hunting The Minotaur. “With Royal Blood, we decided that we just wanted to have fun. We accepted playing the weirdest gigs, like a village farm fair, which didn’t go down well,” he added. “A lot of bands saw that X band are really popular, so let’s do what they do. We thought let’s do our own thing.”
But being unconventional soon paid off and the band moved fast to record the demos for their debut album for £500, with Pixies producer Tom Dalgety. The sessions gave birth to several tracks, including Figure It Out, which received little more than 20 views online. But perseverance soon led to Warner Chappell Publishing getting in contact, as Mike explained:
”We signed the deal, and this meant we could focus on writing more songs and go back to the same studio the same way we did the demos. There was a point where we did a UK tour, and I guess the venues were like 300 capacity, and it sold out… We were like this is mind-blowing!”
Ben later recalled their biggest show supporting Arctic Monkeys in Finsbury Park, with Miles Kane and Tame Impala in 2014.
On finding fame, Mike spoke of obtaining creative control, writing their first album and getting to number one: “I was just amazed we made an album out of bass and drums!”
We also heard of chance meetings with some of Rock’s superstars, including Dave Grohl and Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page – “It was one of the most terrifying moments of my life”.
But fast-forward three years – as well as a BRIT, Q Award, a Kerrang! Gong plus three NME awards – and the band’s sophomore album (often a make-or-break record) has received widespread praise from every direction. Was anyone ever in doubt?
After the interview, our BIMM students were given a chance to ask some burning questions themselves about the process of writing an album, getting used to hearing your voice on a record, and their influences.
Interestingly, the Q&A round unearthed that Mike had not originally planned to play bass and had been most inspired by guitarists:
“I only really played bass because Ben had a session job, and I really needed some money. That’s the only reason I ended up playing bass.”
Nevertheless, the combination of drums and bass has been Royal Blood’s USP and the heart of their ear-shattering sound. In November, we had the privilege of hearing it all first hand.
Their final piece of advice from Mike “Just do whatever you want to do, and don’t pull too much from other people… I think it’s about having fun.”