Royal Blood keeps cool5/27/2015
Royal Blood is tired of hearing about the rebirth of rock. With an apologetically amp-driven sound, the Manchester duo of Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher has been praised far and wide for being the saviors who will make rock and roll cool again.
But if you think rock and roll has ever needed saving, then your skinny jeans have probably cut off the circulation to your brain.
“Right,” Thatcher agreed in a phone interview. “Rock has been maybe overshadowed by people like Taylor Swift, but there are some great musicians and great bands. Popularity comes and goes, but rock music isn’t going anywhere.”
So what then? If they are not destined to be known as the guys who pulled rock music from the scrap heap, how shall Royal Blood be remembered? Well, the other thing people are quick to point out about the band is that there are only two of them. Two-piece acts, while certainly a minority, are not as rare as you might think. Not rare enough to make them remarkable anyway. Problem is, they are just rare enough that people only seem to be able to make sense of them by comparing them to one another. For Royal Blood, that means White Stripes analogies.
Problem is, drawing a straight line between the Stripes and Royal Blood is virtually impossible if you are paying attention to the music and how it is made. For starters, the former band contained one of the most talented guitarists alive today, while the latter band does not even feature a guitar — Kerr makes all Royal Blood’s noise on a bass and a convoluted array of amps and pedals.
“It’s a lengthy comparison,” Thatcher said of the two-piece tango. “It’s like saying a band sounds like Metallica, just because there’s four people in the band. We listen to Zeppelin, and we want to sound like them as well. It’s nice to not be recognized for being two people, but for having a big sound.”
And do they ever. Listening to a Royal Blood track is akin to taking a masterclass in the very genealogy of rock and roll. With Thacker’s staccato, powerful drums as a bedrock, Kerr’s hard-driving strings fill your head with more sound and fury than one person should by rights have the ability to create. The band is a sonic powerhouse that belies the intricacy with which the songs themselves are created.
“First we jam together and kind of put (songs) together like a jigsaw puzzle, piece by piece,” Thacker explained. “It’s definitely a shared experience. Mike will come up with lyrics and a bass part, and I’ll do my half of that on the drums and we’ll come together.”
However the band gets it done, there is no denying that it is working for them. Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page has called the band “Absolutely riveting,” while Dave Grohl hand picked the band to open for The Foo Fighters on their most recent European tour. Audiences are noticing as well, as the band’s self-titled debut hit No. 1 on the U.K. charts.
“We never thought that would happen to us,” Thacker admitted, talking about the band’s rise to the top of the charts. “(But) it doesn’t really add any pressure.”
No pressure at all. Because — just like the genre they are supposedly here to save — Royal Blood will always be cool.
“We really enjoy writing this kind of music,” Thacker said. “So as long as that keeps happening, we’ll be fine.” CV
Chad Taylor is an award-winning news journalist and music writer from Des Moines who would love to take his talents abroad if the rent were not so much more affordable in Des Moines.