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INTERVIEW: Royal Blood
The Quietus , April 2nd, 2014 05:19

Emily Schofield takes a trip to watch Royal Blood live and then interviews them after the show

Llights flash teasingly. A rumble of bass fills the room. A certain intensity fills the air.

Live, Royal Blood sound even more intense than on record. Legs are reduced to quivering jelly. They instil a mood both dark and seductive with a short, shattering nine track set. Those in range of the PA have the finest of bodily hairs shocked upright by soundwaves; bass guitar and drums punch them hard in the sternum.

'Hole' opens on a shimmer of fast-paced symbol and high hat work from Ben Thatcher, creating tension, which builds steadily until resolving in a chaotic blast of noise. The crowd are static but it is as if he is playing directly with the sole purpose of breaking down this inertia. One guy breaks loose in front of the stage. His inhibitions losing out to the tattoo. Chilling, cool and provocative Mike Keer intones: “You could go my way, I’m just stuck in a hole.”

During 'Come On Over' it is astonishing how Keer's voice alters, contrasting between sneering and soft on the verse to hitting handsomely powerful heights on the chorus. He switches from soft teddy to menacing grizzly bear in an instant. If you were only using your ears you would you have to force yourself to remember only one guitar is in use tonight. The climbing, re-occurring, darting and demonic, dinosaur of a bass riff has the crowd jerking into action by the end of the song, pushing fearsome mosh pits into existence. “There's no god and I don't really care!” he pronounces over manic music large enough to shatter the heavens.

Their latest single 'Little Monster' sees the mosh pits expand. The camouflage drapes on the ceiling wobble precariously. If they were to fall down the crowd would continue to mosh and move, un-phased and completely lost in Royal Blood's elephantine sound as well as the fabric. The pair don’t at any point have to encourage their fans into movement with crappy and cliched School Of Rock showmanship, as their stadium worthy energy is enough. They certainly don't need to worry about those upcoming Finsbury Park slot supporting Arctic Monkeys.

After the gig punters are clearly asking themselves, “How is possible for a mere duo to create such clamour?” It's easy to see/hear why they don't boost their number.

They had some key promotion last year when Arctic Monkeys' drummer Matt Helders donned a homemade Royal Blood T-shirt (the band didn't have any official merch) onstage at Glastonbury. The duo have since been announced as support for the Monkeys on their May tour.

Along with the likes of Drenge and Darlia, they are clearly part of the so-called grunge revival but with their first official single 'Out Of The Black' offering such a humongous, ear-battering sound, Royal Blood stand out with originality and ingenuity.

With their second official single 'Little Monster', released to great reception in early February, and a successful UK tour well underway, tQ spoke to them recently.

Royal Blood exploded from having just the one online release 'Figure It Out' in October to five months later, being on the bill as Arctic Monkeys support and hitting several major festivals. But it has never really been explained, how did the rise to fame happen so quickly for you?

Mike Keer: Well we kind of put that up first, when no one knew who we were and we had just done some recordings on our own. And then it wasn't very long until it got took down quickly because we wanted to release things properly. I released it myself on Ditto music. So the first official release was 'Out Of The Black'.

Has the attention you've received since then been a bit overwhelming, a bit of a whirlwind? You're definitely one to watch all of a sudden.

MK: I don't know. We're not really famous yet, so...

Ben Thatcher: It hasn't really happened that quickly for us, because we were writing for the whole year, for the whole of 2013. So when people eventually heard 'Out Of The Black' in November, we had been creating those songs for quite a long time, and were actually getting a bit of cabin fever being in the studio for so long. So it was nice to finally get a song out that people can here, which got well received on radio. That kind of exploded from there.

Royal Blood came to great attention when Matt Helders wore a homemade Royal Blood T-shirt at Glastonbury, as at the time I understand you had no merchandise. We know you guys have the same management but the friendship has never been explained. What made Helders turn the advertisement favour?

MK: He just had heard one of our tracks, that we had put online, and was listening to it on the way to a gig or something. He said some nice things about it and being the legend that he is he decided to give us the salute on the Glastonbury stage. It was pretty amazing. It's, like, a big deal.

You seem to have moved on in the world of merchandise, as at The Bermuda Triangle gigs, your personal artist Harry Robbins was available to ink fans with a RB tattoo. Where did the idea come from, and how did you feel about fans aging into their 70s as old dears with Royal Blood diamonds, eyes and initials from their rebellious musical youth?

MK: It was his idea actually [Harry Robbins], he came to us and said, "Why don't we do this?" and we were like, "That sounds great!" But you know, if people want to get tattoos of us, it's their mistake! [Laughs]. Feel free!

How nervous are you to play sold out gigs with the likes of the UK’s biggest indie-rock band Arctic Monkeys? Or are RB too tough for nerves?

MK: No that's not true, but I think we're just growing better with touring. The stages get bigger and bigger as the tour goes on. We were nervous playing in front of 80 people a few months ago and tonight we are playing in front of 300. And we are kind of comfortable at this level. So I think as we grow, (I'm not saying that we won't be nervous at Finsbury Park,) but I don't think we want to allow ourselves be knocked by the amount of people that are going to be there. I think we want to be more concerned about playing really well and putting on the best show we can.

After seeing Alex Turner's speech at The Brits, how rock & roll do you think dropping a microphone is on a scale of one to ten?

BT: It depends if you do it on purpose or accidentally...

MK: Yeah because, if you drop it accidentally it's not that rock & roll. If anything it's quite embarrassing. Especially if you are doing the big swing thing, where you try and swing it, and then you drop it.

BT: It's like when Sum 41 did the famous guitar throw, if that happens you're in trouble. But if you catch it, you do look cool!

MK: Yeah that's the risk. You've got to take risks.

BT: Yeah, you've got to take risks and that's what he did.

On the surface, you appear the solid and tenacious rock band. But it was revealed that you both enjoy the unconventional rock and roll snack of M&S King Prawns and Mint Yoghurt when on tour, and have made it a dressing room requirement. Are Royal Blood really as rebellious and chaotic as your sound, or do you secretly enjoy fine dining, classical music and Russian literature?

MK: I don't know about the Russian literature. Or anything to do with Russia for that matter. But as far as tandoori prawns go... that's a solid snack. And I think to suggest that we are any less of a rock band because of our diet... I mean, do people really want us to be eating raw meat and drinking gasoline every day?

BT: On tour you can eat really, really badly. So that is like, our good snack.

MK: Marks & Spencers is like our shrine. Is it gonna be a McDonalds or a nice salad?

Live on Radio One you drew a picture of Jason Derulo and dedicated a track to him. Despite your rocky bearded disguises, are you a big fan of dance and pop hits?

MK: I actually drew that myself. It was a drawing and I like painted over it, it looked really good. Yeah man, I mean, Jason's got some tunes! He's a big inspiration. Definitely.

Royal Blood seem to be part of a rise in musical duos at the moment along with Drenge and Deap Valley, following the likes of The White Stripes and The Black Keys. But what sets you out from the crowd of other rising rock duos?

MK: Who are The White Stripes?

BT: We're kind of like... The Black Stripes...

MK: No... it's The Black Keys.

BT: The White Keys?

MK: And nothing. We're ripping them off as we speak. No. I don't know. The difference is, is that me and Ben are doing it. And we are different people, so we are going to have a different way of doing it you know.

BT: We're fuelled by prawns and calamari.

MK: Exactly, we've got our own stories to tell. So it is different because it's us. In the same way that they are different because they're them.

You both got together after being in various different bands, and exploring numerous instruments. (Not that your sound isn't astounding for a twosome.) But what made you stick together as a duo and not form a larger band?

BT: We don't like any other people.

MK: Yeah, people don't like us either. But no, in all seriousness, we don't think we need anyone else. When we were writing these songs with all the amps and everything, turned up, we were like, I don't think this need anyone else. That's all it is, you know? And not only that I think, because me and Ben have been writing music together for so long, we have a good chemistry and for someone to come and get involved in that, would be like a three-way relationship. Which, you know, I'm all up for, but not in this band.

How far do you guys go back?

BT: We met when we were about 16. Just playing in different bands and...

MK: Just on the circuit, the South coast circuit. And just stayed friends.

BT: Mike once... I was playing in another band, but we were playing the same gig. And mike forgot one of his pedals, so the first time I really met Mike I was going about 100 miles an hour to his house to get this pedal.

MK: That's kind of how our relationship has continued, a bit along those lines... at 100 miles an hour.

BT: Yeah as I was driving I was like, "If we're not in a band together, by 2012, it's all over." He was crying and he said, "I'll try and make that happen."

MK: And then you fed me tandoori prawns, one by one. It's very emotional. I'm getting choked up just thinking about it.

Royal Blood's latest single 'Little Monster' is out now

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