Some rides are so fast, so wild, so vertiginous that you never want to get off. And when they do end, they’re all the more dizzying once you’ve disembarked.
At the start of 2013, Royal Blood’s bassist Mike Kerr returned from nine months of travelling, and reunited with his old drummer mate Ben Thatcher in the car home from the airport, the pair could have no idea what awaited them. “Going home was so weird,” says Kerr, only now beginning to comprehend the incredible, inconceivable two-year ascent of Royal Blood, the Brighton bass-and-drums duo who shot to the stars between 2014 and 2015.
After only a year of honing their sound, they found themselves with Arctic Monkeys’ management (and their t-shirt on drummer Matt Helders’ chest at Glastonbury 2013), a major label deal and a spot as the only rock band on the BBC Sound Of 2014 list. As their gargantuan early singles—“Out Of The Black”, “Little Monster”, “Come On Over”, “Figure It Out”—gained traction and acclaim in the UK, they struck out to America.
Their self-titled debut album, released in August 2014, was the fastest-selling British rock debut in three years, hitting Number One in the UK and going Top Twenty in twelve countries, including the US. Before they knew it they were singing for Howard Stern (“our record was probably number 300 in the iTunes chart and about two minutes after our Howard Stern interview it was Number Three—playing on that show is like doing a thousand tours”), holding dressing room audiences with Jimmy Page in New York, and being presented with a Best British Band Brit in 2015 by the very same guitar god. By the end of 2015, Royal Blood had—in debut album terms—pretty much conquered the world. They’d played stadiums with Foo Fighters and sold out their own theatre tours deep into the US heartlands.
When the time came for the tour to end and the pair to take a projected couple of months off before starting work on writing their second album, the world just seemed to keep spinning. “At that time I was so into it that I didn’t want to stop, we wanted to do the next album,” says Ben.
Ben and Mike spent 2016 visiting new friends in America for their writing sessions because, Ben explains, “it felt exciting to keep it moving…subconsciously, we weren’t very comfortable staying still.” They made several trips out to the studio in Burbank in Hollywood where they’d previously written their first second-album song “Hook, Line and Sinker” (premiered live at Reading & Leeds 2015), and then hit Nashville for some further sessions. They focussed, by necessity, on filling in gaps. A few comedy misadventures later, they returned with ten sensational new tracks falling firmly into place. Besides the lyrics.
Come November 2016 Ben and Mike, along with producer Jolyon Thomas, decamped to an “insane” studio in Brussels decked out like a New York diner and featuring a warehouse of antique gear. One further session in London, and Royal Blood emerged with How Did We Get So Dark?, a second album that finds them squaring up to Queens Of The Stone Age and Muse in terms of sheer melodic might while refining and expanding the mystical two-man voodoo that will keep Royal Blood at the very forefront of millennial UK rock music.
And as they get back on the ride for another go, this time set to rocket around arenas, they’re determined to maintain the up-close ferocity that always made them such a magnetic spectacle. Hold tight, Royal Blood are about to pump faster.