Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher of Royal Blood seem to be on another upswing.
After releasing their eponymous first album in 2014, a record that was one of the fastest-selling rock albums, things got surreal.Dave Grohl, the former Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters bassist, asked the duo to go on tour with his band.
Jimmy Page (of Led Zeppelin and perhaps one of the band’s biggest inspirations) became a fan and was quoted in several news outlets declaring Royal Blood would take the genre to a new level.
It’s high praise for the duo, especially after the release of only a single album. But there’s no doubt that the band’s sound speaks for itself. Kerr, the lead singer and bassist, and Thatcher’s intense (or insane) drumming, sounds more like a classic four-piece rock band.
In 2015, they won the Brit Award for Best British Group as well as the NME award for Best Live Band.
Since the release of their second album, “How Did We Get So Dark,” earlier this year, the band has been on tour throughout Europe and the United States. They’ll be coming to Upstate Concert Hall on Monday. But The Gazette caught up with Kerr in between gigs in Switzerland.
Question: How did you and Ben meet?
Answer: We met, it was I guess 2006. I was 16 and we met at a college band night. This was when on the south coast of England. We’d always been in separate bands, but we ended up playing together a lot. Then we ended up being in a few different bands together. So I’ve been playing music with him for over 10 years.
Q: From some of the other stories I’ve read about you guys, it sounds like you were both in a few bands that didn’t quite work out before you formed Royal Blood. What made you guys work?
A: Well, I think we both gave up on trying to make accessible bands. We’d been in a lot of bands and tried to become something and we just found that it became tiresome and not that enjoyable. So we just did it for fun really. That’s kind of how it all began really. We’d just be playing music together and enjoying it.
Q: When did you first come up with the concept for Royal Blood?
A: It was very gradual really. I’d written three pieces and was developing this kind of bass sound. I then went and did some traveling in Australia and then when I came back from that trip, Ben picked me up from the airport and I told him I’d composed some songs that just had the bass and drums on them. He wanted to be in the band and we decided to do it so that was how it kind of began.
Q: What’s the story behind the name Royal Blood?
A: There isn’t one.
Q: It seems like after the first record came out, you were everywhere it seemed like. I read that you were hospitalized at one point during the first tour. Was that just from exhaustion?
A: Yeah, it was from exhaustion really. It was the first tour and it was extreme. We’d been on the road for three years, only taking Christmas off. I think our bodies just broke. I ended up in the hospital for a couple of days. Nothing serious, just a sign of exhaustion.
Q: On this tour are you taking it a bit slower?
A: It’s actually probably more intense than last time. The distance between shows and we’re putting in more shows this time. We’ve got a show pretty much every day. I’d say we’re probably one of the busiest bands in the world right now. We’re playing every festival and kind of doing every tour.
Q: Do you feed off of the business?
A: Well, I enjoy it, so there’s that. I think if we weren’t passionate about what you’re doing you wouldn’t survive our schedule. There has to be some kind of joy from it. It’s intense and tiring and it’s also fun and exhilarating. It’s not just one emotion. It’s a very extreme way to live your life, it’s very colorful and vibrant.
Q: Some people [reviewers, music industry experts, Jimmy Page, etc.] have called you the saviours of modern rock. What’s your reaction when you hear people saying things like that?
A: Well, I’m used to being called names so I stopped caring about that a long time ago. I think we’re a band now that’s in the limelight. We don’t choose what people label us as. That so happens to be a very extravagant and generous offering, but I don’t think I can take that as seriously. I don’t think I can say that seriously and take the next as seriously as well. I think you have to take all of it. We’re not here to revive anything or resuscitate a genre of music. We’re just passionate songwriting musicians. It just so happens that rock and roll have a massive influence over us and that’s the way we love to play music. I don’t feel like the torch bearer for some elitist rock n’ roll club.
Q: Along with that, you’ve both had a lot of interesting encounters with musicians who have inspired you. What have been some that will stick with you?
A: I think meeting Jimmy Page for the first time was a very important moment for us. You know, he’s a huge part of our band’s sound. Even in the way I hold and play my bass has him all over it. That’s mainly because the first time I heard Led Zeppelin it sort of moved me in a way that I’d never heard. I heard the guitar so visceral, it just had everything that turned me on. So meeting him and hearing that he’s a fan that’s a tricky experience. It wasn’t the pat on the back we were looking for but when it happened it was meaningful.
Q: You often talk about how you listen to a lot of other genres. Do you think Royal Blood would ever venture into other genres?
A: Well we’re currently writing a reggae album.
Q: Okay ...
A: No, not really. I don’t know. I think we’re always looking to corrupt the genre we’re a part of and the sound we have. That’s the only way you can evolve so yeah, we’re always looking to bring other types of music to make a new breed. I don’t think it’s something you can be taught, I think it’s a natural evolution we’re happy to be a part of.
Q: What are some of the inspirations behind the newest album, “How Did We Get So Dark?”
A: I think it’s almost a chronology really of all the things in my life that were falling apart. That’s the theme of the album. It’s about the flowers dying in the window, it’s about beginning very blissful and turning very sour and very dark I guess. The dying process of everything. I didn’t really realize it was about that until we started wrapping up. A lot of the lyrics are very sub-consciously written. When I hear them back, it’s like it’s telling that story i guess. I think musically as well were in a different place from where we were when we did the first record. We have such a huge amount of touring experience under our belts, I think we just felt tighter as a pair. The chemistry between us, socially and musically, I think we felt like we were on another level. That’s probably why sonically it’s a little bit more sophisticated, a bit more concise.
Q: Do you have any advice to give to young musicians?
A: It’s kind of rich, me giving advice because I’m sitting at the top of it. It’s a bit like asking a lottery winner some advice for people who want to win as well. I feel very privileged and lucky to do what I do and I’m very aware of that. When I was first starting out, like we were talking about earlier, I spent so much energy and time caring about what other people thought of it. And caring about making it and caring about this idea of a career that it actually just killed the fun and killed the music. Ironically this band only probably worked because we were enjoying ourselves and not trying. My advice to people who are starting a band is switch off the tv, turn off your phone and your computer, and get in a room with each other and try and make each other excited, you know? And whatever that sounds like, that’s what you do.
WHEN: 8 p.m. Monday
WHERE: Upstate Concert Hall
TICKETS: $22.50 in advance, $25 at the door
MORE INFO: upstateconcerthall.com