Fans of alternative music have a lot to celebrate these days. Look up and down the roster of any major music festival and you’ll see they’re littered with the heroes and up-and-comers within the scene. And while country and pop might dominate the charts (for now) more and more bands from the world of alternative are finding their way onto the pop airwaves and mainstream media.
Yet, there’s something missing.
There’s no edge. There’s no balls-to-the-wall gritty sound that has been prevalent throughout the world of alternative and its many sub genres. Think about it — while New Wave dominated the airwaves, punk rock snarled its way into the hearts of so many. The entire grunge movement was all about edge, fierce guitar work, growling vocals. Where’s that in today’s scene? Where’s the new Alice in Chains? The new Soundgarden?
That hole has been filled by the most unlikely of bands — Royal Blood, a duo out of Brighton, England. Comprised solely of a bassist and drummer, Royal Blood delivers a thunderous, bruising and unrelenting brand of alt rock. Like Alice in Chains and Soundgarden before them, they have a hard rock edge (and a cross-over appeal to modern and hard rock crowds) but they are anchored by beautifully soaring vocals.
Let’s get crazy for a second — Royal Blood is the band many of us have dying for for the past 20 years. Everything they’ve produced is beyond thunder dome amazing. Check out their EP, Out of the Black and try not to be anything less than in love with Royal Blood.
Pop-Break’s editor-in-chief, Bill Bodkin, spoke with Royal Blood’s drummer Ben Thatcher during the band’s tour of the US back in May. The two spoke about the praise the band has received from some of the biggest luminaries in rock ‘n’ roll, their first American experience and bromance.
Pop-Break: Recently [May 13, 2014] you headlined the Mercury Lounge in New York City and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin came to see you guys play. How was it having the ultimate guitar god at your show?
Ben Thatcher: It was just crazy. We came off stage and Jimmy had gone down to our dressing room before we got there. There was a realization between Mike [Kerr] and I that one of our heroes was sitting in there. We didn’t know how to feel. He was just a lovely, lovely man and had some great things to say to us.
PB: When he was saying these great things did any of them sink in or were you on Cloud 9?
BT: Yeah, you can imagine we were just in awe. It was one of those ‘We’re not Worthy!’ moments.
PB: The single “Out of the Black” is my favorite song of 2014 so far, by far. I tell everyone who’ll listen to me that they need to hear this song. How’s the reaction been to that song over in the U.S.?
BT: It’s really exciting. We’re loving every moment of what we’re doing and enjoying watching our fan base grow.
PB: After hearing you guys for the first time I looked you up and was absolutely stunned that it was just two of you making this unbelievable sound. I mean it’s just epic and huge. Can you talk about how this sound came about?
BT: Mike and I got in a room together and started playing music together. That’s really how it came together. Mike had a really big bass sound he had been experimenting with for a while and I played the drums along with him. We’ve been in bands before so we had a bit of chemistry between us [in terms of] producing music together. It came together very easily and that’s what came out.
PB: But, were there any bands that influenced that process of creating your sound? I think you guys are like a new age Alice in Chains, but you might disagree. What bands inspired this sound?
BT: We love Queens of the Stone Age. [We also love] Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath — the old kind of sound. Being a duo we’re limited to what we can play so that bluesy rock was very natural to us.
PB: Did you feel that “limitation” is what defines you as something different or you don’t see it that way?
BT: Totally. The things that we can’t do, we get inspired about how we’re going to get around and make ourselves sound huge. With the limitations comes creativity. We record how we play live, so what you hearing on the recordings are exactly what we do live. There’s no extra guitars, no tracks or triggers or anything. We like the live sound and being able to play live what we do on the recordings.
PB: From the get-go you have received love from massive artists like Jimmy Page and Arctic Monkeys, who seemed to jump on your bandwagon first. Did any of these guys depart any words of wisdom on you?
BT: No one has given us any advice, really. It’s been absolute honor to get the salute from the Arctic Monkeys and the same goes with the Pixies as well, which is incredible. [Editor’s Note: Royal Blood will open up for the Pixies’ American tour this fall] With Jimmy Page turning up to the gig and coming back and telling us he enjoyed it is all very encouraging. I wouldn’t say there’s been anything they’ve said to encourage us. We’re all on a different journey and they know that better than anyone.
PB: Have you been received by live audiences differently in the U.S. than in the U.K.?
BT: We’re still in the very early stages touring. These have been our first shows in the U.S. The crowds have been very different, even in the same city. Obviously New York is a big city, but the first show [at Glasslands in Brooklyn, NY] the crowd there was a mosh pit from the start. They were jumping all over each other and it was very hectic. The gig at the Mercury Lounge was totally different. A lot of people were standing around and watching with their phones. [Back home] We played a gig in our hometown of Brighton and they went crazy which is unlike anything we’ve done there before.
PB: The Out of the Black EP is the only piece of music you have out right now. I think I can speak for the rest of the world and ask when the full length album is coming out?
BT: We’re in the process of finishing it right now and release it late in the summer.
PB: Any title yet?
BT:No, no not yet. But when I do find out, it’ll be a secret.
PB: “Out of the Black” (the song) has received a lot of commercial airplay including being in a trailer for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. So, how does it feel to hear your music in commercials that billion dollar companies are putting their money and time behind?
Ben: It’s very funny. You don’t expect it and you come on the TV…it’s almost like a joke that’s gone too far.
PB: What’s on the horizon that has you excited right now (at the time of the interview)?
BT: Every single day we’re hyped for. We’re playing our first show in L.A. tonight at The Roxy. I can’t wait to do that. Straight after that we going to play Finsbury Park with Arctic Monkeys which is huge. It’ll be the biggest gig we ever played. Then we’re off to Australia. It’s all a bit crazy.
PB: What do you love about being in Royal Blood?
BT: I love Mike. I wake up every morning and look into eyes…what a man.
PB: He’s your musical muse?
BT: Sometimes you got to fill up the tub, jump in and lick as many lollipops as the time you have in life.
PB: I want to print that on a billboard.
Bill Bodkin is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Pop-Break. He can be read weekly on Trailer Tuesday and Singles Party, weekly reviews on Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, Hannibal, Law & Order: SVU and regular contributions throughout the week with reviews and interviews. His goal is to write 500 stories this year. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English and currently works in the world of political polling. He’s the reason there’s so much wrestling on the site and is beyond excited to be a Dad this coming December. Follow him on Twitter: @PopBreakDotCom