It’s been a trying time for the world with the COVID pandemic, and Brighton’s Royal Blood (consisting of vocalist/bassist Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher) have certainly felt the impact. Yet they’ve also embraced the patches of light when it came to lockdowns driving artist creativity behind closed doors, and generating an unprecedented wave of excitement from people about their creations.
Ben sat down in what looked like a studio to chat all about the catalyst for new album Typhoons (out this Friday), the nature of music consumption in the modern age, and how he’s been doing in general.
First of all Ben, how are you doing?
“I’m feeling good! Excited about releasing new music. It’s been a long time since we’ve done anything like that. It’s obviously a bit strange releasing it without playing any shows and not having fans around. I think the way that we’ve done it this time with this new sound and the music we’ve already released as singles… We have a lot of people that are stoked about what’s coming… It’s nice to know that people are also enjoying what they’ve heard and share that same excitement, otherwise it would be a bit nervy I guess (which I don’t like).”
Absolutely. It’s been such a shock to the system to everyone on the planet. So I think people have been super excited that new music’s being made, and COVID’s actually been driving artists to bunker down and create.
“Absolutely. The world needs entertaining. It’s almost like an antidote music for what’s going on, and I think it’s just shown that it’s still really important to watch and listen to things.”
Definitely. Delving into Typhoons, I had listen on the way from work today. I’ve been a big fan since How Did We Get So Dark? (2017). I understand that on the new record you guys were coming out of a dark time mentally and physically. What was the album’s catalyst?
“Well a lot of changes happened. We’d just come off tour with Queens Of The Stone Age and were partying quite hard, and it kind of got to a point where our lyricist Mike thought it would be good for him to stop doing that and change his lifestyle a bit. So he got sober, and while doing that, he started feeling more clarity and focus on being creative. He just had a lot to write about – about looking back at that time and feeling like he was stuck in this world and couldn’t get out of it. He felt he was almost in a storm in his own head of this repetitive motion (that was physical as well.”
Absolutely, and talking about the actual writing process of Typhoons – spanning between 2019 and 2020 – did you find that the songwriting itself was coming along pace-wise as you expected? I know this album marks a real sonic shift from straight up hard rock to incorporating dance and disco elements.
“Yeah it takes time! Music for us is a little like fishing. You cast your rod, the songs are all out there and there are many different ideas and sounds. You kind of have to wait for a catch, and then you can get really excited about it and follow it. It was when ‘Trouble’s [Coming]’ came along that we had hints of that disco sound, and it had this heavy fore-to-the-floor beat that we’ve never done before – but it still had Mike’s riffs over it. It felt like a good and fun avenue to explore.”
“It just then takes time to get the right songs and create those. Obviously we had the pandemic happen, and we were in the middle of recording the album when we went into lockdown. We already had this album done and then we had this extra time where we couldn’t do anything. So we were just creating even more. Then when were able to go back into the studio, we had these four massive songs that were lacking from the album that we were meant to be releasing: ‘Typhoons’, ‘Limbo’, ‘Mad Visions’ and ‘Oblivion’, and when you listen to the album now, I can’t imagine it without those songs.”
It’s a really good way to envision a record. In the modern age, a lot of the time albums aren’t being listened to from beginning to end. I can imagine it might be the same with you guys where tracklisting is super important to actually tell the album story?
“I think this one’s a bit of both, because we know how music’s consumed! I’m a person that does love listening to albums all the way through, but I will put my hand up and say that most of the time I listen to one or two songs.”
A lot of it’s because we as a modern society are often hardwired to keep going and going with life, right?
“Exactly. Also I’ve got such a DJ mentality – I’m a playlist guy. When you play a song, you want to outdo it or play a better one after it. This album’s short enough to pull you all the way through and not get bored of it. But the lyrical themes are all kind of tied into ‘Typhoons’. The title track sums it all up, really.”
Definitely. Now final question for you – with the album releasing this week, what do you envision yourself doing the day that it releases?
“I think we’re doing a lot of promo (laughs). There are a lot of listening parties and all sorts going on. There isn’t a lot we can do. I’ll probably see Mike during the day, and we’ll give each other a high-five, and just carry on doing what we do. I love watching reaction videos [from people] and I’ve got a lot of time to do that now.”
Interview by Genevieve Gao
Typhoons is out this Friday via Warner Records
Royal Blood – Typhoons tracklisting
1. Trouble’s Coming
4. Who Needs Friends
5. Million And One
7. Either You Got It
9. Mad Visions
10. Hold On
11. All We Have Is Now