Interview: Royal Blood’s Ben Thatcher on their new album 'How Did We Get So Dark?'

Royal Blood are somewhat of an anomaly existing in the music industry today - a rock act that has managed to sustain themselves and boasts two UK Number One albums, in a world where pop albums tend to remain atop the charts for weeks on end.

The Brighton two-piece is comprised of vocalist and bass-player Mike Kerr, and drummer Ben Thatcher - a rare set-up for a rock band, and even rarer that they don’t bring additional members into the band for a live show, but the uniqueness of it has made them stand apart from their peers.

Having supported the likes of the Foo Fighters and Arctic Monkeys on various tours, and even taken our favourites Mini Mansions on tour with them, Royal Blood’s place in rock music is firmly footed. With a New Zealand tour on the horizon for next May, we spoke to Royal Blood’s Ben Thatcher about their new album, their upcoming NZ tour, and the state of rock music…

...we like bands that are obviously going to work with our crowd, but also bands that we can be on the road with, because we don’t want to be on the road with idiots. We want to be on the road with people who are genuinely fun and want to have a good time and love playing music...

COUP DE MAIN: You guys have just announced your upcoming New Zealand tour for next year - we’re looking forward to having you back! Are you excited to come back to New Zealand?
ROYAL BLOOD - BEN THATCHER: I can’t wait. I’m actually a little bit disappointed that we’re not coming to see you very soon, because we have come all this way to Australia to play Splendour In The Grass and I would have loved to have a had a little stopover in New Zealand, but it wasn’t mean to be. But we are really looking forward to coming back in May.

CDM: Do you have any memories from last time you guys were here, with Laneway Festival?
BEN: Yes, we had a great time in New Zealand last time we were over. I remember it was in Wellington we played our own show actually, and I remember being on a kayak and going around the ocean in a kayak to the gig which was fun, but Laneway was such a fun experience as well. It was one of those tours that you know you will never forget.

CDM: Is there anything you want to do in New Zealand this time around that you didn’t get to do last time?
BEN: Probably lots of things, I didn’t really get much time to do anything when I was in New Zealand. I think I need to do the obvious touristy things, but I need a tour-guide really.

CDM: I’ll make a list of suggestions for you!
BEN: That would be great.

CDM: You’ve heard this a lot I’m sure, but congratulations on your UK #1 album 'How Did We Get So Dark?’, which you actually found out about while you were on stage at Glastonbury?!
BEN: That is correct! I remember walking up to the stage and we just got told that it had hit #1 and there is no moment that is going to ever-- I don’t know... it was just such a big moment for us. Walking onto the biggest stage in the world with a #1 album, it was an amazing feeling.

CDM: In your NME cover-story, Mike talked about how when you guys first uploaded ‘Figure It Out’ on Soundcloud, he said no-one gave a shit - “No-one cares about rock anymore.” But you’ve proven this wrong again with a second #1 album! Do you think rock music is seeing a resurgence?
BEN: I think it’s always there. There is such a thing about rock and roll dying, and there has always been that. I think it’s just because it’s not as popular anymore. I mean, no-one is that fussed about talking about jazz dying, are they? It’s a genre of music and you don’t find it wherever. But I think it’s the popularity of rock music on radio where more pop and R&B and stuff has become a lot more popular, and I think that’s a good thing though. Rock music needs to up its game a little bit. It’s easy to be in a rock band that just plays rock music and doesn’t push the sound or the generic feel of it. So where R&B and hip-hop are really pushing the boundaries with Kendrick Lamar doing a lot of really cool stuff at the moment, and Frank Ocean, I think they are bands and artists that really inspire me to do that to rock music as well. I think there is a lot of rock bands now who are doing those kinds of things - I think Foals, Biffy Clyro are doing that, and even Queens Of The Stone Age with their new record.

CDM: It’s incredible that Mark Ronson has produced the new Queens Of The Stone Age album.
BEN: Absolutely, yeah! The things that Mark has done before with Bruno Mars and things like that, they really were big moments in the last few years of music.

CDM: In a world where Ed Sheeran’s ‘Divide’ has been in the UK album charts for most of this year - his album beat out Haim recently; their new album debuted at #2 - it’s really interesting that his album actually called for change in the way the UK Singles Charts works. Do you think the way that charts and streaming work, makes it harder, or easier for newer/up-and-coming artists?
BEN: Well, there is going to be a change soon with all of that and I think it is healthy to have change. I think what Ed has done is amazing and all the success is very well-deserved, but I think there are flaws in the streaming sites and especially with albums and that kind of thing. I guess that the change is going to be good for newer and up-and-coming bands.

CDM: You’re a big supporter of new music and artists - I always see you posting online about what you’re listening to. It’s rad. Who are some of your favourite new artists at the moment?
BEN: I really love The Lemon Twigs, I think they are great. I’m kind of getting into-- people are showing me a lot of music that has been out for a while and I just haven’t heard it and so I get really excited about some of that stuff. Today, a friend showed me a Nina Simone track that I had no idea it was her and it was just brilliant. I just get inspired by a lot of things, old and new.

CDM: On the new album, Mike said he’s most proud of the middle eight guitar and lick on ‘She’s Creeping’. Is there a moment on the album that you’re the most proud of?
BEN: It probably has to be the drum-break in ‘Lights Out’, just because it’s the most stupidest thing I could have thought of on that song.

CDM: You guys always bring such good bands on tour - thank you so much for taking Mini Mansions on tour, they’re genuinely one of my favourite bands. How do you go about choosing your opening acts for tour?
BEN: Well, most of the time we get to choose who comes on the road with us, and Mini Mansions we’re big fans of. I think we like bands that are obviously going to work with our crowd, but also bands that we can be on the road with, because we don’t want to be on the road with idiots. We want to be on the road with people who are genuinely fun and want to have a good time and love playing music. We pick a lot of bands that we feel tick those boxes.

CDM: I saw that Brad Pitt and Bradley Cooper were partying it up with your parents during your Glastonbury set, which is definitely one of the best stories ever. Could you please bring Brad and Bradley on tour as your official hype-guys?
BEN: We would love that, yeah! They would be good hype-guys actually, them two. They could do many things those two lads.

CDM: You guys literally have the best stories. Aside from Brad Pitt and Bradley Cooper, to your sound guy having testicle problems on tour, to Jimmy Page coming to your birthday party. Have you thought about writing all these experiences down in a book? It could be a bestseller.
BEN: I’m sure there will be a book one day, but right now it’s all in our heads, and I think there will be a lot more to write about after this tour.

CDM: Is there a song on ‘How Did We Get So Dark?’ that you most enjoy playing live?
BEN: It changes, but at the moment I really like playing ‘Hook, Line and Sinker’. I think it’s just quite heavy and quite upbeat and watching the crowd in the mosh-pit hit off then is quite fun.

CDM: In the official PR about the album, it says the inspiration for the lyrics came from events in Mike’s life - how involved are you in the lyrical process with Mike? Do you throw ideas around together and work it out when you’re jamming?
BEN: No, Mike writes all the lyrics and they all come from personal experience with him, but I am very very close with Mike and I’m with him every single moment of the day so I know a lot that he goes through and he knows what I’m going through, so I think we have a mutual understanding of lyrics.

CDM: Back in a 2014 interview, you talked about how you enjoy cooking, watching Match Of The Day, eating brownie at a garden centre. Are those activities you still enjoy, when you’re not touring non-stop?
BEN: I don’t remember not touring anymore! I have a really bad memory, but I worked out that the last time I slept in my own bed was on the 24th of April and I’m not going to be there until December which is a weird thing, but I think life goes on and I take every day as it comes and you work it out, don’t you?

CDM: If Royal Blood was an acronym, what would each letter stand for?
BEN: Oh gosh! Okay. Really, Obvious, Yodelling, About, Loyalty, Barbaric, Losers, Over, Ostrich, Diaries. That was really hard! <laughs> That was the hardest question I’ve ever been asked. For one, I really had to think about how to spell Royal Blood.

CDM: If you were to curate your own music festival, who would play and what would the festival be called?
BEN: Is this a three-day festival? So I need three headliners. Led Zeppelin, they’re doing the Sunday, I think. Michael Jackson is doing Saturday, and Queen are doing the Friday. It’s called… I really have to think about these things. It’s called ‘A Festival To Not Be Forgotten’.

CDM: If you could steal one thing without consequence, what would it be?
BEN: It would have to be a Rolls Royce.

CDM: What is your spirit animal?
BEN: An orca.

CDM: If you pick any five people, living or dead, to be in your entourage, who would you choose?
BEN: I’m going to have Jesus, Freddie Mercury, Anthony Joshua - he’s an English boxer but he’s really fit, he could be my bodyguard. And I think, Penn & Teller. <laughs>

Royal Blood’s album ‘How Did We Get So Dark?’ is out now - click here to purchase.

Watch the ‘I Only Lie When I Love You’ music video below…