Playing to 125,000 people at a festival whilst simultaneously scoring the number #1 album in the U.K. is a feat that many bands sans The Beatles can only dream of, but just last month Royal Blood re-wrote history with their epic set at the legendary Glastonbury Festival. Having toured relentlessly for three years and in releasing two stunningly intricate and diverse rock albums, frontman Mike Kerr somehow found time in the band’s busy pre-Splendour In The Grass schedule to chat what it’s like sleeping in the same bed as a bandmate Ben Thatcher for a year, lyric writing, as well as reflecting on what he called the “best gig of his life.”
How are you feeling today all things considered, Mike?
I’m wrecked, to be honest. We just flew over from Finland, and then last night I went to the Queens Of The Stone Age show and got absolutely fucked, so a bit under the weather today.
Nice. On that band, how are you guys feeling about heading out to the States with QOTSA?
It’s going to be amazing! They’re one of my favourite bands ever so I think we are really going to up our game by doing that tour.
Sweet! I’m curious, coming off the Glastonbury high, and going through such a big transition from clubs to the Pyramid stage in the past two years, how does that shift the way that you guys go about your live show?
I don’t know if it corrupts our attitude in any way. I feel like the reason things like Glastonbury are so special is that they are rare moments in any band’s history. Everyone looks back at those festivals as milestones almost, particularly because of the effect it has on the UK as such a significant event. It’s so broadly viewed by the whole country. For us, that show was the best day of our whole lives. There was something spiritual about that show because there was a magic in the air. I had my family on the side of stage… just the experience of playing to that many people who are having a good time – there was something incredibly exhausting. I remember afterwards we were buzzing for like two weeks. It uses a gland in your brain that you didn’t know was there. It’s such a foreign sort of skill set.
Rad. Now, you’ve said on the record that the exciting thing about the first record you were on such an upwards trajectory that you entered this time of ‘discovery’ that you know you’ll never have again. Are you worried that things have reached a point where it gets repetitive now?
The nature of being in a touring band is repetitive. There’s nothing you can do to fight that, but it’s whether you enjoy it happening over and over again and it’s how you use that repetition I think because if you’re just going through the motions it becomes incredibly tiring and boring. You are literally just copying yourself every night at that point. We’re still a young and hungry band so after every show, I’m always thinking what we can do in the next one to make it better. That drive and pulling things out on stage we haven’t done before, that’s what keeps it fresh and exciting.
How did that desire affect the composition of ‘How Did We Get So Dark’?
Weirdly, when we were making the album we really switched off from the live mindset. We’d done three years of touring and to come home after all that was so fucking weird. It was almost like we had to rediscover what it was that made us tick. Also, we didn’t wanna rip ourselves off and make ten more tunes like the first record. It was that drive to make every song something we haven’t done before. If we ever had an idea that was like ‘we’ve done that trick,’ that didn’t make it. In that sense, it translated to the new album.
A messy break0up influenced the lyrics of these new songs. Are you worried singing about it every night is going to prolong that pain?
I think that my experience with writing songs about something painful is you’re sealing that feeling off. You’ve queerized it into song. I guess that’s why a lot of people find writing things therapeutic. It’s almost like writing down your anxieties and putting them in an envelope and fucking burning it. Over time though it comes around to three months into a tour and you’re over it because you play it all the time. You can’t always channel that. I just have to be honest when it comes to song writing, and I really love that this album around, because there was a lot of songs I wrote where I was making shit up and I can spot myself lying a mile off. I just thought ‘what am I doing? I have to be honest here.’
So you stopped yourself midway through writing all the lyrics?
Yeah, I think sometimes you don’t wanna write what’s going on because you have to face what’s going on around you. You have to think ‘If I start writing about that then I’ll open up this box of shit.’ So I did do that.
Had you done that on the first record?
No, nott as intentionally. The first record is a bit more cryptic and a bit more immature probably. There are lines in the songs where I am being honest, but I think I used a lot of languages to disguise things and sugarcoat them, whereas this record around, I think I just sort of hit things and said it how it was.
One more question about the lyrics – I’m curious as to how the intense touring and experiencing different cultures has coloured how you approached subject matter this time around?
I think over the past two or three years of touring, you adapt to a different lifestyle. I used to do a 9-5 and stay in the same place and now I always move around. I think I’ve been subject to a lot of different types of music. Playing festivals all the time, you’re always hearing new music. I think though the biggest thing has been spending more time with Ben. Our relationship has developed so much. When the band first got going I’d known him for a very long time, but you only know someone when you go through the things that we’ve gone through together. You might think someone is your best mate but try sleeping in the same bed as them for a year when travelling round in a van. Sleeping on a bus in America and having to work together and playing shows together every day, talk about each other every day, sit next to each other every day… you get to know someone in a very different way. I think our relationship has sort of blossomed. You find out through that experience if you fucking hate each other or whether that person turns you onto life more. The Gallagher’s are the best example of how it can go that way. Ben and I are very different people and I need someone like him who is just full of fucking energy – that’s what helps me get around the world.
Do you both of you hang out much away from Royal Blood?
Yeah, to be honest, the only time we have to hang out is when we are making the record, but even then, we are still working on stuff. But we party together all the time, but when we do it’s with loads more people so it’s diluted. However, we know each other well enough to know when to not see each other. Just that respect for the other person to give each other a break is important.
Moving onto the live show, you’ve said every live song is a weapon. What are your WMD’s on the new record?
I think ‘Hook, Line & Sinker’ feels like a fucking loud song to put it simply. Things like the title track-we’ve kind of been saving that, we haven’t played it live heaps. However, the two times we did play it, we felt like we had a joker in our back pocket, it was really really good. ‘Hole In Your Heart’ is awesome as well. It’s a relief to feel like the new songs are in the same club as the old ones because that is one last minute panic you have. You don’t want it to sound patchy but it all seems to work together.
Finally, going back to the idea that you don’t wanna do the same thing twice… I mean, Foo Fighters have added two new members since the beginning. Is there any chance Royal Blood could grow?
It could do to be honest. In making the new record we kind of did a full circle on it. We’re open to that, and before we weren’t. I just wanna make good tunes, at whatever cost. The only reason why we are a two piece is because, and you must trust me here, the songs we’ve written really do sound better with just me and Ben playing on them, and that’s the only reason why it is that way. Until the day comes where it does sound better, then it’s always gonna be like this. The way we’ve pulled off these new tunes live has opened a massive door for us sonically where Ben is triggering a lot of things whilst playing drums at the same time. We never use click or backing tracks, so it’s dangerous stuff. Ben triggers samples whilst playing and it’s mad. My new rig as well, the sounds I can pull out now are so much more diverse and unlike anything else I’ve ever done. It feels like we have the tools to make something that’s way out there!
Apr 24, 2018 Hordern Pavilion, Sydney – Licensed All Ages
May 01, 2018 Logan Campbell Centre, Auckland – Licensed All Ages
May 03, 2018 TSB Bank Arena, Wellington – Licensed All Ages
May 07, 2018 Riverstage – Brisbane Botanic Gardens, Brisbane – Licensed All Ages
May 09, 2018 Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne – Licensed All Ages
May 13, 2018 HBF Stadium, Perth – Licensed All Ages