Since the early 2010s, rock music has gone through a fluid progression while finding itself competing with hip hop, pop and heavy metal more than ever before. It’s become a timeless style that’s as American as apple pie and to this day you can still find a teenager wearing a shirt bearing the names of bands like Led Zeppelin and Nirvana. When it comes to the current bands within the rock realm, where do they stand? One could say that Royal Blood has been one of the leading acts of the art form for a little over a decade. The latest album Back to the Water Below from the English duo of bassist & vocalist Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher, which came out via Warner Records on September 1, reaffirms this claim. As part of their tour in support of the release, Royal Blood are going to be taking the stage at College Street Music Hall in New Haven on September 29 with fellow English rockers Bad Nerves starting things off at 8pm.
I had a talk with Kerr ahead of the show about the making of the album, the bands he was in before starting Royal Blood, performing in the United States versus performing in Europe and blending the new music with older material.
RD: Back to the Water Below was made with you and Ben Thatcher producing it yourselves at your home studio in Brighton. Did this approach fast-track the process at all due to doing the songwriting and recording on your own versus including the input from a third party?
MK: It’s hard to say because this process is all we know at this stage. We’ve always felt like we’ve self-produced ourselves from the beginning, really. Specifically with our previous album Typhoons, with the exception of one track. It’s another part of our band that we love and enjoy and if we had someone else do the producing I don’t think it would be as fun.
RD: In a recent interview with the New Musical Express about the album, you mentioned that the recording process forced you and Ben to do things that came naturally. Would you say that this made the experience more instinctive when it came to the decision making and the hashing out of ideas?
MK: Yeah, we always test drive our songs live and if they don’t feel right when we’re playing them then we tend to push them to the side. Ultimately, we write songs in order to play them live at shows, that’s really what they’re for.
RD: When it comes to performing live and recording albums, two piece bands achieve the low end part of their sound in numerous ways. This usually includes either the tone of the guitar or the bass of the drum kit. When you guys write songs together, how do you go about incorporating this element into your music?
MK: For me, it’s quite easy because I’m playing the bass lines. I think if you’re playing guitar, you have to get different strings and stuff to get that particular sound unless you get a baritone, which can be rare to find sometimes. That’s never really been a problem for us though.
RD: Were you ever in three piece or four piece bands before starting Royal Blood?
MK: Yeah, I was in a few bands that were both three pieces and four pieces. I think that’s where the inspiration for Royal Blood came from because there were moments where the bands I was in weren’t coexisting that well, so I realized that I could do it on my own. I didn’t have to deal with multiple people playing the same parts, that’s really how I kind of arrived at the idea of starting a duo.
RD: That makes sense. Being a band from the United Kingdom, is there anything that sticks out when it comes to performing in the United States in terms of audiences or how venues operate?
MK: I find that with the crowds in the United States, rock & roll has such a long history there and it’s so ingrained into the culture that there’s a real ethos where it’s so much about the music. We don’t wear fancy clothes and we don’t dress up, we’re just two guys who want to play to the best of our ability. From my perspective, I think that sense of musicality is what the United States has.
RD: How has it been blending the material off the new album with older songs for the setlists as part of this North American tour that includes a stop at College Street Music Hall this Friday?
MK: That’s always something that you find out when you go through the new music and to craft a set with the older material. Back to the Water Below is our fourth studio album and honestly, all the other music is like old best friends to us so I think this album has provided a much needed dynamic, I’d say.