COLUMN WRITTEN BY MICHAEL CHRISTOPHER
If you were lucky enough to catch either of the Foo Fighters’ recent successive Monday-night spectaculars at the Susquehanna Bank Center, you might have caught a bit of the opening band, a duo with one guy on bass and the other on drums who sure made a lot of noise for just two dudes.
Meet Royal Blood.
Straight out of Brighton, England, where the duo are conquering heroes, notably drawing massive praise from the likes of Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, who not only said it was “an honor” to be given an award at a recent ceremony by them, but said their music is, “Like Lava coming from a volcano. It envelops you.”
“The thing with Jimmy (Page) is, we couldn’t ask for anyone better to talk about us in such favorable terms. He’s the godfather of rock,” Royal Blood singer and bassist Mike Kerr told Rock Music Menu between the Foo Fighters’ gigs in Camden. N.J. “For him to be saying nice things about the music we’re creating is amazing. It’s strange having things like Lars (Ulrich) from Metallica coming up and playing with us during a tiny club show in San Francisco. All that sort of stuff is madness.
“You certainly take that praise to heart, and it’s nice that someone takes the time to credit your music, it’s like an added bonus,” Kerr continued. “It’s great that it’s received by the public and critics and whatnot, but when you also get one of your idols kind talking about it, that’s a sort of pinch yourself moment.”
Having formed in 2012, with Kerr completed by drummer Ben Thatcher, the band released its self-titled debut last August, which, clocking in at just about a half hour, not only hit the top of the charts in the U.K. and Ireland, but has fans salivating for new music.
Featuring a mixture of anguished vocals, ferocious drumming and bass that provides intricate detail as well as a rumble of rhythm, Royal Blood has a lineage that stretches from present-day heroes Queens of the Stone Age and Foo Fighters to Zeppelin and all the way back to early blues pioneers. Getting to actually open for the Foos has been a dream come true.
“It’s kinda weird,” Kerr said. “We grew up with the Foo Fighters, listened to Foo Fighters … and there’s a few too many members of Nirvana walking around backstage. It’s sort of mad talking to Pat (Smear) and Dave (Grohl), and seeing how they operate is a great opportunity for us to kind of see how it’s done on that level.”
The melodies and soaring hooks come from what Kerr has described as a eureka moment of sonic experimentation and the result of “three amps and a secret code of pedals” played on a collection of $340 small-scale bass guitars. He invested in more expensive equipment, but found it couldn’t match the brute power of the cheaper alternatives.
Both in their mid-20s, Kerr and Thatcher first met as teenagers, and have been playing music together ever since. Kerr experimented with other instruments before settling on the bass. Thatcher was given a drum kit when he was 6, and he has remained committed to his instrument ever since.
Their pulverizing debut single “Out of the Black” earned significant national airplay in the U.K., a feat which was repeated when the B-side, “Come On Over,” gained further attention. Press acclaim followed — NME, Clash, DIY and others — which resulted in Royal Blood being the only rock band to be named in the long list for the BBC Sound of 2014 poll.
That’s a litany of items to result in some wicked pressure, not only for recording the oft-dreaded sophomore release, but with expectations so high in general on such high-profile opening slots. “We feel it in certain stages,” Kerr said. “The pressure will come when we kind of really get into the second record, you know, the famous difficult second record. But we’re really enjoying what we’re doing at the moment, and you’re moving around so much and you really don’t get a real moment to process.
“Then you go home and you might sort of go, ‘Wow, that was mad,’” Kerr said. “But in terms of pressure, playing live is what we really enjoy. There’s pressure certainly when you open up for the Foo Fighters, but it’s something where we just go out there and put on a show and hopefully people dig it.”
To contact music columnist Michael Christopher, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, check out his blog at our sister publication www.delcotimes.com