In the bowels of Dublin’s Academy on a rather mild bank holiday Monday, Overdrive sat down with the twosome that is Ben and Mike from Royal Blood. Visibly, exhausted from the “not so good’ ferry crossing from the UK, the guys are in good spirits all the same. Dressed in black from head to toe the guys seem eager to proceed with the many scheduled press interviews that lay ahead of them before they take to the stage in the now completely sold out Academy.
OD – Can we talk a little about the name of the band and why you choose it?
Mike – I guess when the band first started, is was just an appropriate title and it sounded and looked really good. I think it put across the right kind of message and we are just really happy with it.
OD – Were there any other names that you were considering before you choose Royal Blood?
Mike – Yea, there was all sorts of names, but nothing worth repeating.
OD – At any time did you contemplate bringing more members into the band?
Mike – There wasn’t really any kind of contemplating really. From the get go, it was pretty clear that the sound we were making was sufficient enough and interesting enough to not add or subtract any members and just have the two of us.
OD – How long did the songwriting process take for the debut album?
Ben – It was the end of 2012, but really the beginning of 2013. We did our first recording during the Christmas and New Year period and that’s when we were writing the stuff that is now on the record.
Mike – It wasn’t the first time we had played music together. There was occasions where Ben and I, along with some other musicians had been to the studio together and recorded ideas that we had. There were ideas kicking around, but not very complete ideas if you know what I mean. So, yea it’s not like we had never played together, but it was more like we just were rekindling a chemistry that we had from way back and proceeded to elaborate on those ideas.
OD – Mike, you were making music in Australia under the same name as Royal Blood, during this time had you written what we know now as songs from the debut album?
Mike – Well, it really started when I came back to be honest with you. I was playing a bit when I was out there but it was just too hot and I really missed my friends and family and wanted to get back to playing with Ben.
OD – How long were you there for?
Mike – I was only there for about eight months, working in a Mexican restaurant called “The Crazy Bull” in a place called Tugun on the Gold Coast. Like I said before, since I had spent such a long time playing music with Ben, it was a long time coming really. It was a long year apart and we just wanted to get stuck into our material and the concept of Royal Blood.
OD – Can you talk a little about the key events that has led to your rocketing success in such a short period of time?
Mike – Yea, there are so many things. It seems like every other week there is another landmark thing that happens for us. The only way I can describe it really, is like driving from one side of America to the other, but your going at 400mph and people are going “what is your favourite bit” and it’s been so fast there are only snapshots. I think that only after a long period of time, only then will it become clear as to just how unbelievable it’s been.
Ben – So many things have happened, it’s like Mike said it’s like a blur at this time.
OD – Did you find SXSW to be of an important part of your campaign into America?
Mike -I think I would say to any band that if you want to go to Austin and have the best week of your life then go for it! Otherwise, just going over there to deliberately break into a market sounds like a very boring business headed trip to me and not much fun. But any band that is looking to have a great time, see some great bands, then take the opportunity.
Ben – Also, to eat some really great food! (laughs)
OD – Although you are having a great time at SXSW, would you agree that there is an upside for the business side of things also?
Mike – I think every band has their own experience of that, and I don’t think that we can answer that question really. We certainty had a positive experience in that light.
Ben – We we not going out there for that reason, so we didn’t really experience that side of things. We were out there because we were playing SXSW and it wasn’t a business ploy for us necessarily.
Mike – It was the fist time for us to play to an American audience, so that was enough buzz for us to take part in it.
OD – Regarding new material, are you writing now and if so how many songs do you have and will we be seeing a new album or EP in 2015?
Mike – Yes, yes, we are always writing. Yea, I think it’s a muscle that we are always exercising but everything is always pointing towards album two since album one! The aim is to be as prolific as possible.
OD – Is the new material in the very early stages at this point?
Mike – We have only just finished patting ourselves on the back for the first album, but I hope that we will be ready for something new in 2015. When it’s ready, it will be ready (laughs).
OD – Can you talk a little about the artwork on the album and how it came about?
Mike – It’s a very similar process to naming the band and the record. It was a drawing that was already done by an artists from London called Dan Hillier. This was a piece that he had already done and was not a bespoke piece of art. This was already for sale in a gallery and we just loved it. There was a real Royal Blood feel to it and we really wanted to work with him.
We got in contact with him and started looking through his legacy of work and I came across that face and it was kind of like a eureka moment, when I just felt that this has got to be the face of the music.
OD – Did he use pen and ink on this piece?
Mike – I’m actually not sure. The original piece is actually hanging up in our managers office and I’ve yet to see it and apparently it’s a big old thing.
OD – You are coming back to Dublin in March to perform in Dublin’s Olympia. Will we see you also at some of the summer festivals or will you be concentrating on America during this time?
Mike – I’m sure we will be doing something along those lines as I know that it’s still in the pencil stages.
Ben – Yea, there is some stuff lined up but not confirmed at the moment.
OD – After this string of dates on this leg of the tour, what’s next?
Ben – We have a few things to do in Germany and then we go to America and finally we head back in this direction for Christmas with our final date being in Brighton, which we are really looking forward too.
Post interview and with at least 3 hours before showtime, we leave the venue to find die hard fans already queuing outside in the hope of making it up to the sweaty confines of the front row. There is a mixed ‘pic ‘n mix’ selection of fans that are attending tonight’s show, with sprinkles of Metal-Heads sporting all kinds of interesting T-shirts from Dying Fetus to Smashing Pumpkins, to the jumper wearing designer hipsters, who are tugging at their curly mustaches and clinging on to their vintage school bags, all collectivly waiting in anticipation for the buzz band of the moment.
Once inside the venue at showtime, it is apparent that this is very much a “sold out” gig, as there is literally no room to breath and whilst battling to get to the bar, we begin to wonder if it was worth it. As soon as Mike and Ben take to the stage to the defining roar of the crowd and they launch into “Hole” all negative thoughts seem to dissolve away.
Dressed in their signature black clothing, the two man machine that is Royal Blood, sound fucking huge in the Academy and from the get go, have the salivating crowd in their pockets. “Come on Over” comes pouring out of the PA with enough weight to plug a sink hole this size of an asteroid. As each tune is performed, the level of hysteria kicks up a notch and is consumed with a combination of gratitude, pleasure and disbelief in seeing such a high profile band in a venue of this size.
The intro to “Figure It Out” has people loosing their minds from the front to the back and the stuffed wings of the room and it would seem that everyone in attendance, exercised their ability to outdo the sound level from the mixing desk! “Better Strangers” comes next, with a bouncing and head bobbing main floor and the sighting of the first of many shirtless, sweaty, skinny bearded lemmings crowd surfing in no particular direction.
The big tune of the night “Little Monster” is just a crowd leveling sonic experience and one that everybody should witness live, at one point in their lives. With what now seems to be a regular part of the show, drumming powerhouse Ben makes a brief visit to the front of the stage and jumps in for a quick float around before returning (like it’s no big thing) and just fucking nailing the ending to the song. At this point, one can not avoid thinking of how lucky we all are in seeing this band in such small and intimate surroundings.
Keeping the stage banter to a minimum, Mike and Ben surge through the rest of the set with “Blood Hands, Careless” and new song “Love and Leave It Alone” which sounds not very ambitious in terms of the existing compositions on the debut album. As we approach the final few songs of the night, we get “Ten Tonne Skeleton, Loose change” and the brilliant “Out Of The Black” which has everybody in a state of hypnotic hysteria.
As the guys leave the spotlights and dry ice of the stage, there is a moment of anticipation as to whether they will return to do an encore. This idea is quickly quashed when the house lights are turned up to the max and the PA system blasts out some non descriptive background music. As we all shuffle out of the now stinking venue, the general talk amongst the lucky ticket holders and freeloaders is that of gushing approval and just how two guys can create a sound a fucking huge as Royal Blood!
Royal Blood’s Debut album is out now and can be picked up from this link here.
Words – Oran O’Beirne