As we sit in the backstage confines of Ireland’s 3Arena, the one thing that is apparent is the amount of Royal Blood crew/assistants buzzing around the labyrinth of the corridors which brought back memories of my first encounter with Ben and Mike a few years back in the smaller Academy venue, when they were mobilising the 45° angle liftoff! Since then, things got big. A lot bigger, really fucking fast!
OD – Here you are again back in Ireland having played almost every size venue with your own headline slot in a fucking arena? The last time I spoke with you I sensed that it was all a bit too much to take in. Are you still blown away by how fast all of this came about?
BEN – I think initially we were a little freaked about playing venues of this size, but when we were ploughing through the tour, we started to find our feet and got more comfortable with things. At the beginning, it was like “Wow! What are we doing here?” but now we are just so much more comfortable playing to crowds of this size night after night.
OD – I can only imagine the pressure of delivering the infamous second album. Was there a method that you both decided to use in order to not get caught up with the pressure?
BEN – I guess there was a little bit, but we got it out of our system pretty quickly. We’re only human beings at the end of the day and with that first album, it’s just Mike and I doing what we really loved, so we just kind approached the new album with that in mind and tried to not put too much pressure on ourselves. We just thought ” You know what? If people like it then great, if we lose fans over it, then fuck it!”
We’re not about being successful at all, we’re about doing something that we love doing and want to have a good time doing it. It’s really that simple. We wanted to improve on our sound and the songwriting and we knew that if we just concentrated on the aspect of the material, it was going to inevitably get better, or different at least. At the end of the day, it’s up to the audience to make their own minds up and all we can do is follow what we believe is right for us.
We could have easily gone off and written Royal Blood II as we know the formula of writing those sort of songs so we wanted to progress a little and do something that we really enjoyed.
OD – The material on the first album was written at your own pace, how different did you find the process of writing ‘How Did We Get So Dark?
BEN – We went through the writing process under the mindset of “music has no rules“. Being in the studio we had the opportunity of being really creative with trying out loads of new sounds.
OD – Do you find that people have a set impression of Royal Blood, just being a two-piece?
BEN – Absolutely! People think our sound is always just gonna be bass and drums and that’s not the case at all. For us, the focus is writing really good songs with our instruments and if we feel that something is missing, then we will do what we need to do in order to make the song sound the way we want too. If someone tells us that we can’t do it because “Royal Blood is all about a two-piece bass and drum sound”, then they’de better re-think things because we’ll do whatever we need to do in order to make the songs as best we can and if that means getting another musician in, then so be it.
OD – I believe that you tried a variety of different things when you had the rehearsal studio in Burbank, by way of bringing in some additional musicians but were drawn back to just the two of you. Is that more of a comfortable thing rather than a musical thing for you both?
BEN – Yeah, we tried a lot of different things during the writing period for this album. We recorded it all in Brussels and we had kind of like a Willy Wonka type factory of instruments and devices that could create some interesting sounds. We had a lot of fun there and experimented with things before we went back to the basics of thinking “Do we really need a guitar solo?” and we then just decided to take things back to what we felt was most exciting to us.
OD – Did you experiment with bringing in other musicians?
BEN – Yes, we had some vocalists come and do some bits here and there. We didn’t really have a lot of musicians come in as Mike can play keys as well as all the other stuff, so we didn’t really need a huge amount of session musicians in the studio. But still we were open to whatever and are still open to the prospect of bringing in other musicians, should we need too.
OD – What about the lyrical side of things. Did Mike work with any other people on this part?
BEN – Yeah, in fact, we got in a guy called John Barrett from a band called Bass Drum of Death from Mississippi and he co-wrote ‘Lights Out‘ with us. He’s a good friend of mine and Mike really got on well with him and they just started writing together which was awesome. It was a really natural feeling between those guys. There was no pre-planning whatsoever, it just happened. It was just the opposite of going into a writing session and more like a few mates hanging out and playing some music together and that’s exactly how “Lights Out“ was written.
OD – Did you approach the recording process with the same ethos of not over thinking things and just let a natural strain of creativity take the lead?
BEN – It took a long time to record this album as we started to work with the producer (Jolyon Thomas), who I guess was feeling more of the pressure than we were. This was the big second album and having his name on Royal Blood II was something he took very seriously. We were like “hey, it doesn’t matter” and he was like “No! It does matter!“.
It wasn’t so much a compromise because that sounds like compromise the things that we wanted to do, but we definitely listened to him and we did agree with some of the ideas. For us, we just really wanted to get things going and get those live takes done and I think we got the sound and vibe we were looking for.
OD – When the album came out in June, were you shitting yourself as to the reaction from the press/fans etc or were you just like ‘fuck it’ this is what we want and we stand by it?
BEN – No, I was really proud of it. When it was done, there was a huge relief because it was kind of like handing over a baby that was ready to out into the world. Also, we are really a live band and after spending the best part of two months recording, we were desperate to get back on stage and do what we really love doing.
OD – I’m sure that you welcomed the new tracks to the live set as you’ve played the first album to death at this stage?
BEN – Yeah, it felt really good to get some new material into the live sets. Don’t get me wrong, I love playing the older stuff too, but it’s that excitement of the new material and seeing the interaction of the audience each night. It’s a good feeling to see so many people liking the new material.
OD – A lot of artists that I have interviewed over the last few years have mentioned Royal Blood as the band that brought “Rock” back into the mainstream charts. Do you feel that you were kind of out there in the commercial world on your own surrounded by an endless wasteland of ‘Pop’ artists?
BEN – We’re not bothered by Rock music. What we really love is live music. There are plenty of “rock” bands that are playing to track and things like that. There’s nothing wrong with that, but for us, we really don’t see the point as all you have to do is just press a button. For me personally, I just love watching and listening to live music. For instance, take a look at Jack White! That guy is so much fun to watch because he’s so unpredictable and makes every show something completely different.
OD – The interest from America has been huge for you guys, how did they pick up on you so fast as that’s where I had heard of you first?
BEN – We spent a lot of time in America and the way radio works out there is very different, so we had to circulate around that country a few times. To be honest, we still do! We’ve been over there something like seven times since May of 2017, so that gives you an idea of how much work you have to put into the business side of things in America.
OD – Do you ever think “I just couldn’t be bothered doing another flight or tour?” and just spend some time at home?
BEN – It’s so nice to come home and hang back for a while but I really love what I do and I’m so grateful that this is my life now.
OD – I’m also guessing that when you have a crew the size you do now that makes things a little easier, especially when touring?
BEN – Yeah for sure (laughs). It makes it a whole lot easier for sure. There are bands that don’t have that and we are very lucky that we have the help that we do. Especially, when we are playing the likes of arenas, we really have to look after ourselves as best we can and when it comes to things like a comfortable tour bus, it makes a huge difference to our ability to perform as best we can.
OD – I’m sure that you have many, many memories from the last few years, but what really stands out for you both as being a kind of surreal moment?
BEN – Having two number 1 albums is mind-blowing (laughing). Playing the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury and being on tour with my favourite band in the world Queens of the Stone Age are just a few things that come to mind.
OD – How did you get on the Queens guys?
BEN – They turned up to our London show and we had some fun. They are almost like family to us now at this stage.
OD – I get the impression that you will never take to that ‘rock star’ persona such as Axl Rose or anything like that. Do you find that some people can be just awkward around you and do you ever really get used to that?
BEN – We do what we want and I guess we have our moments. We like to drink every night and do what everybody else is doing. It’s just about keeping a balance and not being a twat. We’re not into the rockstar demands at all (laughing). We’re relaxed around people and usually, people are relaxed around us.
OD – Now that we’re in 2018 are there any particular milestones that will be happening?
BEN – Yeah, we’re going back to South America which I can’t wait for and we’ll also be hooking up with Queens of the Stone Age again for some more dates in America. We also have an Australian tour coming up too.
OD – Seeing as you get on so well with Josh Homme, has he ever suggested working together for a possible side project or just a jam session to see what comes of it?
BEN – Well, they are doing the ‘Villians‘ tour at the moment which will go on for another year I guess and they have to just do their thing. We haven’t really discussed anything, but we would be totally up for something like that, should the opportunity arise. Let’s just see what happens!
Royal Blood – ‘How Did We Get So Dark‘ is out now via Warner Music. Get your copy here. The band have also been nominated for a prestigious Brit Award for “Best British Band”.
© OVERDRIVE.IE 2018
All Rights Reserved.