Royal Blood are unquestionably the biggest buzz band in the UK right now. Tipped for success in the BBC's Sound of 2014 poll in January – the only rock band included on the music industry-voted list – the Brighton duo have more than lived up to the hype. Following storming performances at Glastonbury, Download, T in the Park and Reading/Leeds festivals over the summer, the band's self-titled debut album debuted at Number 1 on the UK album chart, selling 65,000 copies in its first week on sale, while their upcoming British tour sold out in just two minutes.
TeamRock Breakfast Show presenter Stephen Hill caught up with RB vocalist/bassist Mike Kerr to talk about the band’s whirlwind year, meeting their heroes and the pressures involved in being tagged the latest ‘Saviours of Rock’.
I imagine that some of the stuff happening to you guys is quite hard to take in: what’s it like being in Royal Blood at the moment?
“It’s pretty hectic, but good hectic. All the things we’ve got to do this year have been pretty mindblowing and surreal, but amazing. The speed everything has gone at has been pretty insane. A year ago we’d never ever been to Glastonbury, and then we found ourselves playing to 12,000 people there. It’s been a fast rollercoaster for sure.”
Was this all in the script, or is some of what’s happening as much of a surprise to you as anyone else?
“Well, this band had no agenda from the beginning. Royal Blood started as something we were doing for fun, and doing in our spare time, so we’ve been surprised every single step of the way. We really had no masterplan, everything just fell this way and here we are. It almost feels like we’re spectators just like everyone else.”
It seems like you’ve immediately been thrust into this ‘Rock is Dead’/‘Royal Blood are the saviours of rock’ debate: do you feel any pressure to live up to that tag?
“I think that, with this ‘Saviours of Rock’ tag, the pressure is on someone else to do something, not us: we’re already playing rock music and that’s what we love to do, so if someone is looking for some kind of revival, then it’s not up to us, it’s up to others to join in. But I don’t believe that rock is dead, or that it needs reviving. But then I also don’t think that music needs to be genre-based to be good: a good tune is a good tune regardless of what genre it’s in.”
Do you pay attention to the press around your band? Alongside all the acclaim, there’s obviously detractors too…
“Anyone that doesn’t like the idea that we’re doing exactly what we want to do can do one basically. We didn’t start this band or write any of these songs to please anyone other than ourselves, so I guess I’d say the most appropriate word for our reaction is ‘indifference’. We like the music we write and there seems to be other people liking it as well. But even with the good things that happen, you try not to get too drawn in, because that can be distracting as well.”
A lot of two piece bands, let’s say, The White Stripes or The Black Keys, start out being raw, live rock ‘n’ roll, but then evolve and start to bring in more instrumentation and really evolving: how far further do you think you can push the Royal Blood sound?
“I think the whole concept of us sounding bigger than two people was obviously important to us in the beginning and so we still want to continue to explore and expand. But the real focus of this is to write songs, and so I think the real agenda is to see how we can become better songwriters.”
Fellow artists such as Jimmy Page and Arctic Monkeys have declared themselves fans of your band: how important is that kind of acclaim to you?
“Well, those are musicians that we’ve looked up to for as long as we can remember so to have them come along to our shows is just ridiculous. But having had the chance to meet these people, you realise that there’s a big illusion around some of them, because even though they’re really iconic, they’re just regular people. It’s quite humbling to realise that they’re just regular, good guys, even though they’ve done incredible things. I mean, if Jimmy Page doesn’t have an ego then no-one can!”