There's a story circulating about Royal Blood, the hottest export from England since fish and chips. The story claims that drummer Ben Thatcher picked up friend and bassist Mike Kerr at the airport and Kerr immediately said, "Let's form a band." Incredibly, the band performed its first gig the next day.
"It's correct," Thatcher confirms by phone from London. "It was a very easy thing to put together."
Easy, perhaps, since Royal Blood features just two people, but given the ferocity present in the music, certainly there would have to be more to the story.
"There [were] different challenges," Thatcher says. "Having fewer band members, we have to put in extra work to make it sound big. On the other hand, it was easier to write songs as just the two of us."
Royal Blood, to a degree, follows in the footsteps of two-piece acts White Stripes and The Black Keys. On the surface, listeners may hear similarities — Royal Blood also begins with a hard blues base. From there, the focus shifts as the duo channel a primal energy into songs that incorporate aspects of 1960s psychedelia, 1970s hard rock, the earliest days of heavy metal, and 1990s post-grunge stoner rock, sprinkled with an undercurrent of hip-hop and soul beats.
"There's definitely a big bluesy rock kind of feel, [but] I still think we're really different from [White Stripes and The Black Keys]," Thatcher says. "The elements of songwriting are different."
Royal Blood aren't the first bass and drum duo out there either. While Canada's Death From Above is the most obvious comparison, Thatcher says Royal Blood didn't rely on others for inspiration.
"No, no one was really inspiring us to do it. The songwriting was very different, and the way we wanted to do it was very different," Thatcher says. "When we got together with Mike's bass sound, which sounded like lots of guitars as well, we thought it was really cool and that we could get it together just using the two or us."
Where Royal Blood rises above other two-piece outfits, and in fact many "proper" bands, is the volume and sheer intensity the pair create. Kerr runs his bass through a plethora of effects pedals and amps, while Thatcher pounds on his kit harder than anyone this side of Soundgarden's Matt Cameron. The effort results in a wall of sound and blistering live feel that has attracted the praise of, among others, Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page — an influence on Royal Blood.
"I think it's essentially what I would call 'real live music,' you know," Thatcher says of the attraction. "When you hear a drum, you're hearing the sound the drum made, and when you hear the bass, that sound is coming out of the amplifier. I think there's an energy that comes from that that's hard and raw. I think you can hear that, and it comes across in our recordings and on stage."
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Royal Blood has returned rock 'n' roll to its roots, to the earliest days when the form was still raw, searching and trying to find a foothold among easily digestible pop music. It is refreshing when considering how many artists now rely on laptops, loops, and trickery to create their sound.
"When you go to see a rock band, you don't expect there to be some kind of iMac playing the guitar," he says. "It's very primal what we're doing. There's no backing tracks or hidden musicians. What you see is what you get with us."
And that is plenty to keep the ears ringing for days.
Royal Blood is scheduled to perform Monday, September 28, at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe.