Ben Thatcher sits in his home studio, talking thoughtfully about getting his start in music.
The 33-year-old drummer of two-piece rock act Royal Blood says he began drumming in church, thanks to his minister father, in Rustington, a small village in West Sussex, England. His brothers followed a similar track, playing in the Christian rock band Delirious.
“I loved playing drums at church, and it would be in front of like 500 people every week, so you really do cut your teeth playing and performing there,” Thatcher says.
“I don’t really get nervous playing shows or anything now because I’ve done it from such a young age.”
Thatcher met the other half of Royal Blood, singer/bass player Mike Kerr, when they were teenagers. Kerr was from the nearby town of Worthing, West Sussex. Briefly, they played in another group, before deciding to start hitting the stage on their own. Nearly 10 years later, the duo has released its third record, “Typhoons.” The album was one of the most anticipated of the year, but Royal Blood’s start was not as meteoric as its rise.
Thatcher laughs and says the band was created because they were bored with their small towns.
“We both love music and we’ve lived in very sleepy towns,” he says. “We honestly couldn’t even get a gig at the start, so we ended up playing open-mic nights. We’d normally get through about two songs before they’d tell us to get off the stage.”
Despite the early struggles, Thatcher and Kerr were picked up by Warner Bros. in 2013. Before the release of their self-titled album, the duo was already garnering attention from industry veterans. Thatcher and Kerr have been compared to some of the most highly respected two-piece acts, like the Black Keys and the White Stripes. They have received praise from many of the most iconic modern rock bands. Matt Helders, drummer for the Arctic Monkeys, even wore Royal Blood merchandise during one of his band’s shows, and Queens of the Stone Age, one of Thatcher’s personal influences, took the band on tour in 2017.
“It’s a real comfort knowing that people like our music and champion us,” Thatcher says. “I think that we’ve been lucky to become part of this really great music community. There’s a lot of hate in the world, so to have these people that you really respect and even grew up kind of idolizing is amazing.
“That being said, it brings a lot of pressure, but we’ve never done anything to please anyone apart from ourselves. So, it’s just great having those people love what we do.”
Royal Blood received national recognition following the release of its debut single “Out of the Black,” which allowed the band to tour the world. The touring experiences inspired the duo.
“Travel really broadens the mind and, as I said, we are from very small villages, and a lot of our friends haven’t even left that area,” Thatcher says.
“So, for us to go out and see the world and play to so many people and so many different cultures, it was really eye opening. It’s crazy because it does change you. It’s something that I would never take for granted. I’m really grateful for it. Being able to play music with my best mate all around the world, especially with music we’ve written, it’s like living the dream. It’s unheard of.”
Between 2013 and 2017, Royal Blood released two critically acclaimed albums, 2014’s “Royal Blood” and 2017’s “How Did We Get So Dark.”
The third record, “Typhoons,” was released in late April. Royal Blood took on a dance feel with the heavy, distorted bass assuming a keyboard or synth role. Inspired by Daft Punk and Justice, this change is something Thatcher and Kerr have wanted to do for a while.
“I guess it was always in us,” Thatcher says. “Whenever we’d get off stage, we’d always want to carry the part on after the show. We’d blast disco and pop and R&B — all music you could dance and party to. So, we thought, why not start that dance party from the stage?”
Royal Blood’s fanbase is into rock music, and the duo doesn’t want to abandon that.
“It’s something we love doing and pride ourselves on,” Thatcher says. “This was us evolving and trying something different. We took a few risks. And it was fun to make.”
The album’s upbeat sounds are juxtaposed with Kerr’s deeply personal lyrics, which reflect his sober lifestyle.
“I actually think it’s quite an uplifting album, even if the lyrics sometimes say differently,” Thatcher says. “But I think, for me, a lot of the songs are about getting from a bad place to a good place.”
The album represents Royal Blood’s willingness to change and to produce music that’s unlike commercial radio. Thatcher says “Typhoons” was a victory for the band, and a project that felt cathartic.
“I think we’ve found writing fun again,” Thatcher says.
“We’ve found that spark of why we are in a band and making music together. The first album wasn’t originally meant to be heard by anyone, so we didn’t care about the response, but when it came to writing the second album, we almost lost that spark because there was just so much pressure.
“But with the third album, we’ve felt like we had proven ourselves already. We thought we would take risks and have fun with it. What it came down to was that as long as we were buzzing off of it, we were going to put it out there, and maybe other people will buzz from it, too.”