Royal Blood’s Ben Thatcher talks influences, writing process
The British rock band Royal Blood has been garnering quite a lot of attention lately. They count the Arctic Monkeys, Foals and Jimmy Page among their fans. This past February, they won the Best Live Band and Best Live Band categories at the New Musical Express awards, as well as Best British Band at the Brit Awards. The band also just finished a North American tour supporting the Foo Fighters. Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher formed Royal Blood in 2013, with Kerr on bass and vocals and Thatcher playing drums. Tonight, they’re coming back to St. Louis to play The Ready Room. Student Life caught up with Thatcher to talk about the band’s influences, early efforts and what’s next for the group.
Student Life: Royal Blood are playing in St. Louis on Monday, and the last time you were here was back in August with the Foo Fighters. What’s the transition like between playing a big amphitheater with someone like them and acting as an opener and playing a small club like you are now in St. Louis?
Ben Thatcher: They’re both things that I love to do. You know, we’re playing music to people, and that’s such a privileged thing to do, so I’m really looking forward to coming and playing to our own crowd [rather] than for the Foo Fighters crowd, I guess.
SL: It’s been just over a year since you released your first album, “Royal Blood.” How does looking back at that album feel one year later? Do the songs still feel new or do they feel kind of worn in?
BT: Some of those songs are very old. You know, they’re the first things that we came up with. But we still love playing them and seeing the reaction from the crowd. We’re kind of focusing now on writing some new material. We know that we’ve got to, you know, get on with writing a new record, so we’re excited about that. But we love touring, and we love playing these shows as well, so we have to balance our time at the moment between touring and writing.
SL: Have you guys been able to write at all while you’re touring or is it something that’s difficult to do day-to-day on the bus?
BT: Yeah, we’ve given it a good go. I mean, there’s only so much you can do with the facilities that we have. But Mike [Kerr] set up a little studio in the back of the bus, and he’s been writing some bits down there, but you…can’t get a drum kit in there, which is where the magic really happens, when we’re in the room together. But we’ve gotten ourselves into some studios in our spare time in between touring, and we’ve started the process of writing.
SL: Before doing Royal Blood, you guys were in a band called Flavour Country together, is that right?
BT: That is correct, yes.
SL: Can you tell me a bit about that?
BT: We were a really bad rock-punk band, but we loved playing music together, so that’s why we were in that band together. I played guitar in that band, actually, and I was pretty much up there with the worst guitarists you [could have heard]…Mike was playing a keytar in that band…So it was very different than what Royal Blood is today.
SL: Royal Blood has gotten quite big in Britain, but you’re still gaining prominence in America. What have you guys seen as the response in America versus Britain?
BT: Yeah, I mean, Britain is a smaller country, you know, and it’s kind of easy to tour Britain because you can do it in a week. But America is a bigger place…the radio play is very different here, the advertising is very different here and you have to spend a lot of time here. There’s a lot of cities, you know, that bands have never been to, really.
SL: Are there any particular drummers that you think you try and model yourself after?
BT: There are so many drummers I’ve looked up to over the times and to name a few would be John Bonham of Led Zeppelin, Dave Grohl [of Nirvana and the Foo Fighters], Taylor Hawkins [of the Foo Fighters], Jon Theodore [of Queens of the Stone Age]…Roger Taylor [of Queen], Chad Smith [of the Red Hot Chili Peppers]…Everyone that I grew up listening to has contributed into my playing.
SL: What kind of stuff do you guys tend to do while you’re [on the road]? Is it mostly sleeping on the bus or on the plane or do you stop certain places or see roadside strange attractions or things like that?
BT: Everyone does their own thing on the road. You know it’s important to get a lot of rest, but it’s also important to party and go and explore the places and have drinks with the locals…We’re all about having a good time out here…We’re very privileged in having the opportunity to play music all around the world, and it would be a shame if we didn’t do those kinds of things, I think.
SL: When you are writing, what is the process? Do you start out jamming with each other or does one person kind of say, “I’ve got this drum part I was working on, let’s see if it fits together with something you’ve got”?
BT: All the songs come from different places, really. Some of them definitely just come from jamming together, but some come from things we’ve written in the past and stuff that Mike’s been working on or drum things that I’ve been doing, so it’s all very different, really.
SL: Is there anywhere to tour in America that you haven’t gone yet but you still want to go?
BT: I mean we’ve been to pretty much everywhere. We haven’t really spent much time in Florida; I’d like to go there…New Orleans is definitely a place I’d like to get to.
SL: Well, it’s been great to talk to you, thanks a lot.
BT: Thanks to you, too.
Royal Blood will be performing at the Ready Room on Monday, Oct. 5. Doors are at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m.