With Royal Blood taking a break from recording their third album to kick off a European festival and intimate UK tour, frontman Mike Kerr takes a few moments to talk to Andrew Trendell about their "weird and scary" new material, the state of rock in 2019 and the headfuck of playing so high up the bill at Reading & Leeds this year...
Hello Mike Kerr of Royal Blood fame. How’s progress going on the new album?
“We’re very much in the middle of it. A similar thing happened on the last record where we got to a point where we had some real breakthrough moments. The standard has raised and we hit upon a couple of tunes that were better than anything we’d ever done before. It’s changed the temperature of the water a lot. We were like, ‘Oh shit, what if we had a whole record of these?’ That led to us feeling like we’re not in a rush to put out something that’s mediocre. We’re going to hold out and put out the best thing we’ve ever done.”
So these shows are just to break things up a bit?
“Yeah. It’s been great to know that we’re going to go out and do this six week burst of shows. Too much time in the studio can’t be good for a band like us who pride ourselves on being a live act.”
Has the last year with time away changed the chemistry of the band?
“Yeah. Being in the studio is such a different beast from playing live. Having jumped into rehearsals, we noticed that the band sounds better than ever. When you’re on tour you only play for an hour a day, but in the studio we’re playing for 12. There’s been a huge difference musically and in our chemistry. Hopefully the story will continue this way.”
“If you’re not scared, then it means that you haven’t touched upon anything new or fresh. I think we were waiting for the fear”
On Instagram, you recently said that the current vibe in the Royal Blood camp as “weird and scary”…
“All things scary should feel weird at first. It’s like when you’ve got a new accessory or a piece of clothing that feels scary, you feel a little self-conscious going out in it. Then you catch your reflection and realise that you look cool as fuck. It’s one of those for us. If you’re not scared, then it means that you haven’t touched upon anything new or fresh. I think we were waiting for the fear.”
So these shows are just a matter of getting back in the saddle?
“Yeah. We’re a pretty well-oiled machine so it doesn’t take us long to get back in the game but it’s nice to be playing these songs again. Sometimes there’s a fear of the old songs feeling stale to us but they’re still just so fun. Even some of the classics that we’ve played for nearly five years still hold up. Our shows depend on the audience so there’s only so much rehearsing we can do. We need to be spontaneous and interact with the crowd. We’re pumped and we’re ready.”
“We need to be spontaneous and interact with the crowd. We’re pumped and we’re ready.”
There are some pretty cool and more surprising venues on this tour. Why’d you go for them?
“This isn’t the beginning of an album campaign. This is us in the middle of making an album. We’re not acclimatised to going out and playing an arena at this stage. Just because we can play the bigger venues doesn’t mean that we should or will. We released tickets for these shows straight to the fans and I think that they’ll appreciate that we can play the more intimate rooms. You know, rather than just disappear into the world of arenas where that’s the only context that you’ll get to see us play in. As cool and fun as that is, it’s important for us not just to do that. Either way, it’s nice to be wanted.”
Why’d you choose The Mysterines and Psychedelic Porn Crumpets as your UK tour support?
“The Mysterines I’ve never met but I was introduced to their music at the start of the year and they’re just great. The rock scene is getting better and it’s refreshing to hear that there are proper great bands out there playing together, and not with a fucking laptop doing half the work for them.”
“We’ve played with Psychedelic Porn Crumpets a few times before. They just have a really exciting and fresh take on things. We want to take bands on tour with us that we know our fans will connect with and understand. We want to push what we believe in.”
Laurie from Slaves told us earlier this year that he felt like there there was a lot more attention and goodwill levelled towards guitar music at the moment. Do you feel that way too?
“It feels like a lot of people are constantly trying to take the temperature of rock music and update its diagnosis. ‘Guitar music’ is so vague. I don’t even know what that means. Are we guitar music? We’ve got a bass. It’s just a bit of wood with some strings on. It’s like when people talk about ‘rock n’ roll’ and if it’s dead. The only people who even say ‘rock n’ roll’ are, no offence, but music critics, people who own record stores, people in bands using it ironically or very old rockstars.
“The only people who even say ‘rock n’ roll’ are, no offence, but music critics, people who own record stores, people in bands using it ironically or very old rockstars.”
“I’m just more interested in great music. In a playlist culture, no one listens to one thing any more. If there is a scene where guitar music is being looked upon more favourably, then I’d really wish I was playing guitar right now. But I’m not. I’m playing a bass. Do I make it into the club?”
Alongside the intimate headline shows, you’re playing some pretty massive festival shows too.
“It’s going to be awesome. Reading & Leeds has a very special place in my heart because Reading was the festival that I grew up going to. The first time I went to Reading, me and my friend were about 18 and got so fucked up. We snuck into the main stage area after the headliner had finished. I think it was Kings Of Leon, maybe? Anyway, the two of us got into the field and I thought it would be cool to get on the main stage just to know what it felt like up there. I got caught by security after stepping one foot up. They threatened to kick me out, so it will be nice to be on the main stage and actually invited. It’s going to be rad.”
“We both get a buzz out of winning people over and proving people wrong – as well as being in a setting where it’s OK to be drunk all day and be around people who are drunk all day.”
You’ve said before that you feel more at home at festivals?
“We always see ourselves as making sense as a live band, but I think we make even more sense at festivals. We both get a buzz out of winning people over and proving people wrong – as well as being in a setting where it’s OK to be drunk all day and be around people who are drunk all day. We feel like we fit it.”
You’re playing just before headliners The 1975 on the main stage . Is that slot a headfuck at all?
“I’m still stoked that we get to play in front of people. There’s a pub in Brighton called The Mesermist and I was walking past with my mate the other day. There’s a little spot in the window, and I remember that only about five years ago Ben and I were sat there having our first ever band meeting. The discussion was how to make back the £500 that we’d spent on the demoes. We were planning to just play some gigs and shift a few t-shirts so that we wouldn’t lose anything. Those demoes made up the first half of our debut record. Now I’m having a conversation with you about playing the penultimate slot on the main stage at Reading. It’s trippy, man. It’s the best job in the world and shit like that doesn’t get old. We can’t fucking wait.
Reckon you’ll be roadtesting some new material at these dates?
“Mwaaauuargh… I thought this question could arise. We’ve got some monsters hidden up our sleeves. We’ll see, won’t we? We’ll see how feel on the day.”
Do you have any special plans in place for a huge stage production?
“As we speak, our stage is being built in a big hanger in a mystery location in London. It looks pretty crazy. It’s expensive. We’re spending some money on this one and pulling some stops out. It’s been a while, so we’re really going to put on a show.”
Check out Royal Blood’s European Festival and UK headline dates below
The band perform at Reading Festival on August 23 and Leeds Festival on August 24.