In the mid-1990s, Fear Factory introduced a series of tropes into the metal canon that …
Ahead of the release of their third studio album, Typhoons, Royal Blood took to their Facebook page to share some rather dreamy new images of themselves. “Tinder doesn’t know what’s coming,” the caption began, “#discolizards.” It’s a move that one half of the UK rock duo, Ben Thatcher, laughs squeamishly about. “I look like I’m in an Apple advert on my one,” he jokes.
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“Mike is looking better than ever right now,” Thatcher says of his bandmate and vocalist, Mike Kerr. “He’s got sober, he’s lost a lot of weight, he’s looking good. On this particular photo shoot, he had a bit of a moustache going on, which everyone knows is very sexy.
“Me trying to be sexy isn’t sexy at all. I’m more of the humour guy, the side guy, but that photo shoot, we were having some fun.”
With their new album – much like their latest photo shoots – Royal Blood illicit a new confidence, carrying this release with a certain charm, something suave. “The music is a bit more confident, yeah,” Thatcher says. “It’s still a risky step for us, changing the sound a little bit – but you have to at least look confident at the start or it’s all going to fall apart.”
Royal Blood have absolutely taken, not chances exactly, but the things they’ve dabbled with in past releases – 2014’s self-titled debut and 2017’s How Did We Get So Dark? – they’ve cranked all that to 11 in Typhoons, just to see what happens.
Of course, there’s no rhyme or reason to this consistently vibrant style; Typhoons wasn’t intended as a concept collection nor a series of standalone tracks that didn’t mesh with one another. Though each track is consistently punctuated by nuances established by its predecessor and into the next, Thatcher says they didn’t want to come up with another rock ‘n’ roll Royal Blood album. “We touched on this disco, dance element, something we’ve always loved listening to – like Justice or Daft Punk – for us, those bands are so heavy, but instead of using drums and bass like we do, they use keyboard and light shows and make this atmosphere that’s almost godlike when you see them and you’re in awe. It’s their presence and the music coming from their speakers, you’re addicted to it, like crack.
“We’ve always had that in our music and wanted to change things up a little bit. It wasn’t a conscious decision, we weren’t crafting this around that, not a concept, it just fell out of us and was making us excited about a new venture of Royal Blood, and making us creatively, go places we’ve never been before.”
Once they started rolling out the carpet down that path, Thatcher and Kerr fell down the rabbit hole – ironically, in keeping with the thematic imagery of white rabbits that you’ve likely seen cropping up tied in with the band’s endeavours since their inception. “It’s nothing we’ve really thought about,” Thatcher says of his furry friends, “again, it’s a strange thing.”
We’ve always had that in our music and wanted to change things up a little bit. It wasn’t a conscious decision, we weren’t crafting this around that, not a concept, it just fell out of us and was making us excited about a new venture of Royal Blood, and making us creatively, go places we’ve never been before.
[ Ben Thatcher ]
These non-conscious efforts, these signets that come into play consistently for the group, uphold the style and mantra Royal Blood have established over three albums. “The main thing is, at its base, Royal Blood is Mike and I making things. When it comes from us, it’s always going to sound like us, even if we change our style of playing, you still know it’s me on the drums, and you can tell a Royal Blood riff from anywhere.
“It’s something we’ve built and wouldn’t want to abandon from the first album. It was such a sound for us, but with anything like that, you want to evolve it – you don’t want it to lose its essence, but you want it to breathe, to have space.
“With this new album, it let us do that and it’s let us go about it in a different way, yet still keep what we love about Royal Blood at the centre.”
They’ve indeed pushed the boat out. Even the band’s production and recording efforts took a massive leap forward. Fan favourite Boilermaker, wasn’t without a little beneficial input from another significant rocker – Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme. “But the rest of the album is just Mike and I,” says Thatcher, “and I think with the first two albums, we co-produced them, we built up a little confidence in what we want to do and where the band’s going, that we could actually do a good job ourselves.”
From Thatcher’s perspective, particularly having put together much of Typhoons themselves, it remains a little difficult to say how, and why, this collection is able to stand up so well as it does. All that’s left to do now, is give these songs a live showcase. “It’s so weird releasing new music without having our fans around us,” says Thatcher. “We’d normally be out on the road right now and these songs would be all over YouTube as awful versions on people’s phones!” Thatcher teases. Leave it to the experts to provide the entertainment, we say.