Interview: Ben Thatcher On How ‘Typhoons’ Helped Royal Blood Get Their Groove Back
The road to Royal Blood’s new album, Typhoons, hasn’t been an easy one. During the process, singer Mike Kerr faced his demons and got sober. And just when things were taking off, the pandemic nearly stopped them in their tracks. But rather than sit still, they used the time to refocus and came back tighter and stronger with a new groove-based sound. Reinvigorated, the band is back ready to rock in ways they haven’t before. Once again, drummer Ben Thatcher gives GENRE IS DEAD! some insight into the new album, working with Josh Homme, and the freedom they found making the album.
GENRE IS DEAD!: What I love about Typhoons is it sees you guys going in a different direction, yet you don’t lose that heavy, raw sound. A great example is “Limbo.” It’s a perfect mix of that hard edge rock with a big disco-inspired hook. Can you tell me a bit about that song?
Ben Thatcher: Yeah, it’s exactly as you said. It starts off with an almost old-school kind of disco fill and as soon as the verse comes in it sounds like a car crash. It’s all heavy and manic and goes into a Royal Blood rock kind of mode. It leads up to this euphoric chorus, which is so dancy.
GID: Another standout is “Boilermaker,” which was produced by Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme. Why did you guys reach out to him for that song?
BT: We’ve got a really good relationship with Queens of the Stone Age. We toured with them for a year and “Boilermaker” was the first song we wrote afterward. Mike had gone and done Desert Sessions and saw Josh in his producer role there. He was like we have to get Josh to try some tunes out. “Boilermaker” was one of those songs we took to him and it was an instant banger for us. We were really enjoying it and his contributions to the process were really helpful for us with the rest of the songs for the record.
GID: And you guys actually played “Boilermaker” a few times live, right?
BT: Yeah, we tested it. That song’s been around for two years now. In the middle of recording, we took a bit of time around summer 2019 to do a couple of shows and we played that song a few times. Now everyone requests it on anything we put up on our socials. It’s always “release ‘Boilermaker’” or “come to Brazil.” You could put up a dead cat and someone would comment “come to Brazil” and “release ‘Boilermaker.’”
GID: At least “Boilermaker” will get an official release! Now, you just have to go back to Brazil!
BT: There we go. We’ve already been there twice, but we will obviously go back and play “Boilermaker!”
GID: The closing ballad “All We Have is Now” was certainly a surprise. It feels out of left field for you guys. What was your reaction when Mike brought in that song?
BT: It was just a moment that makes you feel something. It was a song we had to put on the record because it’s so beautiful and he played that live when the mics were on. It was perfect. It was a song I thought would be a shame to leave off the record. We wrote loads of other songs and little interludes that didn’t make the cut. That one was just special. It was a perfect end to the record.
GID: It’s a great track and definitely wraps up the album nicely. In previous interviews, Mike has talked about how making this album was pressure-free. Would you agree with him? If so, what was it about making the previous albums that were pressure-inducing?
BT: Yeah, I definitely agree with what he said. I think with our first record, we didn’t really realize we were making a record. We were recording batches of songs which then came to be one piece of work. When it came to the second record, it was like doing that again but in one go. We had a bit of pressure on us because we knew people were gonna hear it. We’d already established our sound as a band at that time and we were working out how we could still do that, progress, and write better songs. And at that point, we had different people to produce and write with us and we didn’t really know what route to take. With all of that in mind, I think we came out with a great album, but Typhoons just felt like we’re going back to square one where we could really take our time in writing and producing songs we felt comfortable [with] but also pushed the boundaries of what we wanted to create sonically.
GID: Listening to the new album has that powerful energy that hits you in the gut, very much what I felt when I first heard your debut album. That’s the same vibe I get from Typhoons. The album also sees you and Mike handling production duties. What was that like especially during a pandemic?
BT: We kind of knew how we wanted to do this record and how we wanted it to sound, so it’s always hard for someone else to dip their toes into the Royal Blood world. We have such a vision of how we wanted it to look, sound, and feel so we decided to do it ourselves. We’ve worked with producers and done different sessions and different songs with people, but I think when you have such a vision and such a drive to do it yourself you gotta go that path.
GID: Is it something you guys hope to do again in the future?
BT: Absolutely. We’ll never put ourselves in a box and say we can’t do anything else. We’ll go with what feels right, so if that felt right and it feels right again, yeah, we’ll totally do it.
GID: I know it’s hard to say right now with live shows up in the air, but what are your plans for the rest of 2021?
BT: Well, we’re really excited about the new record coming out and we’re gonna be writing more music and we’ve got videos and visuals to think of. I’m sure we’ll keep ourselves busy doing what we always do until we can go out and play. We can’t wait until we play these songs for our fans.
Royal Blood’s new album, Typhoons, comes out April 30th. Grab a copy here.