Interview: Ben Thatcher On How The Pandemic Influenced Royal Blood’s Bold New Direction

The pandemic has changed all of our lives, but for Royal Blood, it also changed the course of their new album. While writing their long-awaited follow-up to 2017’s How Did We Get So Dark?, they were forced into lockdown. Stuck at home, it didn’t take long for them to resume writing and discover their groovy side in the process. The result is Typhoons, an album that sees the band exploring a new sonic direction filled with funky beats, disco grooves, and earworm hooks. Drummer Ben Thatcher tells GENRE IS DEAD! about the band’s new sound, how the pandemic changed the album for the better, and the challenges that came with the bold new direction.

GENRE IS DEAD!: You guys gave us a taste of the new album last year with “Trouble’s Coming.” It’s very much Royal Blood’s take on dance music. Can you tell me how that song came about?

Ben Thatcher: We’d done some writing and recording sessions beforehand; we were exploring different sounds and what we should do next. “Trouble’s Coming” kind of revealed itself to us during that time. I remember looking at [vocalist/bassist] Mike [Kerr] and thinking this is really cool. This could be the blueprint towards what we do next. That’s kind of what it was. That’s why it was the first song we wanted to release. It was the first song with that sound.

GID: You followed that up with “Typhoons,” which is described as “AC/Disco” because it’s got an intense groove, but still has that heavy rock sound. What was the feeling in the studio when you were working on that song?

BT: That one happened during lockdown. We were recording the album and then lockdown happened in the UK and we had to go home. We kept on writing music from our studio in Brighton. “Typhoons” and other songs we wrote during that time totally changed the course of the album. So, when we were able to go in and record again, we had all these new songs, and “Typhoons,” to me, was a favorite. Everything is so thriving and danceable. It was a really good feeling when that song came around.

GID: Would you say the direction for this album would not have happened if it weren’t for the pandemic?

BT: Absolutely. I think you take anything into consideration with what’s going on. And we don’t know what we would come out with if this didn’t happen. Taking that all into perspective, it totally changed what we were doing and the course of this record for the better. I think we had more time to reflect on the songs. It was an unusual time for sure, but we’re more excited with what we came out with.

GID: Did you guys do any recording or writing sessions virtually because of lockdown?

BT: We were safe as possible. During the first lockdown, we had no idea how long it would be ‘til we saw each other again. We were in the middle of recording, so when we went home, we had a bit of time to reflect on what we had already recorded. During the summer we worked from our studio. It’s a space where there’s an upstairs and downstairs, so we were separated – obviously, I’m behind the drums. Most of it was just demos and stuff, so we went to the studio and recorded everything.

GID: How did the new direction challenge you as a drummer? Was there anything you had to learn or adapt to get the sound you guys wanted?

BT: Yeah, I mean for the first two records it’s almost overplaying because there’s so much space. Being able to play rock drums there are lots of things going on. With this new direction, it was more dancy, more groove-based. It’s nothing that I haven’t done before but it was definitely something that Royal Blood hadn’t done before. It was really good to explore those beats with the riffs over them.

GID: Was there one song that was more of a challenge in terms of adjusting your playing style to capture the sound you guys wanted?

BT: There wasn’t anything in particular. We just worked hard on getting the drum sound right and getting parts for songs exactly right because it seems way simpler than it is. There are all these little thought-out moments in each of the songs, but it just took a bit of time to make sure we’re really happy with how it was all sitting.

GID: I can’t wait to hear Typhoons live because so many of these songs are made for the stage. Hopefully, live music will return later this year, but in the meantime, have you guys considered doing a livestream show?

BT: Yeah, I mean there are all kinds of possibilities but they’re all diluted ideas. Really, we want people to be in the same room together.

GID: Have you checked out any livestreams in your off time?

BT: Absolutely, but you’re never really attending them, are you? You have them on your computer, and you can go make yourself a cup of coffee in the middle of it and watch it in your pajamas. For a gig, you want to put on your best jeans and meet your mates at a pub and go see your favorite band, which has a very different effect when you’re opening the computer and trying to log on to YouTube to watch a show.

GID: They are fun, but it’s very different. They just make me miss concerts more. So, Typhoons is one of my most anticipated albums for this year. What albums are you looking forward to this year?

BT: Quite looking forward to Billie Eilish’s new album whenever that comes. Architects are bringing out an album in a couple of weeks. Mike’s on one of the tracks as well. It’s a great track; he’s done a great job. That’s gonna be good and obviously, I’m looking forward to Royal Blood Typhoons coming out.

Royal Blood’s new album, Typhoons, drops April 30th. Pre-orders can be found here.

Ashley Perez Hollingsworth

Ashley Perez is a freelance music journalist based in Chicago. Her work has appeared on AXS, The Crypt 1331, Chicago Innerview, New City, The Millions, and Reality-Comics. She also runs her own music blog at Radio Not Found. Some of her favorite bands include Nirvana, The Cure, Muse, Marilyn Manson, and Green Day.

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