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Royal Blood Electrifies The Roxy: Show Review

Alexa Girkout |
May 18, 2014 | 2:40 a.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Hardly two years old, Brighton rock duo Royal Blood appeared on one of the biggest stages at England’s five-day behemoth Glastonbury music Festival last June— on a t-shirt.

The duo made an impression on a certain drummer from another British band, the Arctic Monkeys, who share the same management and have lately become exponentially popular in the States for their radio hit “Do I Wanna Know?” Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders heard Royal Blood’s music and called the band with a simple request.

“Matt just asked us if he could wear one of our t-shirts at Glastonbury, so we just made one,” said Royal Blood drummer Ben Thatcher. “We didn’t have any t-shirts so we made him one and he wore it at Glastonbury. It was awesome.”

Long before they graced the t-shirt of one of Britain’s most notable rockers at one of its most notable events, Thatcher met his bandmate, bassist and lead singer Mike Kerr, when they were both 16 years old.

“I don’t think he liked me first ‘cause I was in a relationship with a girl he fancied,” Thatcher wrote in an email, after his transatlantic phone call dropped due to faulty reception.

In fact, Thatcher and Kerr initially teamed up in a wildly different collaboration, in which Thatcher played guitar and Kerr was on the Keytar. The axe, however, wasn’t Thatcher’s instrument of choice. 

“I’ve drummed ever since I can remember,” said Thatcher, who received his first drum kit at age six. “It’s a strange thing to say and maybe it’s a little cliché, but drumming was the only thing I was ever going to do. It’s like it was in my blood.”

Thatcher called his first musical venture with Kerr pretty strange, but something seemed to click when the pair decided to have a go at a band of their own in early 2012.

Their music is dynamic, thumping, gritty and raw. It drips with vindictive venom and fiery fury (“Mike is a very angry man,” Thatcher jokes).

Limited to just two performers, the band strains to achieve a sound bigger than their number and yet achieves an amplification that could fill an arena. One could imagine the roaring energy Royal Blood could produce if only it added another member, but Kerr and Thatcher prefer to stick to their partnership instead of accruing additional bandmates to overcome some of their limitations.

“Since there’s two of us, it becomes a little bit more of a challenge because you can only do two things, but we strongly feel like we shouldn’t be using another guitarist,” Thatcher said.

They certainly didn’t need one when they played the historic Sunset Strip stage at The Roxy on May 15. The somewhat timid, but undeniably charismatic, musicians tore up the venue, which was seemingly brimming at its 500-person capacity with eager fans hoping to verify the hype.

Despite having only four songs on their "Out of the Black" EP, the Brighton lads electrified the crowd throughout their brief, nearly uninterrupted 45-minute set.

Kerr paused only briefly, jokingly announcing, "I'd like to introduce you to the rest of the band"which drew laughs"This is my friend Ben." The crowd thrust fists in the air, pumping rhythmically to lines like "Don't breathe when I talk / 'Cause you haven't been spoken to" from the EP's eponymous single track.

With sweat seeming to dripping from pulsing amps, Royal Blood closed off the night, to raucous cheers and the faint, but distinct pleads for an encore. The band's encore came the following night on "Jimmy Kimmel Live," where the late-night talk show host introduced them as Friday's musical guest.

Their formula translated effortlessly from the more intimate setting of The Roxy to Kimmel's high-profile spotlight. They just lean into their music, and let their infectious, thumping anthems carry their performance.

Thatcher said, "We just get in a room and start playing music together with no intention, a little bit like a puzzle how we do it. [Kerr] writes some riffs and I'll write a drum bit and we'll put it together."

Who knows if Thatcher is exaggerating the ease he seems to convey, but it's obvious that Royal Blood has the right pieces. The band just needs to keep assembling.

Reach Staff Reporter Alexa Girkout here



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