Royal Blood's Mike Kerr: "I wanted to have full access to my playing on this record – and part of that was laying off the booze"

Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher of Royal Blood perform live on the Main Stage during day one of Reading Festival 2019 at Richfield Avenue on August 23, 2019 in Reading, England.
(Image credit: Simone Joyner/Getty Images)

2021 got off to a bang-up start – at least in terms of new rock music – when Royal Blood issued the title track from their third and most recent album, Typhoons, as a single.

Pulsating and high-energy with a rousing, arena-ready chorus, it was already one of the bright spots of the year for new music lovers – yet if the album hadn’t been delayed due to the pandemic, the song might never have even been written.

According to Mike Kerr, bassist, singer and primary songwriter for the U.K.-based bass/drum duo, the album was recorded in pieces during 2020 because of lockdown restrictions, which caused the release date to be pushed to April 30, 2021, and gave Kerr the downtime between recording sessions to keep writing.

“Every time we pushed things back, it gave us more time to write new songs, and because of that the record just kept getting better and better,” says Kerr.

“We thought the record was done about three times, and it was after one of those times that I wrote Typhoons. I wasn’t even necessarily writing a song for the record – I was just kind of fucking around. Once I recorded a demo of it, I was like, ‘Oh no, this actually bangs.’ [laughs] And it ended up being the title track of the record. So the extra time to write gave us space to be more dangerous.”

As the singles from Typhoons began to dribble out – first Trouble’s Coming in summer 2020 and then the title track at the top of 2021 – internet chatter became rife with talk of Royal Blood (which also consists of drummer Ben Thatcher) changing direction this time around and adopting a cleaner, more danceable White Stripes-y vibe compared to such fuzzed-out, cacophonous offerings of their past as Figure It Out, Little Monster and Lights Out.

Kerr doesn’t disagree that there’s been a directional shift with Typhoons, though he qualifies it by saying, “I actually think it’s the same direction, just further along on this trajectory – more of a progression than a change in direction.

“What we’ve done with this record isn’t extremely different, but because the band is made up of such simple components, when you progress at all, it seems very dramatic.

“We’ve added some extra backing vocals and we’re playing some different beats, and there are some extra keyboards and stuff, which I guess is enough to make people feel like it’s a complete reinvention, even though it isn’t.”

I don’t think it would have been possible to make the record I’ve made with the lifestyle that I was living

Typhoons is very much a living, breathing, sonically diverse affair – it grinds, it throbs, it grooves, and is proof positive that Kerr’s songwriting has evolved to a sophisticated, mature state, a fact that he partially attributes to his newfound sobriety.

“I went six or seven years being drunk every day – I’ve drunk more alcohol than most people will in their entire lives,” he says.

“Once I stopped, I realized that I had been missing out on a much better way of living. I don’t think it would have been possible to make the record I’ve made with the lifestyle that I was living.

“I knew that every song on this record had to be a knockout, and I wanted to have full access to my playing – I had to be as sharp as possible in order to write the songs and deliver them correctly. And part of that was laying off the booze.”

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Jeff Kitts

As a teenager, Jeff Kitts began his career in the mid ’80s as editor of an underground heavy metal fanzine in the bedroom of his parents’ house. From there he went on to write for countless rock and metal magazines around the world – including Circus, Hit Parader, Metal Maniacs, Rock Power and others – and in 1992 began working as an assistant editor at Guitar World. During his 27 years at Guitar World, Jeff served in multiple editorial capacities, including managing editor and executive editor before finally departing as editorial director in 2018. Jeff has authored several books and continues to write for Guitar World and other publications and teaches English full time in New Jersey. His first (and still favorite) guitar was a black Ibanez RG550.