Some rides are so fast, so wild, so vertiginous that you never want to get off. And when they do end, they’re all the more dizzying once you’ve disembarked.
“Going home was so weird,” says Mike Kerr, only now beginning to comprehend the incredible, inconceivable two-year ascent of Royal Blood, the Brighton bass-and-drums duo who shot to the stars between 2014 and ‘15. “I got so fidgety in the same place, really anxious. You’re hanging out with your mates in the pub and it’s really good to see them but you’re staring off like you just had the weirdest dream ever.”
The ultimate rock dream, in fact. When, at the start of 2013, Mike returned from nine months of travelling, and reunited with his old drummer mate Ben Thatcher in the car home from the airport, the pair could have no idea what awaited them.
After a year of honing their sound, built around Mike’s unique doctoring of his bass guitar to sound like an entire band of dark, blues-chewing desert rock psychopaths, they found themselves with Arctic Monkeys’ management (and their t-shirt on drummer Matt Helders’ chest at Glastonbury 2013), a major label deal and a spot as the only rock band on the BBC Sound Of 2014 list. As their gargantuan early singles – ‘Out Of The Black’, ‘Little Monster’, ‘Come On Over’, ‘Figure It Out’ – gained traction and acclaim in the UK, they struck out to America. “We spent most of our time over there, slowly going away at it,” says Mike. “We’d just done the Finsbury Park support with the Arctic Monkeys and it was like day one in America for us. It was back to twenty people in the room, there’s a leak in the ceiling, there’s a guy with an American flag tattoo, we’re in the middle of nowhere. I remember thinking ‘fuck, we’ve got to start again and this country is fucking huge’.”
They can laugh about the time they left Mike behind in a New Jersey gas station now, but at the time America was terrifying. Then the numbers got big, fast. Their self-titled debut album, released in August 2014, was the fastest-selling British rock debut in three years, hitting Number One in the UK and going Top Twenty in twelve countries, including the US. Before they knew it they were singing for Howard Stern (“our record was probably number 300 in the iTunes chart and about two minutes after our Howard Stern interview it was Number Three – playing on that show is like doing a thousand tours”), holding dressing room audiences with Jimmy Page in New York and being presented with a Best British Band Brit in 2015 by the very same guitar god.