Losing everything. And there was a lot to lose. In an era when people were falling out of the habit of buying albums in physical form, Royal Blood’s titular debut LP, from 2014, sold more than half a million copies in the United Kingdom alone. Three years later, its successor, How Did We Get So Dark?, cracked the American Top 30. Out on the road, Mike Kerr and bandmate Ben Thatcher, on drums and percussion, were by now playing the largest indoor venues in the country. Good evening Birmingham Arena; we love you Alexandra Palace (over the course of three nights, no less). Preparing the ground on which to record their third album, the duo successfully enlisted the services of Josh Homme as co-producer. It was a period of remarkable elevation. Not just this, but in an unpredictable industry, Royal Blood had maintained their footing.
“For us it was all rather exciting,” says Ben. “Getting this attention, and getting to play gigs every night and having people there. And it just kept on escalating. We kept on meeting these famous people, and our idols.”
All successful bands are required to graft harder than you might reasonably imagine. As well as this, they do so in an environment awash with booze. Unlike every other place of work, the professional musician is invited – actually, encouraged – to help themselves to crates of beer and bottles of wine and spirits provided for free in their dressing room. This year, Frank Turner told the American Podcast Bradley’s House that, “I’ve spent my entire adult life existing in an environment in which alcohol is considerably more readily available than food. And indeed if you drink it all, someone will get you more.” This is the reality of Mike’s surroundings, and of the surroundings of every professional musician. Is it any wonder that many of them drive their needles into the red?
“[Mike] didn’t make it a big thing [out of becoming sober], like, ‘That’s it, I’m done,’” says Ben. “It was almost a step by step thing for him. He kind of realised as he was doing it how bad it was. And I think it’s the same for me watching him do it. You don’t really realise because we’re both together all the time, we’re both always out, and like Mike said, it was fun. But you don’t realise sometimes that you’re in a self-destruct mode and you can keep going and doing that for a long time. But Mike would take it to another level. He would be the last man standing and encouraging everyone. And no-one could beat him. Whereas I have this kind of off button where I can just stop. When Mike had stopped [drinking], I saw a total change in him. I’m just so pleased that he’s come so far with it. It’s a proud thing, really, for me, with him.”