Earlier this summer, before Dave Grohl summoned their “encouraging” sound to open for their tour and before Metallica’s Lars Ulrich lured them on a late night trek to the white clapboard house from Mrs. Doubtfire, Ben Thatcher was drenched in sweat in Montreal. They’d just played the Scene de la Vallee Coca-Cola stage before The Replacements took the main-stage.
We caught each other waiting for the bathroom stall, commending the catering and its natural side-effects before we sat down for an impromptu interview that covered his musical upbringing under his family’s staircase, thoughts toward Dave Grohl, and that fated evening when the sound first clicked for Royal Blood.
AMBY: How’s this festival season been for you this far?
Ben: Festival season has been amazing, it’s been our first time doing it so we’ve had a lot of fun. It’s good because you get to kind of see a lot of bands that you really like – and if you didn’t see that, audience obviously you didn’t, I just got thrown a bag of sweets and caught them – anyway, it’s just fun because you get to meet bands that you love and that are doing the same kind of thing, touring and festival circuit and you get to hang out with them. I’m bummed that the London Grammar guys are not here today because we Lollapalooza with them and they did here and we just switched, but those guys are great.
AMBY: What kind of perspective does it give for you toward your wife and home, now that you’re on this run?
Ben: I mean, life changed very quickly, but yeah you have to find your feet again and see how things go – obviously for Mike, it’s a lot easier because he doesn’t have a wife. Sometimes she comes out on the road, she’s all good. We miss our friends and we miss things like that, obviously our lives are quite hectic at the moment, doing a lot of things.
AMBY: Has there been a moment where you could remove yourself from the hectic and realize what’s going on around you?
Ben: Not really. It’s so quick and you’re on stage one moment then you’re off and quickly have to go to the next place. You just have about enough time to sleep.
AMBY: When you’ve worked at the pub with the other bands, teaching drum lessons – how is that difference, going from have these expectations of what it is like to be in a band and experience success?
Ben: You’ve done your research! I love this. It’s totally different. Totally. It’s another world almost, it’s like you can’t really describe it unless you do it. It’s very natural but unnatural, this is not a thing that people – for me, I’m just enjoying it on this roller coaster and having a good time. As long as you’re having a good time, I think the moment you get bored of it or miss home so much that you can’t do these kind of things, that’s when you have to reconsider what you do.
AMBY: Are these conversations or questions you have with other bands who have been doing it a bit longer?
Ben: Not really. I think everyone is very different, everyone comes from different backgrounds and situations at home or with relationships and so, I don’t think anyone has the advice that you need because obviously, our lives are a lot different to theirs. They might have a lot more time off, but you make it work.
AMBY: In almost every article about you has the Arctic Monkeys endorsement reference or the Jimmy Page, Muse and everybody that was on board. In the mix of all that, when did it encapsulate to some feeling of surrealism?
Ben: All of those things are pretty big. There was one moment for me at SXSW Festival, all before we met Muse or anyone really. There was a guy there, we played a show and he grabbed me off-stage asking for a picture. We got talking and he ended up sending the picture of us to Dave Grohl, he turned out to be good friends with Dave. I’m a huge Grohl fan – his drumming is insane, I grew up listening to all that. That was a moment when I was like ‘Whoa. That was cool.’ It was a fun, exciting moment.
AMBY: When you think about Grohl when you were growing up to beating on the pans in your kitchen – what really kicked it off? A family member? Animal from ‘The Muppets’?
Ben: I had to discover music myself. My parents weren’t musical at all. They did have a record player, which my older brothers and sisters used to use and play some stuff, but I was really inspired by my brother-in-law who was a drummer, he used to play in a band. He was much older, he was married to my sister who was 16-years older than me. He was playing in bands, so I was watching him and kind of going to playing watching him. He’d sort me out with gear, drum sticks and bits like that. He was a good resource to have as a drummer early on.
AMBY: Your parents didn’t seem to mind, beating on everything?
Ben: My parents bought me my first full-sized drumkit at the age of 6. I don’t know if they bought it actually or if a friend gave it to them for my birthday. It was a little Harry Potter-esque, it was under the stairs. I used to have an under the stairs cupboard, that’s where the drums were packed into and that’s where I would learn how to play.
AMBY: Do you wonder if your child would want to be doing the same thing?
Ben: I’m never afraid of that. I would be privileged if they did decide to do that.
AMBY: What’s one thing that you’d tell yourself at that age, that you know now?
Ben: Don’t give up on having fun. That sounds a bit weird, but I think that when I was at the age of 20, I really wanted to make it happen and I really wanted to do everything to be in a band and with that I think that you put a lot of pressure on yourself and on the band. Obviously, you’re trying to do the best that you can, playing the best shows that you can and trying to write the best songs that you can, but I think during those years, you are always learning. If you look at the Arctic Monkeys, for instance, they were a band at the age of 18 to compare them then to how old they are now – they’re just a bit older than me – and that transformation there, they learned a lot getting to where they are. I think you always do learn a lot. The key for me is – do not take it too seriously and always have a lot of fun doing because that’s how Royal Blood came about, because I gave up on bands and trying to make it as such. I just wanted to have, in the end, writing some songs with Mike and just having some fun.
AMBY: Do you remember the moment when the sound clicked for you guys?
Ben: Kind of. Mike had been traveling and came back, I picked him up from the airport and said ‘Let’s write some songs together.’ Cool. He had this big bass sound out in Australia and had kind of got it together. He had a few song ideas, which we had an hour rehearsal and developed them into almost a song, played a show that night, which was incredible because Mike had been traveling for nine months and we played this song in his hometown. All of our friends came because they wanted to see Mike and then we played – how’s that happen? That’s insane. How have you written these songs so quickly? Mike had made up the words on the spot, but we kind of got the gist of it. It’s funny because some of those songs are our singles now.
Thank you Royal Blood, for giving us your answers!
Interview by Colton Eddy | @coltondaniel