Why Royal Blood Could Be The Next Nirvana

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Alternative Nation. Also, “Oh yes I did!” 

Through the last half-decade or more there has been a resounding call from music fans around the world for more good rock music. If the world’s population increases exponentially by the second, why aren’t we drowning in a sea of young Robert Plants and Layne Staleys right now? The 1970’s and 1990’s are arguably heralded as the two most significant periods for rock music. The 70’s saw the rise, then the decline of rock, when bands like Seattle’s Heart traded in their guitars and bell-bottoms for synthesizers and hairspray. Definitely a weird time for music.

Thankfully, for every teenage girl singing Cyndi Lauper into a hairbrush, was her younger brother, listening to Misfits and Black Sabbath records. But without that increasingly generic and uninspired pop music, there’s no catalyst for the rebellion that gives birth to the underground punk movement, which put the wheels in motion for the grunge era.

Mudhoney, Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, STP, Hole, Mad Season, Smashing Pumpkins, L7, Temple Of The Dog… I doubt that I have to underscore how much great music came from this era. Oops, how did I miss Nirvana? Nirvana was the alternative/grunge/rock band that changed everything. I wouldn’t be sitting here right now if not for Nirvana and the impact they had. This site probably wouldn’t exist either.

Grunge had its moment in the sun, and to many of us is still the gold standard for guitar-driven rock, but the dissolving of Nirvana after Cobain’s death, signified the beginning of its end as an era, as many other grunge staples called it quits not long after. However, almost 20 years later, rock fans’ demands for another movement have only become louder. Maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe it’s pioneers like Dave Grohl and Kim Thayil advancing the notion another such movement is just around the corner, but either way, there is a demand for it, much like was capitalized on in the early 1990’s. Heavy, undiluted & raw, it was a musical rebellion that questioned society’s norms, celebrated teen angst, and most importantly, made you think you could do it, too.

This week I was in attendance for a sold-out Royal Blood show in Philadelphia. If you just said, “Who?” you’re probably not alone, and simultaneously are in for a treat. I really didn’t know them for much more than a song they put out a few years ago called, “Little Monster,” which is a really cool song, but in a world of radio-friendly one-hit-wonders, I was reluctant to dig deeper. So I didn’t. My loss.

One of the reasons Nirvana resonated so well was Kurt Cobain’s ability to translate his story into simple, yet no less sonically inspiring, compositions, adding his personal flair to each one, while keeping it all to a minimum. No curly-cues and no frills, just straight to the point. Perhaps Royal Blood’s Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher were paying attention to that recipe when they were working on their eponymous debut album. Pulling influences from bands like Queens Of The Stone Age & Kyuss, Muse, White Stripes, and even Led Zeppelin, the pair strip it raw and just rock out.

At their show on Wednesday the crowds’ response was akin to the energy levels you’d expect at a punk show. Checking their inhibitions at the door, crowd surfers and headbangers were wall-to-wall inside Union Transfer, entirely losing themselves in the music. Royal Blood are not an unknown band by any means, but there was a difference in the crowd’s reaction to the typical big names. It was more of a knee-jerk reaction to the music than it was to the brand. And not being entirely acclimated with the band’s catalog, I can absolutely attest to that fact.

Mike Kerr, bassist, and voice of the band, appeared to be seven feet tall as he sauntered onto the stage to a detonation of applause from the 1,200+ in attendance. After a quick wave to the audience, he strapped into his bass and commenced face melting, introducing a track from their new album, How Did We Get So Dark?, slated for release this Friday, June 16th. Throughout the show, Mike proved himself to be a dominating presence on the stage and quickly lived up to the reputation given him by his explosive vocals and heavier-than-thou guitar-inspired bass riffs.

Ben Thatcher, the crux of this rhythm driven two-piece, was more poised and disciplined than his stage-tramping counterpart, retaining a focused, yet relaxed, air about him, even as his hands became a blur, skimming across his Gretsch drum kit. He did engage the crowd, though, during an encore extended version of their hit, “Out Of The Black,” coming out from behind the drums and walking out onto the rail, and shaking hands with fans and handing off some drumsticks.

These 2 guys, from Brighton, England, however, have unlocked something in people that I haven’t seen in a long time. It wasn’t just the fact that they were able to ignite the crowd. Any band worth their salt should be able to do that. It was more of a feeling that resonated from within the age-diverse crowd. At one point, well into the show, I witnessed a guy, smack in the middle of the horde, probably late 40’s, sporting a retreating hairline, glasses, and now-wrinkled corporate monkeysuit, emphatically serving as a “wave” for a barrage of crowd surfers. Another guy who I talked to as we were waiting for the band to take the stage was there with his 2 teenaged kids, but donning a Soundgarden shirt made it plain to see that he wasn’t just there to chaperone. Lucky bastard had seen Soundgarden at Red Rocks! Such a blending of age groups for a band that isn’t from the 90’s probably hasn’t happened much since the 90’s.

I remember my own father, being a 90’s teen myself, getting into all of the same bands that I was getting into at the time, and he had grown up on Led Zeppelin and the Stones, for God’s sake. You don’t just wantonly get into a new band. There are rules. Standards. Nowadays, if they want that ‘thumbs up’ on your music player they have to pass all the tests the bands that came before them did. I’ve been listening all week to the 10-track debut of Royal Blood and they’ve definitely earned that. They earned this piece. And lucky them, they only have to split it two-ways.

When I make the Nirvana comparison, I’m not inferring that there’s going to be an explosion of 2-piece rock bands coming out of Brighton, though that would be awesome. It’s the energy coming from these 2 musicians that is being reacted to and reciprocated by its fans that is reminiscent of some of the finest times in rock music. It’s not to say, however, that other bands need not rise up to join them. That’s what makes it a movement, and not just one cool band with a great original sound. So many of the other integral pieces are already in place. There’s an undeniable demand, the current social landscape is rife with pent up anger, no matter which side of it you may fall on, and Royal Blood just proved all it takes is you and one of your buddies. And if that doesn’t inspire the next big rock movement, we probably don’t deserve one.

Stay tuned for the interview Alternative Nation did with Mike.

Royal Blood are playing the Bonaroo Festival in Tennessee today, then heading back overseas where they’ll gas Glastonbury, put a hurting on the Hurricane Festival (Germany), and, obviously, rock the Roskilde in Denmark, with other dates in between before returning to the U.S. in August for a few more dates, wrapping up that road trip at Seattle’s infamous Showbox Theater, Portland’s Roseland Theater, and San Francisco’s Golden State Park.

  • Joe Costigan

    Great write up Dustin! They are one of the better new rock bands out there. Sounds like it was a damn good show. I’d love to see Royal Blood and Highly Suspect do a tour together. I do feel that the music industry needs another swift kick in the ass – from the record companies to the radio stations.

    Pop, Rap and Country are all such watered down and boring forms of music – all pop music pretty much sounds the same – pop artists are all parrots with no real talent of their own but propped up by record companies and radio stations that want to put that crap out to the increasingly dumbed down masses, all rappers pretty much look the same, sound the same, have a “lil” in front of their name and talk about the exact same topics – no real artistry there either and the same could be said for what goes for country music – so many impostors, its basically just really watered down easy listening rock music sung by a guy in an southern accent. Rock is where the angst, attitude and noise live. Am I over-generalizing about all those genres – yes but I would say that what I have said about each genre is probably 90% true with a few talented decent outliers.

    Rock/Heavy Rock music has been largely forgotten by the music corporations, major label recording companies, MTV (but than again MTV has been pretty irrelevant when it comes to Rock for about the past 15 years) and rock radio. I was listening to the “Let There Be Talk” interview with Mike Inez and he was saying how AIC goes to festivals where thousands of people show up to listen to hard rock/heavy metal and stated that the music is there but their is no marketing or support from it – I totally agree with that. Their is a large audience out there who listens to and loves heavy rock/metal music.

    I really hope that Royal Blood and some of the other talented bands out there begin to gain more traction and gain a foothold to help with rock re-emerging. Again, great write up Dustin – really enjoy when the site covers newer bands! I have said it before but this site could really help expose many of us readers to new rock and alt bands and am hopeful that the clickbait headlines which generate traffic and money will allow for more of these types of articles.

    • Ladyhawke

      Yes, nice piece of writing.

  • GhastlyFuckFace

    I could not agree more. I saw them two summers back and was blown away. I had a vacation planned from work, and happened to be home the day of the show. Had no idea who they were, but Northern Faces (a local band who I have really liked since about 2010) was opening. Tickets were reasonable, so off I went.

    Oh. Dear. God. I had no idea. Northern Faces killed it, but Royal Blood melted my face off. They hooked me within the first 30 seconds of their performance. Energy through the roof, crowd swirling, turning and bumping for every song. I cannot wait for their new record, and to see them live at the same venue in July.

  • Diet Grunge Sucks!

    Such a shame that mainstream rock music sucks so bad today that a mediocre band like Royal Blood are considered potential saviors of rock. They have always sounded like a far less complex version of Queens of the Stone Age with White Stripes vocals and a sprinkle of Death From Above 1979, but far more generic, and with a limited future direction musically as a two piece. They sound so boring to me, and in the 90’s would’ve just have been a generic sounding band, but now a days in the mainstream this is all we have, and that’s just depressing….

    • Joe Costigan

      Any new bands you recommend?

      • Jordan Young

        The Struts are the next Nirvana

    • Swamps Stench

      Ha HA well said !!! You took the words right out of my mouth! Generic QOTSA!
      This music is 2 decades behind. We need a band that that offers a total new fresh sound not regurgitated and out dated . And its own image.

  • No way Jose…
    Dont believe the hype

    • Joe Costigan

      Any bands you recommend? Looking to get into new bands and would love to hear who you are into.

      • JoelS

        You might like The Glorious Sons, not as hard as RB, but a good rock band. Canada has some pretty solid bands that are poised for success in the states.

  • Bilbo

    Unfortunately with rock being relegated to the underground I see it as almost impossible for any rock band to have a huge cultural impact in the world today. The industry is entirely focused in making money with zero tolerance for taking risks. Royal Blood is a great band, though.

  • Jordan Young

    The Struts are actually the band to really bring back rock music to the forefront

  • Alan Wu

    Trash band. No where near the next Nirvana.