Categories: Arts Pop

Royal Blood finds friends in high places

When English duo Royal Blood issued its self-titled debut in 2014, drummer Ben Thatcher and bassist-vocalist Mike Kerr had no idea that their Black-Sabbath-brutal anthems would catch on in their pop-friendly homeland.

They won a bunch of honors in 2015: A Best British Group Brit Award (presented to them by Led Zeppelin legend Jimmy Page), a Q, a Kerrang! and two coveted NME Awards.

Their lives became somewhat surreal.

“We have so many strange stories of all the people that we meet, there’s almost too many to talk about,” says Thatcher, who appears at Saturday on Outside Lands’ Lands End Stage, backing Royal Blood’s second album “”How Did We Get So Dark?”

He kept company with Rage Against the Machine firebrand Tom Morello, and was befriended by Page, who lunched with him in London on his birthday last year.

“By then, we’d met Jimmy quite a few times,” the percussionist recalls. “So we had some things to talk about with him, so we met at this little restaurant that day. And I told him it was my birthday, so we had some apple crumble together. He’s just a regular dude who’s quite chilled out.”

One of the band’s biggest boosters is Bay Area-based. When it blasted through opening for The Pixies, Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich popped backstage to invite Kerr and Thatcher on a late-night tour of San Francisco, which included a photo-op stop at the “Mrs. Doubtfire” house.

“Then later, when we were at Slim’s, Lars was in the crowd, and we got him up onstage to jam with us.”

Their celebrity powwows are no longer surprising, he adds. “Now it’s just an everyday kind of thing, and we’ve gotten used to it.”

While they felt a dreaded sophomore pressure while figuring out how they could follow stark singles “Little Monster” and “Out of the Black,” when they returned to their native Brighton, they were inspired by the creativity in modern hip-hop and spent six months tinkering with their atavistic approach.

“It wasn’t until we got back to basics that the songs were feeling the most powerful and exciting,” Thatcher says, “I think we have the sound down.”

Although it might seem like “Dark” piledrivers “Don’t Tell,” “Lights Out” and the title track lyrically revolve around seismic cultural shifts, such as Brexit and the Trump election, they don’t.

“The album is written from the past three years of our ins and outs of love and relationships, and I don’t think I need to elaborate,” says Thatcher. “Put it this way: We’re single and ready to mingle!”

10th Anniversary Outside Lands
Where: Golden Gate Park, 30th Avenue at Fulton Street, S.F.; new box office location at 25th Avenue and Fulton Street
When: Noon to 10 p.m. Aug. 11-12, noon to 9:40 p.m. Aug. 13; gates open 11 a.m.
Tickets: $150 to $345 (per day)
Note: Royal Blood appears at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 12 on the Lands End Stage.

Tom Lanham

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