Dan Le Sac Writes

Dan Le Sac Writes: If the music industry is dying, how do you explain Royal Blood? Or, somebody please kill Bono.

By | Published on Thursday 18 September 2014

Royal Blood

Following on from last week’s look back at Bestival, Dan Le Sac has written another column for CMU, this time looking at the rise of Royal Blood. No, it’s not a tedious ‘rock is back’ write-up. This is a message of hope, that it’s still possible to ‘make it’ in music just by being good, without the gimmicks.

At the beginning of September, DIY published an article by Jamie Milton charting Royal Blood’s ascendency from silence twelve months ago to stamping their way to the number one album slot just a couple of weeks ago. The article is online here.

Now, as I read the article, I was waiting, searching for the ‘story’, hunting for the clever twist that gave Royal Blood the edge, yet that gimmick wasn’t to be found. How can this be?

At a time when U2, one of the biggest bands on the planet, feel it necessary to sneak into our iClouds late at night and quite literally defecate their album into our iTunes library so to be heard, where do Royal Blood get off? Who gave them permission to succeed without having a ‘Britain’s Got Talent’-style backstory or OK Go-inspired video? Who do they think they are?

Ask any new band about when they first got to release a few tracks or a debut album, and how hard it was to build and maintain the attention of the music buying public. Frustration will be abundant in the response. In the interest of full disclosure, on more than one occasion Scroobius Pip and I have been guilty of using quirky techniques to get the word out, a fake ‘X-Factor’ video here, a ‘High Fidelity’ spoof there.

Google “Sept 2014 album releases” and in a couple of clicks, after some epic finger counting, you’ll find over 115 albums listed that are out this month, right across the musical spectrum of genre, size and scale. So any band (except U2) can be forgiven for doing that controversial ‘viral’ promo or agreeing to a Converse hook-up to push themselves above the other 114 releases. Yet looking at the last nine months of Royal Blood’s career these routines are nowhere to be seen.

We, the public, are as much to blame for the music industry’s dependency on ‘hooks’ to get us er… hooked. There are only so many hours of the day after all, and those Buzzfeed lists aren’t going to share themselves, so sometimes we need a ‘story’ to pull us in and get us involved. Coupled with the other challenges the music industry is going through at the moment, the fact the world at large seems to need a gimmick to look up can be depressing for new artists. But take another look at Royal Blood. Instead of seeing their recent success as a blip, I choose to see them hope for us all.

I’m not stupid enough to suggest that luck didn’t play its part here – and getting heard by whoever it was who got them those Arctic Monkeys shows didn’t hurt – BUT if Royal Blood do have a trick, it’s glaringly simple. They wrote great songs, smashed a veritable shit tonne of gigs, and did it all with joy. Ultimately, they prove to the doomsayers that if you’re genuinely good at what you do, put in the graft, and play with a straight bat, the world will pay attention.

To cap it all Royal Blood last week secured themselves a Mercury Prize nomination. And, I hope, when you scroll down that shortlist you’ll find in those nominees some more of the hard graft and quality control that I see in Royal Blood.

Certainly Kate Tempest’s ‘Everybody Down’ is a culmination of her honing her art for the last ten years on the spoken word scene and beyond. And East India Youth’s ‘Total Strife Forever’ album was a testament to gritting your teeth and embarking on new beginnings after his Doyle And The Fourfathers band stalled. Young Fathers’ ‘Dead’ serves as a record of them capturing every castle and learning every lesson they can.

So if anyone bumps into Bono et al, please make them take note. If you’d like us all to care about your existence, maybe you should care enough about your work not to treat it like a tramp dropping a turd in the night.