From DRUM! Magazine’s September 2017 Issue | Text And Transcription By Andy Ziker | Video Lesson By Marc Carmi Smith
After a relatively quick rise in popularity, Royal Blood could easily have gone through the motions on their second release. Instead, singer/bassist Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher upped their game with a refined sound. On How Did We Get So Dark?, Thatcher takes more liberties, but his ability to play just what the songs needs is the engine behind this power duo. A punchy drum sound, syncopated hits, thematic groove patterns, and articulate, meaningful fills mesh perfectly with Kerr’s distorted bass and Matt Belamy-esque (Muse) vocal melodies.
“How Did We Get So Dark”
Thatcher’s parts flow so well from section to section in “How Did We Get So Dark” that it was necessary to transcribe all the way through the form (verse, prechorus, chorus, and instrumental interlude). In the verse, off-beat open hi-hat bumps on the (1) & and (4) & give the listener something to latch onto, an eighth/sixteenth fill down the drums in measure eight smoothly leads into an anticipation (hit on the & of 4), and a strategically placed tambourine on the & of 2 perks up our ears.
Thatcher continues the bass drum pattern in the prechorus (and the chorus for that matter), but switches the right-hand texture to accented crash. A power flam played every other measure on beat 4 is a nice touch. In the chorus, Thatcher again changes the texture and increases the intensity by switching to two-handed sixteenths on closed hi-hat. Notice how the hi-hat accent placed on 1 and 3 creates a floating sensation. In the interlude, Thatcher plays short, catchy fills while still keeping the groove going. Finishing off this section is a two-measure fill reminiscent of founding Cheap Trick drummer Bun E Carlos.
Another example of his ability to compose memorable but tasteful drum parts, in “Lights Out” Thatcher uses a repetitive John Bonham-ish pattern in the first eight bars. He then cuts that phrase in half in the next six measures, while adding a cool sixteenth-note lick on the & of 2. After a refreshing stop, Thatcher plays a challenging, syncopated combination right from a power flam into off-beat crashes.