I catch up with Royal Blood, the rock phenomenon who have demanded the ears of us all over the past 8 years, amidst the release of their new album Typhoons. The Brighton duo joins me over Zoom and we kick off the interview talking about Ben’s lockdown birthday which consisted of lots of tequila and some nice long walks with his partner, trying to utilise a situation to its best potential. Something the band have done a lot of over lockdown as they used the time to recuperate and launch their best album to date.
“Yeah, lockdown now is just life. So there’s time to do nothing. There’s time to procrastinate. There’s also time to be productive.”
Mike tells me he’s been learning French and Ben has got domestic telling me he will be deep cleaning his car after the interview, so it seems we’ve all taken up some new and exciting activities during this weird time.
“Before the pandemic and the lockdowns we had set ourselves time anyway to do this (the album). So it was a little bit frustrating knowing that we weren’t able to go out on the road and play these songs live. But by looking back, it did give us extra time to double-check ourselves as well as being able to continue writing, even though we’d made our album. Every time we went back to the studio to write we’d come up with a couple more songs, and we’d end up adding them to the record. And so throughout the first lockdown, It turned out to be really, really good for the album. It made it a lot better.”
As a group so used to being on the road I wondered how frustrating not being able to get out and show off the new album was and whether they had any other plans to give fans a good night out, be it live stream or socially distanced gigs?
“We are going to wait until we can play live. We’re hoping to go on tour around early 2022, that’s what we have in a diary at the minute. Like everyone else in the industry, we’re all waiting to know when we can get back to normal. But in the meantime, as everything is uncontrollable at the moment we will put this record out knowing that it’s an uplifting and euphoric and fun sounding album, and although we’re unable to go and play live, hopefully, people will enjoy it from the privacy of their own homes for now. And when we do get to go back to play live, it’ll be incredible.”
With work from home in place for the majority of 2002, and by the looks of it 2021 following in the same way, I wanted to know how both Mike and Ben managed with restrictions to add to get the album finished?
“I guess this is one lucky thing about being a two-piece is that, at times when we did have to have a bubble, we could do that. And then other times we would be able to have an engineer, and we’d all have to get tested before we go down. It’s been pretty good in terms of being able to be physically together. There were a few times that we had to separate. But that’s one of many pros of being in a small band. Yeah. The world’s smallest gang.”
Their latest single ‘Trouble’ further delves into tales of dark spells and mental ill-health, themes that were present in their 2017 album How Did We Get So Dark?. This new material expands on those feelings encapsulating the highs and lows of dark emotional states and the desire to just escape.
“Music’s a great way that we express ourselves. We always create from a personal perspective. So on this record, in particular, the only reason that the lyrics and the songs are covering these subject matters is by default. I’ve experienced a big change in my life. And, and weirdly, I had to be in a good mental headspace in order to articulate being a bad one.
I think it’s (low points in mental health) something everyone experiences, We’ve been asked before by a few; Do you suffer from mental health issues? Or do you suffer from depression and my view on it, is that it’s part of the human experience, it’s part of being human being, it’s totally normal to experience periods of depression, or anxiety, or, you know, just having a bad spell. In the same way that it’s like, almost like being asked, like, Do you suffer from laughter? Do you suffer from shyness or do you suffer from excitement? It can be a weird question because they’re just all human emotions that we experience, both dark ones and light ones. It just so happens on this record it became part of the subject matter. I don’t think we realised. We thought we were making a disco record and then we got to the end of it, and we’re like, this is something else.”
In a world where we pigeon hole everything, a lot of the time Royal Blood take a different approach. Instead of focusing constantly on the bad and the role that comes with it, they focus on the good and the power of music.
“It’s can be really negative, how we as humans focus on what’s wrong with you. A lot of people feel it and experience the low, but opening up about the bad stuff is the best thing you can do because it does lift you up. Talking about it helps. But for us music is so powerful as an escape. When you come to one of our shows, people, they’re all their have a good time and feel good. And even though whatever is going on in their lives for that hour and a half, it kind of stops. People are together and enjoying themselves.”
“I think music is so good at doing that. I almost think even if we weren’t talking about these issues in our music, it doesn’t take away from how profound distraction can be and it doesn’t, it doesn’t have to solve the problem, you know. I think it’s okay to have moments of respite, that don’t necessarily solve a problem, but certainly don’t make it worse. I think music’s great at that.”
When it comes to mental health, although escapism is good it only seems right we ask Ben and Mike what they’ve found helps in the longer term.
“There are so many things you can do, and there are so many things you shouldn’t do.”
To which Mike quickly chips in, “I know what you shouldn’t do, which is drink loads of alcohol and try and drown your problems.”
“We all know that doesn’t work. Well, it does work. The immediate results are fantastic. In the past when I felt really sh*t, it’s like, two drinks, and like boom, it’s gone. And then reality kicks in and it’s actually getting progressively worse and worse. So my advice is don’t turn to drugs or alcohol and expect it to solve your problems. My second piece of advice would be, don’t be on your own. Don’t suffer on your own. A way to think of it is, you’re not as special as you think you are and whatever you’re going through in your own mind which feels like this bespoke trauma - isn’t. Someone else is going through the exact same thing as you and will completely understand. The world’s full of lonely people waiting for someone else to say something first. So speak, speak to someone that you trust and tell them what you’re experiencing.”
“Give yourself a little bit of, self-care and thought for yourself. It’s normal to feel shit in these times.”
As the boys look forward to a world where they can be with fans playing the ‘ultimate party’ the most of all look forward to spontaneity, whether it be a gig, finding their way to a bar or simply being with their fans. The future, they hope, is bright.
Words: Alice Gee
I meet with Hayley over zoom in my sweat pants from the comfort of my lounge. With COVID I have found myself slipping into my sweats more often than I’d like to admit, but i’ve still been doing my make up even though the furthest I’m going is from my bedroom to the kitchen. I genuinely long for an occasion to look fabulous and spend longer that 5 minutes on myself In the mirror. Meeting with Hayley (albeit online) was a breathe of fresh air. As she entered the chat room Hayley looked as glamourous as ever, fabulously dressed, not a hair out of place.
As we talk, Hayley explains how for the past 8 years she’s lived out of suitcases with a longing to find a stable home. With the pandemic, she has found a real sense of desire to settle down and nest.
“We are moving here currently, so it’s been a bit of a bit of a journey. I was supposed to move a lot sooner but then COVID hit. It’s my first time actually moving this much stuff as well, all the way back, like cross country”. Having travelled between, LA, New York and the UK so frequently with her work life it’s no surprise she found herself contemplating roots and where she would truly like to call home. Lockdow has brought her jet setter life back down to earth.
“It (COVID) kind of just put things, into perspective. I’ve decided that LA is probably where I want to start building my home. I’ve been living out of suitcases, consistently and I was fine with it because I found that home really comes from me being connected to my being. I felt like home was wherever I was. But during the pandemic, you start to realise, where do you really want to be? Where do you want to grow, and what does home really mean to you? So, yes, being settled is so important. I think so many people are realising that from this period of time more than ever, So I’m really looking forward to be settled in LA.
Over the past 10 years, Hayley has become a leading figure in the body confidence movement, relentlessly campaigning on the page and the screen including appearing on Good Morning Britain to launch Marie Claire’s Well Being Division.
“Size doesn’t define your health. But because of society, it makes you sort of feel they are different things. What I was trying to project when I was GMB is that 1.7 million girls in the UK struggle with an eating disorder. The language we use needs to be treated with kindness and care and needs to be more open and inclusive to all shapes and all body types as well as letting people remember that fitness is a great pitch to be able to help your mental health it’s not always about losing weight. Our society it’s so heavily tied into the myth that ‘fitness means losing weight’ and it’s like no, fitness means getting in tune and connected with your body, including your mental health and your mental wellbeing.”
“No matter who you are in this industry, you still do get affected every single day by concerns or worries that people project onto you.
We’ve been trained and manipulated when we were teenagers to have a negative relationship with food. I felt that as a teenager. But I think over time, you start to realise, “no, who am I doing this for?” You need to live for you and find what works for you and your regime. Health is always the number one”.
After weeks of loosing my style mojo over the pandemic, I feel a spark reigniting speaking with Hayley about the power of fashion. I’m certainly not alone in saying staying home has resulted in loosing confidence in myself when it comes to my body and fashion. As much as it can be a faff, I find there is nothing more liberating than dressing to the nines with my friends on a night out. Even on some of my worst days, it can give me the edge over breaking down when I feel at my sexiest and powerful. Over the years Hayley has tried to teach other women that what you wear can dramatically change how you feel.
“Styling on This Morning was always such a blessing, because we would do a lot of makeovers. I would work with women from all ages and sizes. It was amazing for me to have that opportunity to work with such a diverse group of women and being able to capitalise on their own personalities and how that can come to life. But most importantly, how fashion can really build confidence for somebody.”
“I mean, I’ve seen it and I know that for me, I’ve always said the reason why I’ve always felt comfortable in my figure is because of the outfit I’ve got on. That’s what has made me feel so good. It’s something I found out about at a very young age, which I’m so blessed for.”
“I want to give that back to other people, to be able to understand that fashion can really be your best friend. It can be your clutch on those bad body days. I’ve seen it when I’ve dressed different women. Many have come to me and said ‘I’m really insecure about this part of my body’ and I’ll put them like in a pleather legging and they’ll stand up straighter and the walk differently without even realising they’re doing it.”
Recently, we’ve began to see a real change when it comes to high fashion becoming more diverse. Septemeber’s SS21 catwalks featured plus sized models walking in major fashion house’s shows for the very first time. Something Hayley thinks will dramatically improve the self confidence of female consumers.
“I think it’s amazing. It’s been a slow and steady ride to get to where we are, but I would say the last you know, couple seasons have been really substantial. You’ve got Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Kors, Versace and Fendi coming out this season. It’s amazing to see that people are listening and wanting to be a part of the change.”
“I think sometimes people discuss; is it just ticking off a box? Is it going to happen again next season? Is it just something that they feel like they’re jumping on the bandwagon of? I truly hope that that isn’t the case. What we’ve seen with Tommy, Michael, and Christian is that that hasn’t been the case. Every season, there are more plus size models to their runway shows, and they understand that availability needs to be there. I used to go into Chloe and I would buy things and I would cut it off. I would be able to figure out a way that I could still wear it while it would fit my size. So I think it’s amazing that finally they’re understanding that there is this whole other sea of women out there that are looking to purchase from them. It’s so silly, why they wouldn’t open up their sizes and understand that they, their customers, the people who look up to them, want to be able to wear their clothes. And when you shut off a certain size range, you’re basically saying that that person is not worthy of that collection.”
“We did two collections and they were sold exclusively at Nordstrom. And when I designed them it was all about finding tailored pieces that were of luxury. The High Street has opened up their size ranges which is gorgeous, but they still make women of that size, feel excluded when they go into the store. Ultimately it’s about not making your customer feel discriminated against because of their size. Fashion is something that’s inclusive for all and we should be designing for all”.
As someone who has struggled with an eating disorder and watched so many people I know and love struggling with their attitude to weight and food, I’ve seen how mental health and body confidence go hand in hand something Hayley herself is no stranger to.
“I’ve dealt with anxiety since I was a kid. I’ve tried to find ways to really walk alongside of it but a lot of my anxieties are actually body anxiety. Anxiety looks different for every single person, I always want people to be able to remember that when they talk about anxiety, because it’s not like it has one poster face or one poster feeling. I think it’s different for each person. And for me, it’s always been in my body, which is why I think that the three M’s are so important to always live by, which is movement, mental engagement, and mindfulness. And I really do live my every day with that, and making sure that I always try and get either, if I don’t get some sort of movement into my body, when it comes to like a workout, I’ll definitely try and stretch it out of my body in the morning.”
“I started a couple of different things within the mental health space, one of them being to redefine your conversation for well being, which was an IGTV series I did with about 40 of my friends in the industry to talk about their ownership of selves and their mental health journey. We all have bad days. Many people are dealing with it for the first time, they don’t understand maybe why their chest is feeling tight, or their head is running a mile a minute, and it’s giving it back and saying, It’s okay to feel the feelings that you’re feeling.”
“Within my own personal journey with anxiety I know that I’m the only person that can truly help myself get through that. And it’s living without judgement, right? So it’s allowing myself to feel those feelings and not judge myself. And then validate those feelings, acknowledge them, feel them process and move on. Sometimes I get that day off between my flights, and I would crash and I would have to just sleep all day. And I would say to myself, don’t feel guilty about having a day of rest. You have to not live with judgement right now because this is what your body is saying that you need to be able to get back to those good days.”
“I think we all have a duty now to be able to speak up and speak out about things that we’re passionate about. And I think mental health is one of the biggest leading causes within that, but I know that I will be adaptable to change, and for that I am so grateful for.
It’s been a beautiful journey for me being part of Mary Claire UK. I’ve been very blessed to continue to work, so I hope it continues.
Words: Alice Gee
Cabbage have just released their third studio album ‘Amanita Pantherina’, or so we thought, “It’s a strange one, it is our third album, but it’s technically the second. Very very confusing I know”, and like the rest of the country the band have been in lockdown for the majority of the year. So how have they been coping with this massive change of circumstances?
“You know we’ve been ok, we’ve recently had a bought of COVID hit Cabbage, so we had a little bit of time off. The bass player caught it at the gym he was training at, then a few of the lads got it, so we took possibly three weeks out. There was something, I suppose unique about it at the start, but now it’s quite frustrating, very very tedious. Hopefully there’s a huge light at the end of the tunnel and we can all get back out on the road, start enjoying live shows again.”
Despite being stuck inside for most of the year, the boys took the situation in their stride, completely recording and producing their third album in their very own studio. “It was an experience that we felt was necessary, we’d done the major labels, we’d been in the big studios, we’d done the DIY, so this was something that we were always kind of aiming for.
So when we finally built a studio to a standard that it could record at, it made a lot of sense. We had a lot of discussions with management at first as to whether it was wise for us to take the whole thing on ourselves, and we sent them over a couple of songs that we’d recorded, and they went right brilliant, let’s do the rest of it, that sounds fantastic!”
After working on a project for so long and independently, it will undoubtedly always have a special place in their hearts. Although, there is always one or two of the tracks that have a much more significant meaning “Not to sound completely opportunist, but we’ve got a song called ‘Once Upon A Time In The North’, and Andy Burnham’s recent push forward for the protection of Greater Manchester has massively influenced us.
The song is reflective of his message to the government about the situation he felt Greater Manchester was put in. So it will always hold, even 20 30 40 years reflecting back to what it was like living in COVID times. I think that song is always going to have a special place in my heart now because it’s always going to remind me of that riveting speech that Andy Burnham gave, that brought a tear to my eye.
Cabbages’ third album ‘Amanita Pantherina’ has a completely different vibe and mission than their previous two albums. “We’ve definitely brought more of a colourful and vibrant side to it. I think the last album ‘Nihilistic Glamour Shots’, in terms of mental health, that was our reaction to what we’d kind of been through as a band, and that was the way we could sort of get things off our chest. So i think now that we’ve kind of reflected and grown up, I’ve got a family now, that gives me more of an opportunity to show a happier side to music. I think that was a very dark dark album so it’s good to return back to form and have more of a vibrant side, and being able to shout about silly politics”.
“We always said when we were gonna record an album we’d always called it a time capsule, we wanted it to reflect exactly the time period so we could listen to the albums and put ourselves back into the state of mind that we were in at the time. We’ve done that so far, so we’re quite proud of the back catalogue”. After the release of an album, the next obvious move is to take it on tour and be able to see firsthand the reactions and the energy from the fans. But, due to the current climate, it’s not possible and by the time opportunities for touring come about, fans will be wanting new music. “It’s kind of weird because obviously we’re already working on the new album, so I feel like by the time we’re actually gonna be hitting the road to show people what this album sounds like live, we’re already gonna be ready to release a new one. We always said that we wanted to be as productive as possible. We always claim that if Mark E Smith can release an album a year for 40 years, then what’s stopping us from doing
it for at least 10 or 20!”
COVID-19 has killed off a lot of small businesses but none have been more effected than some of our favourite grassroot independent music venues. For bands such as Cabbage, the closure of these venues can have
a massive impact. “The news that Gorilla and Deaf Institute announced that they were closing really hurt. Some of our best gigs have been at these venues, so to hear that things like covid has the possibility to close them down, anybody that’s into live music knows how important and how special independent music venues are. They are the absolute lifeblood of culture and society.”
Festivals have also been significantly impacted by the coronavirus, with all major outings being cancelled. Thousands of people in the country are dying to get back to a muddy field including the Cabbage boys who have been reminicing. “The experience to play an actual festival would’ve been nice. I can’t wait to see what festival line ups are gonna be like next year, it’s gonna be every tom, dick and harry that are gonna want to perform.”
“I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Beat-Herder. It’s a festival in Lancashire and it’s just one for an experience, may I say. You get the old school hippies who’ve been on acid for 40 years, you get the chavs in the dance tent, and then you get some crazy rock n roll stuff going on all over the place. But we ended up playing at like two in the morning on this on this crazy castle stage, and that was a massive festival highlight, Check it out Beat-Herder.”
But the shut down of the live circuit doesn’t mean time away from the practice room. Cabbage have been touring since 2015 and have been keeping their rehearsal schedule tight in preparation for that first gig back. “We’ve been rehearsing quite recently. The last rehearsal that we had, we just kind of focused on what we call ‘the classics’, they’re not quite classics, but they’re classics to us anyway, we focused on all the old songs, and I think that kind of put a bit of a downer feeling over everything. I think that was the thing that probably affected me most just not being able to experience that release you get while you’re playing live.”
A question we had saved to break up the interview slightly, was to dive into the love between Cabbage and Coronation Street. We wanted to get down to the bottom of the ‘mild’ obsession ourselves. “Being Mancunians in one way or another, we kind of see Corrie as just like, that thing that represents our city quite well to everybody else. Joe’s from Lancashire, so he’s an absolute Corrie fanatic.
“Anyone who’s from round here, you
just see Corrie, as like, well it’s weird you wanna say it’s from just like round the corner from your house, but it’s so dramatised. The humour and the comedy could well be from the town that I live in, the things people say. The writers are really good and really clever at capturing Manchester humour and sort of the way Manchurians want to live their life in one way or another. I can’t say i’m not proud of Coronation Street being a Manchester stalwart.”
Its clear Cabbage have been able to stay creative and productive over lockdown, but for many its been a challenging period. The boys, however, have chosen to focus on the unexpected positives.
“I suppose at first it was the novelty
of having down time, so me and my family we completely enjoyed the time we had to ourselves. It was almost like you’re so isolated from the world you just get to enjoy eachothers company. So the massive novelty of that was beautiful almost.”
“I love what’s happening with the male side of mental health at the minute because the worst thing for a man to do is pretend like everything is ok. Someone who’s been massively helpful, before I started getting into it a little bit more, is a poet called Leon The Pig Farmer.” The ‘Manchester dwelling Yorkshireman Beat Poet with a little more than a lot to say’, who writes poems surrounding male mental health. “He’s been that helpful that we dedicated a song to him. He read me this poem and I was so taken aback, I just had to write a song dedicated to him.”
Their second album ‘Nihilistic Glamour Shots’ is incredibly reflective of a time in their lives mentally, and how they had all had experiences one way or another with mental hardship.
“We went through dark times as a band, so we used our platform to express exactly how we felt. I think that the band has always kind of had a little bit of an injustice feeling. We’ve always lived in a time that’s completely controlled by the Conservative government, and I don’t feel like there has been anything more unjust than the Conservative politicians telling working class northerners how to live their lives. I think with that album, the experiences we had, and the injustices we felt were put onto us, we just went full throttle. I guess you could say that’s the reason for that dark undertone.”
Being able to normalise mental health issues and talking openly is something that Cabbage feel strongly about. “It secretly affects males all across the board. It doesn’t matter what you’re into, what your passions or goals are. I think if every culture of society had a spokesperson that could influence males to possibly not feel trapped, then maybe that would have a positive influence.”
Communication is a huge element in the normalisation of mental health, and listening to others openly without judgement. Social media has played both a positive, but also very negative role in the mental health movement. Creating Space for that communication while also increasing feelings of isolation and anxiety. “I think the way social media and technology has gone, communication has hit a bit of a low point in society, particularly in a way that we agree and disagree with each other on issues. Maybe it’s time for people to start being a little bit kinder to themselves, and start trying to figure out a way we can make communication a key point of how we deal with culture and society today, and hopefully we can break down
Self-care is an important strategy to maintain a good mental state. With Cabbage being on the
road for long periods of time, Lee shared with us what he does during his down time. “I wanna say archery, but I don’t really do it. I’ve had this obsession with archery for a while and I’ve still not done it. I think archery might help in someway because that seems like a way you can release some energy by firing some arrows into a board.”
Music also has a huge impact on Lee’s mental health, and not only is listening to music important , but being able to share his passion for music with others. “When you find a particular song, you could’ve listened to this song 30/40/50/60 times, but you know them moments when you truly hear a song and it clicks with you, and you get that serotonin rush, nothing is better than that. That shows you what a powerful thing arts really can be. For example, I’ve heard the song Country Girl by Primal Scream about 200 times, and only the other day while I was in my car, I truly heard it and it gave me that rush. The best thing about music is sharing it with people, making playlists together, couples making playlists together, there’s nothing better than that. You can bond on such a huge level with music. I suppose the reason why I play it, I’ve always referred to it as cathartic, the release you get from music or performing music, nothing can beat that. You can walk onto a stage carrying a load of burdens, and a load of thoughts in your head, and the second you walk off that stage you almost forget, like you’ve been baptised or reborn, so that’s the reason more than anything why I play music”.
Cabbage’s new album ‘Amanita Pantherina’ is available to buy and stream now.
Words: Eloise Adger