Thursday, 4 July 2013

Interview with Dan of London Grammar

LONDON GRAMMAR is vocalist Hannah Reid, guitarist Daniel Rothman and Dot Major keyboard/percussion. You may know them from their appearance on the latest Disclosure album (‘Help Me Lose My Mind’). In some simple twist of fate, they cracked it in Australia before England, with their debut EP making the top 5 Australian iTunes.  

In one of their first Australian interviews, Dan from LONDON GRAMMAR had a chat on London clubs, playing lame covers and prepping for the summer festival season.

What are you guys up to at the moment?
We’re been busy, relatively. We did a show with the XX on Saturday in London which was amazing – that was really cool. We’re doing all the festival stuff really. And then in between that just promo – we have a new single out here in the UK and we’re going to Paris this week to do stuff over there. So all over the place really!

What are you most excited for Glastonbury? Have you got plans for artists who you’re going to fraternise with behind the scenes? Do you usually go?
Well I’ve never been to Glastonbury before so I’m really excited. This producer emailed me yesterday saying they’d like to get together and we can watch their set and they can come and see ours, which will be cool. I haven’t really thought about it to be honest.

Is it true that you met Reid over Facebook? Is it true that you requested to have a jam? Or was that a rumour?
This has just become such a story. Hannah said this in one interview and now it’s become the story. No, there is an element of truth to this. Supposedly I saw a picture of her, I don’t really remember but Hannah’s sure of it – I think it makes me sound a little bit creepy. I do remember she had her picture of her with a guitar and I think that’s how we ended up chatting – because we were in the same dorm [at Nottingham University], that’s the thing.

Did you know she could sing when you messaged her?
Everyone was very friendly at that time because everyone was generally looking to meet new people and I think it was just a music thing at first. The first time I heard her sing I do remember immediately just being – because I’ve always been in bands and stuffs, I’ve never really heard anyone like her before. I don’t think she really had a clue quite how good she was. She definitely has no clue.

What was fun about playing your early club gigs? Who would go to them before you had releases?
I’ve got mates – a guy called Jamie who came to almost every show we did when we first started - and my girlfriend used to come to a lot as well. When it was just me and Hannah we were doing all stuff on guitar and her thing and it was really, really sort of lame cover type things. It was good –you’ve got to do that type of thing – but it was very, very different to what we’re doing now obviously. We came across some real characters because we were based in Nottingham as well which can be quite a strange place. But I think every band has to do that at some point. Especially for Hannah it was very important because it gave her some level of stage preparation and it made a massive difference when things did start because she had that bit she’d already been there.

What were the lame covers you did?
People don’t believe me when I say this but we did a cover of “You’ve Got The Love”. We were doing it before we had any idea - this is about four or five years ago now - that Florence had done a cover of the record. I remember we were playing it in a couple of bars and it got on a massive advert over here –that was the first time I’d heard of her. Then people would come up to Hannah and say: “is that you singing on this record? What the fuck? We heard you singing this song the other day.” because she sounded even more similar back then. Hannah sounded very similar to Florence. That was bizarre. So we used to play that. And we used to play old blues covers as well and The Doors.

Then how did you get into club music or more of the beats scene? Did you guys go clubbing, was that the London thing? Or was it that you guys were picked up by electronic acts?
I definitely don’t go clubbing that much – I’m lazy like that. Dot’s the one who’s more into going out and experiencing it that way. But I don’t think that’s really how it came into being, I mean from a production point of view in our music we were working with a producer called Bernard Armstrong. We spent some time with him and me and Dot started listening to a lot of 90s house records – I don’t know why we started exploring that kind of avenue and I’ve always been into hip-hop records as well. Through that it became a process of putting electronic beats into our own music and Dot’s started on the production and so did I and Hannah was obviously interested as well because she’d been interested in post-dubstep stuff just from being in London because that was what was big at the time.
And then with the whole sort of Disclosure thing it just became a by-product of that. I think people could hear the dance influence on our demos and Hannah’s voice was perfect they thought with that. I think that’s how it came about rather than a conscious thing that we all love dance music - I think we’re all fairly varied on it anyway.

Do you guys manage your social media? What is your impression of Australian fans so far?
The whole Australia thing is mind-blowing to be quite honest with you. It’s bizarre. Because ‘Hey Now’ started getting played on triple j over there. I think as soon as we realised that had happened, we just started getting an influx of messages on our Facebook. I look after most of the social media with a guy called Colin who works as our manager and showed us the ropes for a bit. We just sat down at one point we were getting so many messages from Australians writing, “are you going to release your EP in Australia blah blah blah”. I mean it is bizarre but it’s amazing. We genuinely feel privileged that people on the other side of the world have had the chance to listen and want to buy the EP. It is extraordinary but that is fortunately the beauty of the internet. It was interesting that the music was actually sought after in Australia because it didn’t exist on iTunes and it almost seemed to make it more exciting for people, I wonder if that had the effect. It seemed to work, I don’t know.

Maybe it’s a case of you want what you can’t have.

It got into the top 5 of iTunes here, that’s pretty crazy.
It’s mad. My PR man called me up about that and said have you seen you’re in the iTunes charts? I said “no, I had no fucking idea.” He said, “somehow you managed to fucking break in Australia before you have in the United Kingdom.” So this is extraordinary. What we can we say? Amazing. I think it’s one of those incredible stories - it’s really cool.

I guess we’ve got the opposite. We’ve got bands that break it in London before they make it here.
I know. There’s a band called Jagwar Ma – have they kind of done that, or are they big over there?

They’re doing wells here, are they big in England? Because they’re from Sydney.
I think considering the kind of band that they are they have broken in a little bit more than initially. I only know this - not because I’m a huge Jagwar Ma fan - but my engineer at work was telling me about it. Empire of the Sun are also huge artists but I presume they are over there too. It’s cool.

That’s interesting to know. Have you encountered any other artists or producers?
We’re willing to meet more people at festivals. Generally, it’s quite a friendly atmosphere so everyone talks to people. I just get a bit funny around people – I get quite sort of nervous. I listen to so much new music so I’m just in awe of people if I’m particularly fond of them – like a little kid, which does end up happening. Meeting the XX was quite a bizarre thing because obviously so many people have been saying that we sound like them. So that was a bizarre thing but they were very lovely to us. I met this amazing producer called Don Hopkins and he’s an incredible, incredible producer. You meet people. Disclosure are lovely guys and it’s cool. Hopefully we get to meet more and more.

What are the sentiments behind the record? What is underlying the record that our listeners don’t know about?
Hannah tends to write of her lyrics but you know from speaking to her I think there’s obviously an emotional sense that tends to come from her own experiences – with people or guys or family and all those things. I think with Hannah, the amazing thing with her, what I’ve found being around her and listening to her lyrics and working with her is that she has this ability to write about personal experience that she’s had with one person and it just translates on such a high emotional level. I always find myself thinking about people and the way they work and it seems to be more general than just one relationship and I hope that’s what people seem to relate to so much on an emotional level, which they seem to do. I guess it’s the same thing for her anyway. Those experiences definitely translate, I think, to everyone in a genuine way while sort of seeming quite personal at the same time, which I think is really unique, I don’t know how she does it.

I reckon I’d agree with you, especially you guys are pretty young, to have already crystallised the writing.

You guys did live sessions on BBC - how did that go? How important is Radio 1 for your target audience?
Radio 1 is sort of in this country like the most important thing in music, almost. It is vital for how everything in this industry works if you want to become a new artist. Because their target is so young and so reactive to being played a record, it really is like a massive important thing for us. So when we were asked to do that session it was an incredible thing for us.
In general, though, Radio 1 have been so supportive of us and we’re incredibly lucky that they picked up on us so early. It testaments what they do because they have DJs and producers there that are picking up music at such an early point that they showcase bands –there are bands that I hear on the late night shows that are so early in their development that they might not be releasing records for another year or a half. I think on a national radio station to be playing for millions of listeners is quite exceptional. I think triple j do that to some extent. But I’ve gone to other countries, I’ve been in France and they’ve said how they lack that Radio 1 presence. It is incredibly important no doubt. 

What’s still on the bucket list? What are you guys talking about that you’d still like to do?
I think everything’s that happened so far is a massive bonus and we’re just very, very lucky and happy to be doing anything at all. I must say that we do talk a lot about coming to Australia – we would like to although it is a bit far – but we have plans for the future. So that gets looked at a lot. Whatever happens we’re just excited about the future. I think releasing the album and coming for a little trip to Australia are the next big things.

Published on adamNOTeve.

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