Niamh Leneghan talks to London Grammar about making it in the industry, touring and their influences
London Grammar have had a busy year, from uploading their first single ‘Hey Now’ to YouTube in December 2012, then getting signed and releasing their debut studio album If You Wait this September, reaching No.2 in the UK charts. The London based group’s music has been described as a ‘blend of ambient, ethereal and classical sounds’, with Hannah Reid’s powerful vocals, Dan Rothman’s melancholic guitar and Dot Major’s electronic percussion and piano. I got speaking to Dan in the middle of their sound check for their Manchester gig at Sound Control, on the 27th of October.
‘It’s been crazy’ exclaims guitarist Dan, ‘at first it was really casual, me and Hannah met in our first year in halls at Nottingham University, and just played covers in clubs and bars. We then met Dot about a year and a half later and started making more of our own music, and then just as we were about to graduate we got spotted. At this stage we had no fan base whatsoever so we just decided to go ahead and make an album. Even when we got signed no one knew about us at all, so we started from the beginning and put out the first song online, and since then it has really taken off’.
Although it sounds like an overnight success, Dan seemed to have had his fair share of trial and error before London Grammar set sail. ‘I was in bands before and getting signed was all that was on my mind. If you just concentrate on the music and forget about it all, you know, someone will find you,’ advised Dan. ‘I always wanted to do music, however I had to give up on the idea of wanting to become a musician when I was 20 and thought maybe I’d just work in the industry, with record companies, and I fucking hated it. Then I started the band with Hannah just for fun, and funnily enough it finally happened.’ Studying Economics at University you wouldn’t think that this would have been where Dan would find himself, ‘I just thought music literally wasn’t going to happen so was like right let’s get a real job. I felt like I had to be a realist about it, I love music but I wouldn’t forgo not having any success in anything, just to be a struggling musician, which a lot of people would probably criticise me for, but that’s genuinely how I felt. I met my girlfriend and two of the most talented musicians I’ll ever meet, so it really worked out for the best in the end’.
Over the summer London Grammar were featured on many festival line ups including Glastonbury, ‘I had never even been before so to play there was amazing, if you can get tickets you have to go! However a particular favourite of mine was Wilderness festival in Oxford, the sister festival of the Secret Garden Party. It wasn’t overly big, but it’s getting bigger. We actually missed our set and had to play later as we had so much fun exploring the festival.’ At Bestival, Hannah came on stage and sang their track ‘Help Me Lose my Mind’ with Disclosure. ‘Collaborating with Disclosure was always kind of expected because of Hannah’s voice, and our managers knew each other, and with their popularity they boosted our name in a really positive way. What Disclosure have done is incredible, they have a fan base of young people that is just unparalleled. At Bestival it was crazy seeing thousands of teenagers just fucking losing it, our adrenaline was pounding when we played on the same stage just before’.
The band are currently in the middle of a huge tour, however Dan suggests that they feel much more at home in the studio. ‘We’re not really built for the road, like some rock bands are. Hannah tires a lot especially with her voice, however she is improving and getting a lot stronger. It’s weird because we were in the studio for so long, over eighteen months making the record, I think now being on the road, for the first time really, it’s still kind of exciting. I’m sure in six months time I’ll probably be busting to get back into the studio!‘ Before starting their UK leg of the tour London Grammar had been on the road in the USA. ‘I love travelling, it’s incredible fun. Just seeing people singing along to our songs in places you never expected is just amazing. Being on the road we unfortunately don’t get much time to actually visit where we have performed, for example in San Francisco we played a gig and left and that was it, however in Chicago we had the whole day off and got to explore.’
Frequently compared to The XX and Florence and the Machine, London Grammar have produced a very unique style, bringing minimalist and electronic melodies together, with a souring, magical voice. ‘Initially we didn’t have similar tastes, and would argue a lot about music’, laughed Dan, ‘it’s only really been over time that we’ve became more aligned with our tastes. When I first met Dot for example we were poles apart, which was great in a way as we brought many different influences to the table. Groups like Radiohead, The National and Little Dragon we all really love. At the moment I have played Half Moon Run’s album Dark Eyes to death, it’s great. This pretty unknown band called Tripwires are also fucking amazing, if you like grungey sort of music you should definitely check them out, their album’s called Space Hopper, advised Dan.
Keep your eyes peeled this year for London Grammar, they have plenty of stops left on their UK tour; and their album is a must listen!