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by Andrew Trendell

Tags: London Grammar

London Grammar: 'We've been given time to develop naturally'

We talk to the rising stars about pressure, Disclosure and their debut

 

London Grammar: 'We've been given time to develop naturally'

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They crashed into public consciousness with their appearance on Disclosure's debut album Settle and have caused waves of excitement online with their blend of ambient, ethereal and classical sounds. They're tipped to be one of the biggest bands of the year, but London Grammar didn't get to this stage overnight. 

Hailing from London but meeting in Nottingham, Hannah Reid, Dot Major and Dan Rothman took the time to experiment and explore their sound before being picked up by management and record labels. Once there was a buzz about them, the trio continued to develop and grow as artists rather than rush-release an album and get caught up in the hype.

As they gear up for a busy festival season and headline tour while they debut their hotly-anticipated debut album, we spoke to London Grammar about working with Disclosure, the pressure to succeed, comparisons with The xx and what we can expect from them in the future. 

How does it feel to feature on the best song Disclosure's No.1 album Settle?
Hannah: It feels pretty great, that's a very flattering question. It feels amazing and they've been really good to us. They're really good guys and really talented .
Dot: It's been a really good experience and it's had a great reception. It's been so nice to know them.

How did the collaboration come about and what was your input into the song?
Hannah: It came about because we know their managers, and they actually wanted to manage us as well, about a couple of years ago. We kept in contact with them and they played one of our demos to disclosure and they liked the voice and the vibe.

Any other of your peers and contemporaries out there that you'd really like to work with?
Dan: We were just having a little Twitter conversation with Mr Hudson and I'm a massive fan of us. Dot was saying before that working with Bonobo would be amazing.
Hannah: I would love to write a song with the lead singer of The National. I'm going to keep saying it in case he hears this so we can make it happen. His lyrics are just amazing.
Dot: The National album is probably one of the best records I've heard this year.

How did you arrive at the London Grammar sound?
Hannah: A number of different factors were at play for us to arrive where we are now. One is time and natural development, which is just so important. I think another huge thing has been Dot's development into production.
Dot: Some times you just stumble on things by accident. The first time I ever played anything electronic was playing some electronic drums in Dan's garage just because it was too loud to play real drums. We found that quite interesting and then started getting into other sounds. We spend loads of time going through different ideas and developing our own sounds. We know people say that it's important to have you own sound, but it's only now looking back over the album that we realise how many electronic sounds are on there that we've developed ourselves that I'm sure we'll continue to use in the future.

So that was quite organic and there was never a 'design' for London Grammar?
Hannah: No, it's funny - that's quite a good question. The way that things happened quite quickly for us online led to a couple of sceptical people asking 'where have they come from?' But actually, what happened with us being signed quite early is that we've been given time to develop organically and that's probably how things would have been done 10 or 20 years ago. Now, you're more likely to get signed if you already have quite a strong online fan base. But we've come a long way, the more songs you write, the better you become.
Dan: That development process was so crucial for us, I think that maybe some bands don't get enough time to do that, especially if they have one song that they put up that gets all this attention then there's a rush to create an album.
Dot: It's quite a unique modern model, how that happens. It happens to Youtube sensations and it happened to Lana Del Rey. Even if a song has been around for ages it can suddenly explode, like Clean Bandit. Then you have these artists that have to deliver because they have a massive fan base and no time scale. It's a difficult kind of pressure but we've been lucky enough to have been given time.
Hannah: What happened to Lana Del Rey was just phenomenal. It was literally overnight and she got criticised for not being able to sing live. It just makes you realise that level of pressure.

How do you feel about the level of hype and love you've received from the few releases you've had so far?
Hannah: I feel pretty happy, but we've got such a long way to go yet. Dot: I guess it's hard to believe at times.
Dan: It's a matter of translating that hype into becoming a band that can release an album that connects. Not just online, but in terms of physically selling. It's hard to tell, but it puts you in a position where you're able to aim for that.
Dot: We're sort of in that transition from translating buzz into real fans.

Have you found that transition quite hard?
Hannah: I have. You spend quite a lot of time in the studio as a songwriter and that's almost like a completely different job, to then singing and conveying an emotion to lots of different people. It's a difficult change.
Dan: It definitely seems faster for people outside of the band, looking in. People don't see what's happened prior .
Han: I don't think that we are 'an overnight success'. It just doesn't feel that tangible or real yet.

 You've had mostly positive press. Have anyone ever said you are rubbish?
Hannah: There was this one review in particular that was just scathing!
Dot: Yes, but when that happened, I just said to the other two that it was a sign that we were getting somewhere. As soon as you've had some buzz from a couple of releases, then it means that you're in a position where people want to try and put you down.
Dan: I'd rather split opinion that just have people saying 'yeah, that's alright'.
Hannah: Funnily enough, I just thought that I was going to be the most sensitive about it, but I was actually OK. Someone said something about my voice and Dan seemed more upset than me, but not everyone is going to like it.

You've mentioned how you arrived at your sound quite organically, so do you guys get frustrated by comparisons to The xx?
Hannah: We don't really get frustrated by it, because we love The xx and I think we're in a kind of post-xx era where a lot of people are quite influenced by that atmospheric pop vibe. I do think that our album will show a very different to us- it's more classical, with a Jeff Buckley pop song kind of vibe.
Dot: The xx thing obviously comes up all the time, but we're all really massive fans of them and love that they asked us to play at Night + Day.
Han: I think it's probably that we're influenced by people that maybe they are influenced by too, like Burial, Massive Attack and Portishead. People don't realise the extent of Burial's influence on so many bands.
Dot: When we started experimenting with electronic sounds, Hannah said to me that it sounded a bit like Burial and I'd never listened to them at the time. It's very strange that you can be influenced by something without hearing it because I was listened to a lot of James Blake and he's been hugely influenced by Burial. It does filter through.
Dan: Yes, but I think our album will show a completely different side to us - it features a lot more influence from classic bands like Fleetwood Mac.

Who would you say are the strongest collective influences?
Dot: Fleetwood Mac.
Dan: Radiohead as well, plus The National.
Hannah: And some film score composers, but we do have quite different tastes.

How's the album come along and what can fans expect from it?
Dan: The album is done. We've just finished sequencing it, we just have to do a bit more mixing. I'm really proud of it and hopefully people will love it. It's hard when you're so close to the music and you've been obsessing over this record for a year and a half.
Dot: It really shows all collective sides of what we like and what we can do.

Wasting My Young Years is out now. London Grammar have a number of festival dates booked before they head out on UK headline tour in October. Dates are below.

Tues 15th - Norwich, Open
Weds 16th - Brighton, The Haunt
Fri 18th - London, Brixton Electric
Sat 19th - Oxford Gathering
Sun 20th - Bristol, The Fleece
Tues 22nd - Nottingham, Rescue Rooms
Weds 23rd - Birmingham, The Academy 3
Thurs 24th - Leeds, The Cockpit
Sat 26th - Manchester, Soundcontrol
Sun 27th - Glasgow, Broadcast
Mon 28th - Newcastle, The Cluny

For more information visit Gigwise gig tickets.

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