INTERVIEW: London Grammar
Since the February release of their EP Metal & Dust LONDON GRAMMAR have ridden a wave of buzz due to their cerebral pop tunes. On the eve of If You Wait, their debut album release I sat down with Multi-instrumentalist Dot Major to talk through the recoding process, the band dynamic and their touring plans.
How would you describe the creative partnership of the band when creating the music?
Well it changes a lot. We move around our instruments a lot. It is not like there is one songwriter because we all write so it is can be a bit different. At one point I can be on the piano and then Dan Rothman might write stuff on the guitar as well. Generally we all sit in a room and we sort of jam out some music, the three of us. Normally lyrics come last but that how it works for us.
You had quite a long time to make the album, 18 months its been written, what kind of impact did that freedom have on what you produced?
Well we went back and forth on a lot of things. There are songs on the album that have just been through so many different incarnations before we were happy with it. You have to explore things naturally. You have to make mistakes. It can expose possibilities that you never thought you had before – you have to explore that.
On the album there are songs that are just so much bigger than they should be. We had versions that were fuller with sounds, or that probably sounded a bit more pop, but then we realized that we don’t need all of that stuff. So we strip back, and keep stripping back, or changing things around. In the end what you are left with is something so much more developed than what you had originally. So it is a long journey, and I think it’s in a way unavoidable. You have to just go through some of those things to finally arrive at what your happy with, otherwise you wouldn’t know if there was something better around the corner.
It is also written a lot that you achieved a ‘space’ in your sound, or that you are conscious to have that sense of texture. Why is this important, and what affect does that have on listener?
The reason that the space is important is Hannah’s voice, because it voice fills up a lot of space. It’s not your normal pop voice; it certainly has a lot more character than most of the voices I hear. So it deserves to be at the centre. So once you have space – which is the most important thing – all of the elements have room to stand out more. When you hear a song that has so many different sounds going on you have to think, on their own would they sound that great? Just look at, say, a TAKE THAT record. On one of their tracks, when you hear the guitars in the chorus, it probably has about forty guitars just playing on note, that one not is somewhere in there and it just is a whole wall of sound, which is just the opposite of what we have
But with our records the tiniest sound, like a synth that sounds slightly wrong can suddenly just be so noticeably out of place.
What are some of the key influences of the album, or of the writing process?
We all have very different influences so there are things that we will agree on like Alt-j, The Nationals, Fleetwood Mac, which is a big one. And then individually Hannah is influenced by the classic pop singers like Whitney Huston, Annie Lennox and, well Michael Jackson. Then with me Dan we always argue, say over The Smiths – because I despise The Smiths. He gave me one of their CDs once and I threw it out the window.
I am influenced by different things, I like James Blake but then with piano and signwriting I am more influenced by the classical piano composers that I play a lot like Chopin. Different things influence us all but that’s what makes a band a band. Its that coming together.
In my reading I found that The XX get brought up often when other are writing about London Grammar, so what was it like then to perform Night + Day Festival? Did you find yourself being further influenced by them, or did it reveal your differences?
I think – they’re obviously a great band – I wouldn’t really say I’m influenced by them, I know Dan is definitely influenced by them; he was really into that sound. But your influences all get crossed over, it happens all the time with lots of bands. But their festival was great. The people that they put on were amazing. It was a real great collection of artists and it really felt like a bit of a family thing they were all really lovely.
When the album does come out I expect that you will be touring a lot, how will you translate the sound of the album to a live performance.
Well that actually took a while to figure out. Obviously on the album we all play a lot of different things. Even though there aren’t a lot of things going on in a record there are still more things than we can play at one time. But we have a system now where a lot of the electrical instruments can be programed and looped. But we all have our own focuses, which means we have a really cool unique live show now.
Are you planning on coming down to Australia?
Yeah, we’re hopefully going to be there in time for the New Year. We are very excited to be there. We got a lot of support on Triple J so we are long overdue to head over there.
London Grammar’s Debut LP will be available on September 9.
Words by: Luke Letourneau