Concert Spotlight: Interview with London Grammar

Trio Returns Across The Pond at Brooklyn Steel

London-based dream pop trio London Grammar return to New York at the popular new venue Brooklyn Steel August 1. Comprised of vocalist Hannah Reid, guitarist Dan Rothman and keyboardist/percussionist Dominic ‘Dot’ Major, the band is poised to make an impact with many tunes from sophomore album Truth Is A Beautiful Thing which was just released in June. The album was produced by previous collaborators Tim Bran and Roy Kerr as well as Jon Hopkins (Coldplay, Brian Eno), Greg Kurstin (Adele, Sia) Paul Epworth (Adele, Rihanna) and others.

London Grammar formed around 2009 when Hannah and Dan met in their dormitory at University of Nottingham and later met Dot. They broke onto the scene in late 2012 after posting their song “Hey Now” online, followed by a feature on superstar duo Disclosure’s track “Help Me Lose My Mind” in 2013 and also made a . Their song “Strong” won the Ivor Novello Award and they have been nominated for several other awards including British Breakthrough Act by the Brit Awards in 2014. The trio has performed on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and this year they have played Glastonbury, Parklife Festival, Lollapalooza Paris and Montreux Jazz Festival.

With uplifting songs like “Big Picture,” the mysterious “Hell to the Liars,” the stirring “Oh Woman Oh Man” and the lovely “Rooting For You,” London Grammar has an impressive slate of new songs, with an evolved, slick sound that will impress fans in a live setting. NYCMonthly.com spoke with Dan prior to this Brooklyn date about their experiences in New York City, how they’ve changed since their college days, and the pop star they are fixated on…

Truth Is A Beautiful Thing is the title of your second album. Can we talk about the title for a moment, where did this come from? 

Well, I think an interesting point about it is that it wasn’t supposed to be called that up until the last week before release. We were literally looking at the different artwork with the titles on it. We ended up going with it because it’s the title of the last track on the album which mirrors the first album. It’s a piano ballad but I think aside from that we felt that it was the right name because it summed up a lot of the themes that Hannah had been talking about on the record.

You are playing a new venue in New York, Brooklyn Steel on August 1. The trio has played in NYC before, but what are you most looking forward to this time? 

It’s going to be a very brief tour for us in the States, we’re going to be in Brooklyn and Chicago. I’m very excited because it’s a brand new venue. There’s a band called Lo Moon playing with us. I love playing Chicago generally and Lollapalooza will be great, we have played it before.

On songs like “Big Picture,” you guys beautifully frame Hannah’s voice with guitars and minimalism. This one really feels epic; it’s emotional and powerful and inspiring. What’s the big picture for London Grammar right now, what are your hopes for the group?

Well I think with America, there’s an interesting thing with us in the States where our fanbase is much more underground, especially NY and LA we can play really good size shows and they tend to be really really passionate, because they feel like they discovered it. We just want to grow that as much as we can and play there more.

As a band, the key for us is always longevity and to make decent music for as long as we can and not let the lifestyle make us all fucking crazy, which it can do. To be honest, right now you just go with the flow, you never know what’s going to happen the next day in the music industry. [Our] managers says don’t take anything for granted, anything can change at the drop of the hat.

You and Hannah went to college together at University of Nottingham. How have you changed over the years since meeting in 2009 and what is the same?

I think back then we were all very very inexperienced with the music industry. We had all played music and been in bands. I think now compared with what we were then, we are just hugely more experienced with the industry in general. In terms of relationships, we are much closer than we’ve ever been, we have become like a family, like brother and sister, that brings its own turmoil. It’s extraordinary how that relationship can manifest like family.

What is an act that you are all into that might surprise fans?

Hannah is a massive Selena Gomez fan and I do really like her new song “Bad Liar.”

Do you have a particularl memory of something that happened in New York, music-related or otherwise that stands out as unusual, surprising or funny that perhaps you would only see in New York?

I was with the band, we played a gig at The Box which is basically like a weird trippy night. We were followed on by this woman who gives birth to a midget on stage, it was fucking weird. But if that wasn’t weird enough, I went up to our dressing room for the evening and I was packing my bags up and saw a row of like naked people, men and women, changing into their garments.

There is some fantasy and otherworldliness about London Grammar’s music. Besides music, what else inspires the band to write songs, to create?

Well I think we are all really inspired by literature, we all read a lot. Hannah gets a lot of her lyrical inspiration from literature that she reads. She tends to read a lot of novels. We love movies and tend to nerd out on stuff. When we started, Interstellar was a big box office smash, and that was a huge inspiration for us. The Revenant was another one. There Will Be Blood. There’s something about those films that they’re able to combine fantastical, imaginary things but they’re also very very dramatic.

Is there a particular remix of one of your new songs right now that you guys really love?

There is. “Hell To The Liars” – Kohlsch. That remix came out a month or so ago. It sort of built up this traction in the UK. Sometimes it happens with remixes, they are so hard to predict. We are so open with them. Our label Ministry of Sound is traditionally a dance label, so they are very experimental with remixes. And you never know what you’re fucking going to get with them. This one has seemed to touched something somewhere.

What can fans look forward to when London Grammar returns to New York next month?

I think they can look forward to probably a more polished performance than maybe previously. We are really coming to terms with the music now and getting to grips where the songs were quite difficult.  Particularly in Brooklyn, I’ve heard amazing things about the sound system which should be pretty fucking banging. More importantly, I hope we are able to convey the songs in a particularly emotive and special way.