Dot Major, appropriately, is in London. It’s a rare moment at home for the London Grammar multi-instrumentalist as the band’s debut LP, If You Wait, has beguiled music lovers the world over and the trio have been travelling to accommodate demand. Bob Gordon reports.
If You Wait was released in September, only months after the appetising EP, Metal & Dust EP.
“I think the album has a lot of things that the EP was heading towards,” Major says. “Wasting My Young Years was on the EP as well and is more in line with the classic pop songwriting on the album. The album also has that Hey Now vibe, with that kind of production. So there was more extremes on the album, which made it more exiting for us.”
The moodiness of Hey Now does well to encapsulate an overall quality in London Grammar. Vocalist Hannah Reid’s distinctive voice lending a hard-to-pin hue to the intimacy of the hit single.
“I think Hey Now was a great way of introducing the band to the world,” Major says. “The aesthetic and the sound of it is just so perfect for us. It really hit a nerve, that track.
“I think the way that the EP runs and the way it was produced and then received made it quite impossible to leave some of those tracks off the album. So that’s why there’s Hey Now, Metal And Dust and Wasting My Young Years all on the album, but that’s only a fraction of it. There’s lots to it.”
If You Wait was recorded over a period of 18 months. Even so, there are songs that pre-date when recording commenced.
“There’s songs written before we had the idea that we might even be able to make an album,” Major says. “Hannah wrote the song, If You Wait, a long time ago and there’s Flickers, which the three of us wrote a couple of years ago as well. We just didn’t know we’d be making an album at that time. It’s important for us to keep those songs as remnant of where it began. Flickers is mainly guitar and vocals and that’s come from how we used to sound. It’s important to keep that as part of the whole fabric of the album.”
Over that 18 months Major noticed a change in the band, as the trio became more confident in their own songwriting abilities as well being as the studio itself.
“Definitely. I think the way we write together has stayed the same but the aesthetic really is very different. As an example Hey Now was written in the mid-to-late period of the album and that became more of a sonic blueprint for how we wanted other stuff to sound so we went back reproduce stuff like Wasting My Young Years, so it was more in line with stuff like Hey Now. So the songs would remain the same but the production on them would change to fit more with our changing sound.
“What happened more and more as a band was that the later it went on, the more similar the songs became from when we’d written them to when they were recorded by the band. We knew more of what we wanted and the producers, Tim Bran and Roy Kerr, were giving us more of our own space.
“The more it went on the more we just left our songs the same; when we first started out we were all new to it and excited by the possibilities we had the chance of utilising. Songs would change from their original form and end up becoming too big or just having too much stuff on them. We kind of had a crisis and realised that all we needed was some space and we could strip them back again.”
With all that reflection going on into their music it’s important that amongst the three there’s mix of perfection and imperfection.
“We’re on a scale with that, I think,” Major says. “We could go on forever with songs; Hannah’s definitely a perfectionist, as am I in some ways. But Hannah would go on forever; it just drives her insane. She doesn’t sleep at night with the thought of one synth sound being slightly wrong. I get annoyed if the sounds of things aren’t quite right.
“Dan (Rothman, guitar) is more of an imperfectionist; he believes that often the way things are originally are the best. Sometimes the discrepancies on a record are what makes it, it’s what gives it the character. So we have both sides – if we had just Hannah’s way of thinking, or just Dan’s way of thinking, it wouldn’t be right.”
One gets the feeling that releasing If You Wait was a watershed moment for London Grammar. It’s refreshing to not that before or beyond success, the music created is the most important thing of all.
“Just that thought of having written the album and being able to release it… whatever happens from here it’s already just been an amazing thing to be able to do.”