Genre-bending English band London Grammar release their second LP Truth Is a Beautiful Thing this week and hit Australian shores for an album tour that kicks off at Fremantle Arts Centre on Saturday September 16. JOSEPH WILSON spoke to drummer and in-house programmer Dot Major about how production of the second LP went working in different studios with everyone from Jon Hopkins and Paul Epworth to Greg Kurstin, his love affair with recent SOTA festival headliners Karnivool, and how the close-knit side of the band keeps London Grammar grounded.
How are you guys anticipating the release of your second album?
It’s been a while since we sent music off to the world; we’re just really excited to hear it now because we’ve had so many songs for a little while.
Was there a different approach to making Truth Is a Beautiful Thing in comparison to the DIY nature of If You Wait?
I think obviously there are differences. In terms of the electronic programming, the stuff that I do – that didn’t change. But the production around that stuff this time we just worked in different studios and bigger studios. I think it was very hard to restrict ourselves without going too mad when we first started working with Paul Epworth at The Church for example. But the process itself wasn’t too different.
Did the constant changing of environments and studios change the recording process at all?
I think sometimes you need a bit of a change of environment to just reinvigorate yourself. Early on we spent nearly two months in the studio, I don’t know where it was but we went completely mental. We thought we were at a point where we weren’t at our best creatively. I think changing the setting and changing the place is important for growing our creativity.
With Truth is a Beautiful Thing the feeling of cohesiveness in the music is evident – but there is also a clashing of genres. Did you guys come from separate musical backgrounds or were you all on the same musical wavelength?
No, we were on massively different wavelengths. Dan listens to a lot of Rock N’ Roll bands and more indie bands recently, Hannah listens to a lot of big pop vocalists – Tina Turner, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. I listen to more electronic music, and classical canon music when I was younger. Recently I have been listening to a load of hip hop; it just depends on what you’re doing as well. Like for me this time around listening to a lot of hip hop has helped the production side of things.
Have these differing musical backgrounds made it hard to maintain cohesiveness or has it gotten easier over time?
No, naturally when we’re together it’s just the music that we make and things do crossover. We will like some soundtracks a lot like Hans Zimmer, those are songs we really bond over. It’s why the album has this atmospheric thing running through because it’s something we all agree on.
The first album was about relationships with people and the second album is more about relationships with the self. Did the whole transition from going from a crazy schedule to going back home play into the production of the second album at all?
I don’t think so. Life here is super normal, I think being away for so long, it’s really hard to get straight back into it. There was definitely a little while when we were not doing much work or anything. Creativity is like a muscle: you have to exercise it and I think this time around we’re going to plan a lot more space while we’re touring and stuff so we don’t just stop writing. Whereas the first time we didn’t really write anything for a couple of years (so) it took us a while to come back into that.
Are less intensive tours friendlier to creativity, then?
With fewer shows and having less to do, I love going on tour and getting to connect with fans. It takes up a lot of your creative energy, playing live every other night. It feels like an entirely separate entity in a sense. When you’re on tour you’re focused on making sure you can do your shows and trying to stay healthy as possible, not killing yourself. Whilst when you’re at home you don’t really have the energy to get up in the morning.
Is there a fear of getting burnt out?
There was the first time around. But already from looking at these shows, we’re lot more aware of that now.
The three of you as are very close-knit as friends – do you stay together throughout that large recording break?
Yes. The whole time when we have been making the album there have probably only been two weeks when I haven’t seen the guys. We are best friends so we hang out all the time. When we first came back together to make the album we realised as well we do a lot of stuff together which isn’t recording as well. We take little breaks sometimes to ourselves but we will still hangout in that time as well.
When bands get bigger and start to tour more it starts to feel more like a job – does that close friendship between the three of you keep you grounded?
It’s an interesting point, because the first time around everything is brand new. Even though now we’re definitely more aware of professional obligations, in a sense. For the first time you just roll with it and never even know what was going to happen whereas when you become a bit more professional then you probably can look like that from the outside. But there are bands who are predominantly associates before they are friends, I’d say with us it’s the other way around.
A lot of bands they are clutched up the industry but with you guys it feels more balanced when you return to “normality”.
Yes, one hundred percent. That seriously is part of being a band, for a solo artist obviously you have a lot of people, just yes-men and you just end up going with them, whilst being in a band you can’t get away with everything because the other two are always taking the piss.
Are you pumped to be heading back to Australia?
We are so excited about it. It is always the most amazing place to tour. Our fans are incredible; Australia was the first place that caught on to our music before it even caught on in the UK. It’s always felt like a special place for us.
Do you think Australians are a bunch of musical hipsters looking for the next trendy sound?
Probably (laughs). I think they still like the older songs. I think the way radio works in Australia, Triple J were really influential for us and breaking us over there. It has a lot of listeners but it’s not commercial radio so they can still play what they want and not just pop music every day.
The last show you did over here was at Falls Festival in Fremantle – are you pumped to be coming back to Fremantle specifically?
I’ve actually become quite friendly with a few people in Perth – I’ll probably try and come out there for a week before at the start of the tour. One of my favourite bands is actually from Perth, called Karnivool. One of their albums is in my top five albums of all time, I love those guys. I met a couple of them over there which was really cool.