1/1
  • Photography by Mr Paolo Zerbini
  • Styling by Mr Tony Cook, Junior Fashion Editor, MR PORTER
  • Words by Mr Tom M Ford, Features Writer, MR PORTER

"Metal & Dust"

London Grammar
Visit iTunes Store

A band founded at university emerges online amid a torrent of blog buzz. With just a track or two to their name, further details remain shrouded in PR-manufactured mystery. A familiar story, perhaps, yet not one that British trio London Grammar fully intended to write for themselves. "Everyone was saying we were being really secretive, because only [first track] 'Hey Now' was out. It's just the way things happened," says percussionist Mr Dot Major. "We didn't gig for 18 months so it looked as if everything appeared out of nowhere," agrees vocalist Ms Hannah Reid.

When "Hey Now" appeared on SoundCloud last December, the trio - each of them barely over 20 years old - had been holed up in guitarist Mr Dan Rothman's garage writing their debut album. "We were given time and a lot of patience," says Ms Reid. "Which is quite rare actually." The soulful electronica of "Hey Now" - led by Ms Reid's stunning vocals - was immediately picked up by British radio DJ royalty, and also by, to date, nearly half a million SoundCloud listeners. EP Metal & Dust, released in late February on their own imprint, lengthened the fervour set by their debut single - the dancier, Massive Attack-like beats of the title track a particular highlight.

The often-superficial online high that new bands bring in tow has translated into live success for London Grammar. A sold-out headline show at Electrowerkz in London on 27 March was followed by a 4 May gig at the Live at Leeds festival - their biggest to date. "We thought we'd fill half the room. It was rammed," says Mr Major. And having featured on dance favourites Disclosure's debut LP, and with new single "Wasting My Young Years" (we expect we'll be hearing the chorus a lot this summer) out now, it seems there are real foundations to the hype.

Why do you think it's working for you right now?
Ms Reid: I think we have some amazing songs. There are more to come, I hope. At the time we didn't realise we were writing great songs, but you listen back and realise.

Mr Major: I heard when the guys in Faithless wrote the lines for "Insomnia" they just went and ate some lunch. It takes time to realise you might have written something great.
What's the biggest danger in gaining early attention?
Ms Reid: I think being targeted as inauthentic. Now there's such a large online world, everyone's trying to pick holes in your journey.

Mr Major: Everything is more accessible - so anyone can get a certain amount of exposure.

Ms Reid: What happened to us, however, was the most natural way a band could make their album. You get signed, you go to a studio, you work hard and you develop.
When did you first realise the band had something special?
Ms Reid: For me, it was Live at Leeds. Everything's online now so we've had all these hits, but it doesn't feel real. When I could see the crowd, people cheering... Someone asked Dot for a photo.

Mr Major: Yeah these two girls were hugging, crying and freaking out... It was mental!
Where did your vocal talents come from?
Ms Reid: I had singing lessons when I was 14, where I was classically trained. That's not opera; it means nothing has been added to my voice - it's completely pure. I wasn't taught to sing in a certain way, which will stand me in good stead. I can add on my own layers and I don't have an American twang.

The artwork for the single "Wasting My Young Years"

Why have these early tracks resonated with people?
Mr Rothman: I think one of the reasons people might like the album is because there's a lot of space in it. There's not too much going on.
Is that perhaps why people draw comparisons with The xx?
Mr Rothman: I'm glad they're an influence - I love The xx.

Ms Reid: I think there are two sides to us, though. The electronic, more atmospheric side - I can see that being more towards The xx. But then there are the more classic songs on the album, which people haven't heard yet.
Have any countries been particularly receptive?
Mr Rothman: Australia. It's absolutely crazy out there. "Hey Now" has been played on the radio for the past three months - like every day.

Ms Reid: It's probably because it's so chilled out - they're pretty relaxed over there.

Mr Major: Our Facebook page is just a constant thread of people asking for our EP. It's only available in the UK - not out there yet.
Have you encountered any negative aspects of the music industry?
Mr Rothman: We feel gigging always gets slightly competitive. I don't mean it in a negative way; I just think with new bands - everyone closes themselves off. Everyone feels under pressure and the nervous energy spreads.
What does the future hold?
Mr Major: A lot of festivals. We've got Bestival, Secret Garden Party, Glastonbury in the UK and Melt! in Germany.

Mr Rothman: And we release the album in September. That's the big thing!

Pick up latest single "Wasting My Young Years" here (UK and Ireland only) and EP Metal & Dust here (UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand). See London Grammar tour dates here.