7:00am Saturday 31st August 2013
They've already featured on another band's chart-topping album, now it's time for ambient trio London Grammar to aim for the top spot on their own. Singer Hannah Reid tells Andy Welch about their amazing year.
London Grammar have packed a lot into the last 12 months.
The trio introduced themselves and their ambient music via two almost anonymous tracks posted online late last year.
Their first proper release, an EP called Metal & Dust, appeared in February, not long after they'd played their first gig in front of assembled members of the music industry.
Summer came and with it a guest appearance on Disclosure's album Settle, which promptly went to No 1, making stars of the house duo - young brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence - and giving a platform to each of the album's cameos, including London Grammar.
"It was amazing how that came about," says the band's singer, Hannah Reid.
"When we were deciding who our manager was going to be, Disclosure's managers - two young guys - wanted to manage us as well. We ended up going with someone else, but stayed friendly with them. They gave Disclosure our demos and they really liked my voice, then asked if we could collaborate."
It was a good break, as now the future's looking bright for Reid and her male bandmates Dan Rothman and Dot Major.
"It's amazing what they've achieved," says Reid of the collaboration with Disclosure. "We worked really quickly. We did that song, Help Me Lose My Mind, in two days.
"Obviously, it's been great for us, being on a No 1 album a few months before our own album comes out. We're very grateful, and I love the song, too."
It's a far cry from the band's beginnings at Nottingham University, where Reid and Rothman were studying.
Rothman apparently saw a photograph on Facebook of Reid with an acoustic guitar and immediately sent her a message to ask if she wanted to start a band.
Multi-instrumentalist Major, a friend of Rothman's girlfriend, was added to the line-up later, and the trio began writing songs and playing small gigs in pubs.
"I'd always written songs but I'd never performed on my own," says Reid. "London Grammar is the first professional, or even semi-professional band, I've been in, although the boys have been in bands before."
She'd always performed in school concerts, but never had the confidence to venture out into London to play.
"It took meeting Daniel for me to be able to do it, he really pushed for me to sing live with him. I get very nervous, but I've been trying to overcome that.
"When I sing it always goes relatively OK, if not really well, so at the back of my mind I know I'll be fine," she says, almost reassuring herself.
"Every time we play, the audience is really supportive too and halfway through I wonder what I was scared of. The next gig though, I get really scared again."
The nerves could be down to her first experience of performing in London earlier this year, shortly after London Grammar put a video of Hey Now, the opening track of their forthcoming debut album If You Wait, online. It's since been viewed on YouTube almost 900,000 times.
"Because of that the gig was full of industry people," says Reid. "Radio 1 were there, people from different labels, journalists and so on, and I knew we were being watched by the sorts of people who could really affect our career. If it was to go badly, well there wouldn't be a career, that was the thing.
"We rehearsed a lot, and it went really, really well, but it was so nerve-racking and the pressure was incredible."
Reid says despite the band's meteoric rise - Glastonbury performance, top 40 single and an album that's expected to go top 10 - she, Rothman and Major don't take much notice of what's happening around them.
"We're just this band in a little nucleus. We have no perspective on how our career is going. We might do a show and expect 200 people to be there, but there's actually 2,000 waiting for us," she explains.
"It's at times like that we realise something is happening, but I don't think we have much perspective on what it looks like from the outside."
The songs on If You Wait were all written by the trio. Rothman and Major tend to take care of the music, while Reid says she writes the top line to each song: the lyrics and the melody.
"Dan and Dot write their music like a score and eventually after listening to it, a song will come out of it. Everything I write, even lyrically, is really influenced by their music.
"I don't write anything 'til I've heard what they've played, but out of everything I do, I find writing lyrics the easiest. Song structure, melody and things, that's harder and can take more time."
Before the band's UK tour in October, they're off to the States for a series of gigs. A previous visit remains a bit of a blur for Reid.
"We were only in LA for four days, played a couple of shows and came back. It just means we're really, really excited about America this time. Everyone in LA was so nice, and our American label, Columbia, are amazing, so we can't wait.
"I'm really not very well travelled, but by the end of the year I will have pretty much been everywhere, although probably without seeing any of it properly. I will have driven through a lot of places at least."
There are plans to make their live shows bigger - they'll use a string quartet at their forthcoming London gigs - but right now they don't have time to rehearse new ideas.
Eventually Reid wants to play more piano on stage, and promises their sound will expand. "For now," she says, "it's about getting comfortable on stage. That's really important for me."
Extra time - London Grammar
:: London Grammar are Hannah Reid, Dan Rothman and Dot Major.
:: Their music has been compared to The xx, Florence + The Machine and Soul II Soul.
:: Reid says her favourite song to perform is Hey Now due to the reaction it gets, making her feel more relaxed on stage.
:: The band's debut, If You Wait, was produced by Tim Bran, who has worked with The Verve, Outkast and Roy Kerr, AKA The Freelance Hellraiser.
:: The artist they would most like to collaborate with is Matt Berninger of The National.
:: London Grammar's debut album, If You Wait, is released on Monday, September 9. They begin a UK tour on October 15, full dates below
6 - Bestival, Isle of Wight
13 - Festival Number 6, Portmeirion
15 - Norwich Open
16 - Brighton Concorde 2
18 - London Brixton Electric
19 - Oxford Gathering
20 - Bristol Anson Rooms
22 - Nottingham Rescue Rooms
23 - Birmingham Academy 2
24 - Leeds Cockpit
26 - Manchester Sound Control
27 - Glasgow Oran Mor
28 - Newcastle Northumbria University
28 - London Brixton Electric
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