Lon­don Call­ing

Elec­tro-pop he­roes Lon­don Gram­mar are back at the top of their game with their sec­ond al­bum, Truth Is A Beau­ti­ful Thing. But as they tell Peter McGo­ran, a tri­umphant re­turn wasn’t al­ways a cer­tainty.

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Sit­ting in their back­stage dress­ing room at the Olympia The­atre, Lon­don Gram­mar are a mem­ber short. Guitarist Dan Roth­man and per­cus­sion­ist Dot Ma­jor are present, but singer Han­nah Reid is no­tably ab­sent. “Han­nah’s been hav­ing some dif­fi­culty with her voice,” Dan ex­plains. It’s un­der­stand­able enough. Reid has no­to­ri­ously been plagued with is­sues around stage fright in the past, so any­one could for­give her for not want­ing to take ques­tions, just a few hours be­fore she’s due to play to an au­di­ence of 1,000 peo­ple.

Lon­don Gram­mar’s story is a strange one. Hav­ing re­leased their plat­inum-sell­ing de­but al­bum, If You Wait, back in 2013, they won a string of ac­co­lades, and be­come ra­dio and fes­ti­val dar­lings. Then, they ap­peared to drop sud­denly off the face of the earth. Their busy tour­ing sched­ule pe­tered out, and ru­mours sprang up that they’d bro­ken up, or packed in mu­sic al­to­gether. The truth, how­ever, was a lot less dra­matic.

“Mak­ing a record, it’s just a dif­fi­cult thing to do,” Dan re­flects. “The sec­ond al­bum was just as dif­fi­cult as the first. And then ob­vi­ously, there was the pres­sure that came with hav­ing to close our­selves off to the world for the sec­ond al­bum. I think that the ex­pec­ta­tion from the fans was there, and the pres­sure to fol­low up what turned out to have been a re­ally suc­cess­ful de­but. It took us by sur­prise, so to fol­low that up was daunt­ing, be­cause it all seemed im­pos­si­ble the first time.”

“It took as long as it took,” Dot shrugs. “Al­though we felt pres­sure, we were never des­per­ate to get it out. We didn’t end up spend­ing any longer on the first one that the sec­ond. If any­thing, it was the same amount, the same rou­tine.”

So the ru­mours of in-fight­ing and breaks-up were greatly ex­ag­ger­ated?

“Yeah, we al­ways work to­gether and there’s no hint of that chang­ing,” says Dan defini­tively. “We all went back to work­ing as nor­mal. I mean, nor­mal for us is like be­ing a house with your brother and sis­ter, and just ar­gu­ing all the time be­cause of the in­ten­sity. But that’s to­tally nat­u­ral. You oc­ca­sion­ally have days where ev­ery­one wants to beat their head against the wall, but that makes the good days more worth­while.”

Who takes the lead when­ever ev­ery­one’s beat­ing their heads against the wall?

“No­body – to our detri­ment,” laughs Dot. “We’re al­most too diplo­matic, in the sense that we al­low ev­ery­one to cre­atively have their say. It makes us slow and un­pro­duc­tive. But when we have a good pro­ducer who can guide us, we re­spond well to that. We had all our shit all over the place, and it was kind of a mess, then Paul Ep­worth came in and we fi­nally had some­one to sort it all out.”

Truth Is A Beau­ti­ful Thing, re­leased ear­lier in 2017, con­tin­ued in the same vein as its pre­de­ces­sor. It’s an al­bum of haunt­ing, am­bi­ent trip-hop which, if any­thing, has been tai­lored to­wards mak­ing Han­nah Reid’s voice sound even more grandiose. It ul­ti­mately at­tempts to cap­ture the awe that was in­spired by songs like ‘Stronger’ and ‘I’m Wast­ing My Young Years’ four years ago, and on most songs it hits the mark (when I wit­ness the whole thing live a few hours later, it’s breath­tak­ing).

But Lon­don Gram­mar’s re­turn to tour­ing wasn’t al­ways a sure thing. As well the afore­men­tioned stage fright of lead singer Han­nah, there was also a time when the band ex­hausted them­selves from the high life of be­ing on the road, and they ended up can­celling a string of tour dates in 2014.

Look­ing around the room, they ap­pear to have a mod­est enough rider. There’s a plat­ter of food on the ta­ble. There’s a bot­tle of red wine and a bot­tle of gin; nei­ther have been opened, though, and there’s no hint of the lads be­ing any­thing other than clear­headed as they talk to me. Does this mean they’ve changed their ways from their first tour?

“I think that drink­ing and par­ty­ing was a prob­lem on the first tour,” ac­knowl­edges Dan, “par­tic­u­larly for me and Dot, more so than for Han­nah. I think we got swept up in what was hap­pen­ing, be­cause, again, we weren’t ex­pect­ing to take off like we did. But there were far more fun­da­men­tal things wrong with how we were run­ning the tour on the road. It’s es­sen­tially a mov­ing, busy of­fice. You kind of have to see it like that. It needs to be run cor­rectly, and we didn’t have the ex­pe­ri­ence to do that at the start and the wheels came off. We’ve just learned from ex­pe­ri­ence how to do it right.”

"I think that drink­ing and par­ty­ing was a prob­lem on the first tour."

Truth Is A Beau­ti­ful Thing is out now.

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