Their highly anticipated third album Californian Soil is a fantastic listen and to top that off Secret Sounds are excited to announce Brit Award nominees and Ivor Novello winners London Grammar will be returning to Australia in February 2022 for a national tour. There are plenty of great moments on Californian Soil including the likes of Baby It’s You, Lose Your Head, title track Californian Soil and the most recent How Does It Feel. Hannah Reid, Dan Rothman and Dot Major released their double platinum-selling debut album If You Wait in 2013, followed by their gold-selling album Truth Is A Beautiful Thing in 2017. They’ve garnered numerous BRIT nominations and have been awarded a prestigious Ivor Novello Award for song writing and composing. The band has worked with an array of contemporary talent and brands, including Paul Epworth, Dior and Disclosure, and in 2019 Hannah Reid featured on Flume’s hit Let You Know.
London Grammar has sold out numerous Australian headline tours, wowed the Sydney Opera House, and played an envious list of sold-out tours and headlined festivals worldwide. Most recently, their track Hey Now (Arty Remix) was featured on the hit show Normal People. No doubt that London Grammar will continue their love affair with Australian fans in 2022 as Dan Rothman explains.
Now that your new album Californian Soil is out are you feeling optimistic about being able to tour it?
Well, I hope so. I think it’s a good album, and I am also pretty hopeful of performing now. It suddenly seems like a very real reality, a real prospect. I think it’s interesting because obviously we finished this album sometime ago. We were scheduled to release this last year, and we delayed it because we knew we wouldn’t be able to perform it or promote it in a way that would do justice to the work that we put in. So, I feel like it’s coming now despite how difficult it was to wait, and believe me, it was difficult. There were numerous arguments with our management about it.
I think it was the right decision and I think it gave us the time to work on the promotional aspects of it and the visual side of the record, how we’re going to play the album and perform live. So, please God, if in deed we do we’re looking like we are going to both here and in Australia. It’s really, really exciting. I’m scared to feel this excited about things. I don’t want to disappoint myself.
How was the build up to the release of the album?
It’s funny, I was saying to Hannah, when we were talking about it, we talk a lot about like, how we feel about coming towards the release of an album. I will often read or sort of speak to other artists who say that point when the album is about to come out, your anxiety kind of increases quite a lot and actually in some ways it can be the most difficult time for people. I think Hannah finds it really, really difficult as we approached the release, but it’s interesting because I think whilst I’ve had that on the previous albums, there’s something about this time, I feel less nervous than I have done in the past. It’s probably because the album has been done for so long, has been finished for so long, when I listen to it or when I hold it, because I have a vinyl here at my house. When I see it, it almost feels like a relic to me, it doesn’t feel so new. So, I don’t have the same anxiety. It already feels like something that’s been released, which is really strange and that is unique to my experiences of releasing material thus far.
Did you feel more pressure this time with album number three given how strong the last two were? Truth Is A Beautiful Thing is a fantastic album.
Thanks, I think I felt it a lot less, to be honest with you. I think number two was much, much more pressured in some ways. I think this one has been a completely different experience. Album number two was about sort of trying to, in some way, create something that could match what we did with the first album, because it was such a like runway thing for us that it was completely unexpected in terms of what it achieved. I think number two, we were just holding onto a fucking train that was moving a hundred miles an hour and, could we possibly make something that could keep up with it. It was very fraught. It was quite difficult. It was the difficult second album, and we are ridiculously cliched in that sense. Whereas I think with number three, I think with this album, it felt like a much more personal experience of rediscovering ourselves, musically, individually, collectively, how we operate together as a trio. What that looks like, what it sounded like, and it felt more playful to me in that sense. I mean, there were difficult moments. It’s an emotional experience. Whenever we work, it’s emotional, but yeah, I found it less pressured, I would say more of just like a journey of discovery as cheesy as that sounds. I think that’s how I experienced it.
So is this album recorded well before the COVID madness took over?
Yeah. The majority of it. I mean, when we began the majority of it was recorded. A lot of it was recorded in my home studio probably between 2017 and 2019. That was where most of the demos were made or written. We did some other writing elsewhere, and Hannah did some sessions with other songwriters. We were involved with a couple of other producers, for example, but the majority was probably done between 2017 and 2019.
How hard has it been as band to manage through this limbo where your career is literally on hold?
There are certain people whose jobs are more effected. There are other people who, like my wife for example, works for a tech company and her job was discontinued. She moved home so that she could continue working. Whereas I think like anybody who works within the UK where you work in retail, anybody who worked in the food industry, I have a friend who’s a chef, their careers were already put on hold. I think like my experience is probably quite similar to theirs. Like a lot of anxiety, like what will this look like afterwards? Will there be an afterward? Will there be the live music again? Can we promote this record? What does the music industry look like? What’s going to happen? And things have changed. Let’s not underplay it. Things have changed dramatically, even from the digital consumption of music, the way I see it, it’s just completely changed.
I think I’m in an incredibly fortunate position as a band who’s already sort of broken and has a fan base internationally. We were confident that it would still exist or continue to exist. We had some weird moments during the pandemic where like our music had been synced and was being played on TV shows. This kept us in the ether a little bit as we began to release new music. So, it was tricky, but I think I’m very, very fortunate in the sense that I didn’t think it was all doom and gloom for us per se, just from a purely selfish point of view. I think I dealt with it okay fortunately.
Did you learn a lot about yourself in terms of your own personal resilience during this period as well?
I had a daughter a few months ago [congratulations!] That’s been an obviously massive change in my life and an incredible learning curve and has made me think about life and it’s come at the end of a really weird period. So it has been life changing. I suppose for everybody probably experiences a similar thing, but in terms of resilience I think I’m so lucky with my life. I just don’t think it’s been that hard for me compared to some people. I don’t mean to sound like a twat about it. I hope that doesn’t make me sound it. I just don’t want to say my life has been that hard compared to others. I have friends who really have been fucked, it’s terrible what I see for them and it’s really heart breaking. I think if anything, it’s just made me feel more empathetic to other people who have really, really struggled in this situation.
Did any in particular inspire Californian Soil?
I think from a lyrical point of view, I think, is Hannah’s realm. Speaking for her slightly, I think Californian Soil as a theme, generally speaking, is about, well, firstly, there’s a lot of feminist sort of viewpoints in there that are expressed in some of her experiences of the music industry, the experiences of being a young woman in that industry are expressed in a way that contextualizes the death of the American dream, or the death of the facade of the American dream, if you like, and how it’s dressed up nice and pretty, and underneath it’s like a bit dirty and not quite as wonderful as it seems. There’s a song called America on the album, which definitely encapsulates that.
Californian Soil obviously is is the title for the album as a whole, because it represents that idea. Then I think from a sort of musical point of view there are parts of that that where there is an Americana aspect to some songs on the album, which I think we tried to bring out. I was very influenced by interesting European takes on American music. I’ve always been fascinated by, for example, someone like Serge Gainsbourg is somebody who I was listening to a lot at the time when we were making the record. He takes these influences from American music, like on Bonnie and Clyde, for example, as a track, reimagines it in his own European way. I think we’ve done that in different ways on different tracks. There’s a song called Missing, which is our take on a sort of R&B pop song, which is synonymous for American pop music. There’s also undeniably sort of British electronic music that always makes its way into our sound as well.
Have you been really stoked with the reaction to the singles release so far?
It’s funny, as it got nearer to the release, it had been a bit of a slow burn. I think our music is always a little bit like that. The first album was like that. I think like Australia in particular, we had this weird experience where, Hey now, which was our first single became like this real sleeper hit in Australia somehow, which was bizarre at the time. Our music tends to sort of take time to sort of build traction in a way or enter the ether. I think I have been stoked because people or fans and even friends of mine, I can sense they’re genuine when they tell me that they’re listening to it more readily and they’re enjoying the experience of listening to it. I think the second album, I know you said you liked it, but I think, it was a more tricky listen for people, it was a little bit deeper and darker and I think it was a bit more of a challenge. That’s how it came across to me. I don’t know if that makes any sense.
To add to the excitement you must be looking to getting out of the UK to return for an Australian tour early next year?
The prospect of it is for me the unreal. It doesn’t seem like it is possible that it could even happen right now. When we were approached about it and, we like to speak to our Australian label and our promoters about doing it and they obviously gave us the confidence. I’m beyond excited.
Interview By Rob Lyon
Tickets for London Grammar’s Australian tour are available through Secret Sounds…