London Grammar Brings the Sound of Young Britain to America
The young trio of singer Hannah Reid, guitarist Dan Rothman and multi-instrumentalist Dot Major took in the storied club's fašade on Santa Monica Boulevard with wide eyes, happily snapping pictures of each other and the band's name on the marquee.
Back in their home country of England, London Grammar is already a sensation, with the group's debut album, If You Wait, landing at No. 2 on the UK album charts in its first week of release, second only to the Arctic Monkeys' blockbuster LP, AM. The band's minimal and dynamic, not to mention dramatic, sound has drawn comparisons to the xx, but Reid's rich, powerful voice sets London Grammar apart from their influences and contemporaries alike.
Here in America, many music listeners first encountered London Grammar thanks to breakout British house music act Disclosure, who featured the band on their song "Help Me Lose My Mind," off their Mercury Prize-nominated album, Settle. Reid's distinctive vocal styling elevates Disclosure's tasteful dance track into an album highlight.
"Basically, Disclosure heard a demo of the song 'If You Wait,' and they just liked my voice and asked to collaborate with us," Reid explained of the song's genesis after she and the guys settled down in the Troubadour's front bar area for a chat. "It only took two days in the studio with them. They work really quickly. They're really nice, very talented, especially considering they're so young. I wrote the topline with [Disclosure member] Howard [Lawrence] and we took it from there."
When asked about her dream collaborations, Reid said, "I would love to work with the National. Or Beyonce, you know." Major chimed in, "Beyonce would be amazing."
London Grammar's inclusive sound would find them right at home alongside either of those acts, with If You Wait trading primarily in taut and emotionally engaging songs that take a wide-angle look at life in the 21st century from the shrewd eyes of three well-educated young Brits. The trio met while studying at University of Nottingham back in 2009.
Musically, the album veers from stark, sparse arrangements like the title cut, which matches Reid's voice with just a piano, next to tracks laden with electronic elements, like the subtle washes of bass rumbling underneath songs like opener, "Hey Now."
The low-key hip-hop beats that power songs like "Stay Awake" have even caused some to toss the term "trip-hop" around, citing parallels with such '90s U.K acts as Portishead and Massive Attack.
"Most of these songs came together pretty quickly," said Major from behind a sweep of hair when asked about the creation of the band's full-length debut. "We'd work out melodies as a group, and then Hannah would write lyrics to the music, sometimes in the span of ten or twenty minutes." More including video.
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