Wasting My Young Years
Their story, to a point, is sweetly familiar. During their time at university, between papers, exams, and classes, guitarist Dan Rothman and singer Hannah Reid serendipitously meet, jam, and eventually perform covers in local pubs and bars after overcoming an initial stage fright. About a year into performing, the duo meet Dot Major, a multi-instrumentalist, through Dan’s girlfriend. During those days, Major provided percussion in the form of djembe. Fast forward three years to 2013. Hannah, Dot, and Dan are now London Grammar, indie electronica darlings that are a far ways away from the dingy corner pub in Nottingham.
Things seem to be happening fairly quickly for the young U.K. trio, who quietly released their debut single “Hey Now” online less than a year ago to buzzing critical reception and widespread intrigue. Only a few months later, answering to the rising interest in their sound, London Grammar officially re-released the single as part of a four-track EP; Metal & Dust would provide a small taste of what would eventually become their debut LP, If You Wait, released this September with the independent London- based label Ministry of Sound. Though London Grammar’s successes seem idyllic, even romantic, like a fairytale for the modern musical age of the fortuitous path from dorm room to festival stage, the countless hours logged in practice and the commitment to preparation and performance cannot be discounted. Still, not every well-rehearsed and dynamic band experiences the kind of vault to popularity as has this young trio.
There is a familiarity about London Grammar’s sound that draws quick comparison, namely to The xx, and Hannah Reid’s vocals to those of Florence Welch. London Grammar command a sparsity in sound, and a striking balance between the instrumental and the electronic. Despite these similarities, If You Wait carves a uniquely engaging niche all its own. It is both minimal and sweeping, quiet and dramatic, intimate but removed, always exploring the space between presence and absence in both content and delivery. Though their instrumentals have been critiqued as sounding PG- rated or too easy-listening, the element of accessibility acts as a necessary counterpoint to Reid’s potent poetry, making the whole album not only raw and honest, but also approachable. It is this juxtaposition of the operatic vocals against the familiar instrumentals that makes their sound so distinctively compelling, yet it never seems contrived. When asked about group dynamic and the creative give-and-take in production, Dot reveals, “We’re all massively influenced by each other. I think everything I’ve ever wrote has been somewhat influenced by the other two.”
Their collaborative energy translates well in songs like “Wasting My Young Years,” the first official single off If You Wait which, despite revolving around something so personal as one of Reid’s previous relationships, carries a sentiment that is immediately recognizable and relevant to London Grammar’s younger wayward audience—a great example of their ability to make the personal universal through honesty in production. “It’s a little bit about that, I think,” Dot contemplates. “Our generation is one where you grow up, you just go to school and then you go to university or college, and it’s not really as clear-cut as that. I think a lot of people in our generation, especially with the recession, they come out of school and then they can’t find a job, and it’s quite a difficult time for people around 22, 23. They’re just wondering what they’re supposed to be doing now. Ironically, that fear kind of edged me out of college.”
But, he does confess: “Personally, what [“Wasting My Young Years”] means in a wider context, it doesn’t necessarily have that direct significance to me, because we were lucky enough to make that jump.” And why should they have to be martyred for their music? Because perhaps just as meaningful as their music is the people behind it, who never could have anticipated what their dedicated practice in passion would lead to. London Grammar could definitely proffer a lesson in optimism for a generation marked by disenchantment. When asked for their WILD Wish, Dot reflects: “Six months ago, if you look where we are now, we’re about to tour, and that’s pretty wild. It just kind of creeps up on you while you’re doing it. It happens really quickly, and I think that in a year’s time if we’re still doing it and we can make another album, that’s kind of what we all hope for.”