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15 minutes with London Grammar

WORDS BY TARA SMITH

On band mates, women in music and overcoming stage fright.

It’s been four years since we first fell in love with the moody ballads of London Grammar.

The band’s debut album, If You Wait, introduced us to Hannah Reid’s soaring vocals, with melancholic harmonies from band mates Dan Rothman and Dot Major.

This year, the band has released its follow-up album, Truth is a Beautiful Thing, and announced an Australian tour in September to back it up.

Before the trio returns to Australian soil, we had a chat with vocalist Hannah Reid on her band mates, being a woman in the music industry and overcoming stage fright.

Truth is a Beautiful Thing is the follow-up to your debut album released in 2013. What have you been up to for the last four years?

We’ve been working on our album, really. We’ve been in the studio a lot, we’ve done a couple of things over Christmas, we came to Australia to do a festival. But mainly, we’ve been in the studio.

You’ve just announced an Australian tour this September, how many shows are you doing?

All the major cities. We’re going to New Zealand to do a show as well, and we’re doing two nights at the Sydney Opera House, which will be amazing.

Where’s your favourite place to perform?

Coming to Australia is always amazing. I remember the first time we did Falls Festival, that was really special. That was the first time we walked out on stage and there were thousands of people. We’d never had that before, so I will always remember that. It was nuts, you’re a good crowd.

How do you go performing in front of a big crowd like that? I get nervous talking to three people at once.

Not very well. I’ve had many a nervous breakdown before a show. I also get nervous talking to three people at once. I picked the right job (laughs). I really struggle, I’m very scared a lot of the time, but you just get on with it.

Have you faced any challenges as a woman in the music industry?

I wish I could say that I’ve had a completely easy ride of it… In the music industry, there have been times where my voice has felt like it had less of a weight in it than my band mates. It doesn’t happen so much anymore, but that was a very strange thing to experience, and really opened my eyes to what it must be like to be part of a minority or group of people that have been oppressed throughout history. It was really quite a pained experience, even just feeling like my voice is being heard in a different kind of way.

Which isn’t how you’d expect a lead vocalist to feel… 

I think that’s often the case. A lot of the time for women in the industry, it’s fine for them to be these fragile, creative creatures that have a lot of emotion. But when it comes down to the business side of things, or the male-dominated production side of things, it’s a man’s world still. It’s very strange.

It seems like you have very supportive band mates though.

Yes of course, Dan and Dot are amazing.

How do you go on tour together for months at a time without killing each other?

It is testing. It’s kind of like being put into a pressure cooker and coming out the other side. You’re this really weird family that’s not related by blood. We definitely see the worst sides of each other. Touring does do that to you. I think we just entertain ourselves with our sense of humour.

Your upcoming tour will be promoting your second album, Truth is a Beautiful Thing. How does this album differ from your first?

I think in some ways it is really different. Some people have said they don’t think it is but I do… We’ve experimented a bit more. In some ways, it’s less commercial. It’s more atmospheric in the electronic realm. I think our first album was a bit more trip-poppy. I think there are some bigger vocals on there. I guess everyone will have different opinions. As long as people like it…I hope they like it.

Do you have a favourite song on the new album? Or is that like asking you to choose between your children?

I think it is like asking me to choose between children, but you do have favourites! I have two: ‘Bones of Ribbon’ and ‘Leave the War With Me’ are probably my favourite songs.

As a follow-up to your debut, do you feel an added pressure for this album to do well?

We can feel it. But you have to let go of the first album and not worry too much about it, because you’re never going to make that album ever again and it will always be special because it was your first one. Your first album is different. There’s something so special about debut albums.

Aside from your Australian tour later this year, what other special stuff do you have coming up?

We’re doing loads of European festivals, which we’re really excited about. We’re touring the UK, Europe, and then hopefully we’ll get started on album three.

You can catch London Grammar on their Australian tour in September. For tour dates visit londongrammar.com.

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