London Grammar on “Truth Is a Beautiful Thing” | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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London Grammar on “Truth Is a Beautiful Thing”

Sibling Harmony

Jun 08, 2017 London Grammar Bookmark and Share

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There is a contradictory yet complementary feeling that comes from being around close siblings: part involuntary outsider, part volunteering to be an insider. Hannah Reid, Dot Major, and Dan Rothman of London Grammar, although not related by blood, have one such sibling connection. With this comes admiration and competition, comfort and arguments, support and annoyance.

“Dot and Hannah are so insanely talented,” says Rothman, a shortlist contender for Nick Jonas’ identical twin. “Dot walks into the recording booth, plays, first take, and it’s perfect. I hate him for it. He’s so blasé and so cool, but he’s actually super-nerdy. Hannah just makes me laugh.”

“Hannah says the same thing to me that I’m thinking about her at that very moment,” says Major, an unintentional Harry Styles look-alike. “She’s so good at arguing. With people I’m not comfortable around, I feel I have to chat and discuss stupid stuff. With Hannah and Dan, I can be a totally different person. I sometimes don’t give them the time I give other people, but actually, I have to work the hardest on giving them the time they deserve.”

“I’ve spent more time with Dan and Dot than anyone else in my entire life,” says Reid, who is so terrifying beautiful, even in her regulation sweatshirt, jeans, and Converse, she is unapproachable. “Everybody has light and dark in them. Mine comes out through songwriting, which frees me up to have a lot of fun outside of that. The three of us get on so well, we’re constantly laughing. That’s the thing we share the most: our sense of humor. It really keeps us together.”

With the overwhelmingly positive response to London Grammar’s Metal & Dust EP and debut album, If You Wait, both released in 2013, when it came to writing its follow-up, Truth is a Beautiful Thing, the British trio felt it had to keep its audience in mind while staying true to itself. The key ingredients: Rothman’s restrained yet marked guitar, Major’s limitless and inventive musicianship, and Reid’s instantly identifiable, impossible to replicate high tones, the combination of which can make you feel faint with emotion, are all in place on Truth is a Beautiful Thing, but there is clear growth on all three sides of the group’s triangle.

Reid has her lyrics and song ideas worked out on the piano, upon which the group builds together, primarily at London’s State of the Ark Studios. Creative genius Jon Hopkins gave direction to the exploratory soundscapes of “Big Picture,” which set Truth is a Beautiful Thing on its sonic path. Hitmaker Paul Epworth helped sculpt a few songs, including the heart-rending “Rooting For You,” as did songwriting wizard Greg Kurstin. Tim Bran and Roy Kerr, who worked on If You Wait, also lent a hand on Truth is a Beautiful Thing. The challenge was finding a balance between the folk and country sounds Reid and Rothman lean toward and the electronics Major favorseventually deciding as a group to drift toward the latter.

“We touched on the potentiality of making something safer sounding,” admits Rothman. “But ultimately…Hannah’s songs and lyrics are never safeever.”

“My lyrics are quite subconscious,” says Reid. “The theme of [Truth is a Beautiful Thing] is different, so is the aesthetic, and the sonics. The first album was a heartbreak album about interpersonal relationships and love songs about romantic relationships. This one’s about an experience I had with myself being on the roadbut love is always in there.”

[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar’s Spring 2017 Issue (April/May/June 2017), which is out now. This is its debut online.]

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