INTERVIEW: Grammatics

It's all go for Grammatics.

With the Leeds-based quartet's eponymous debut album out this week on local label Dance To The Radio and already receiving great reviews, and their song Shadow Committee the winning track on the Pick and Mix new music feature on Stuart Maconie and Mark Radcliffe's Radio 2 show, it all seems to be coming together for the band.

It's something which drummer Dominic Ord confesses to being slightly surprised about.

"So far everything's gone totally according to plan, which is very unusual for us," he says.

"The album seems to have gone down better than anyone could have hoped for and we're getting some really good tours to coincide with it – we found out very recently that we're going on tour with Bloc Party in October."

Anyone familiar with the band, however, will know that this success is well deserved.

Their unique strain of elaborate, melodramatic pop deliberately aims to offer something a little more involved and challenging than the so-called 'landfill indie' that seemed in danger of swamping the scene a year ago, and the band have been hard at work over the last couple of years whetting appetites for their debut album with regular live appearances and a series of impressive singles.

Ord and frontman Owen Brindley used to run an indie club night in York until they realised there was a Grammatics-shaped hole on the musical landscape.

"We took our ideals and what we'd hoped to achieve with the club night and transferred them to a band." he explains.

And so Grammatics was born, a quartet which comprises singer and guitarist Brindley, cellist and backing vocalist Emilia Ergin, bassist Rory O'Hara and drummer Ord. None of the band, apart from Emilia, hail from too far afield.

"I'm from York originally and Owen hails from Bramham," says Ord. "Rory is a Leodensian and Emilia is from Stockholm in Sweden. We're a mixed bag but it seems to work really well."

Emilia was a replacement for the band's original cellist Rebecca Dumican, who left to pursue a teaching career. Replacing her wasn't easy.

"Finding a female cellist who can sing and wants to spend their foreseeable future in the back of a van is a very, very difficult thing!" says Ord.

"We advertised everywhere for someone suitable and eventually Emilia answered an advert we put up in Leeds University Music Department. The rest, as they say, is history."

It's clear from hearing the album that every member of the band is passionate about what they do.

"All of us have been involved in music and bands for a long time before Grammatics," explains Ord. "Emilia played with the Stockholm Youth Symphony Orchestra, Owen was in Colour Of Fire, Rory has played since he was six and I was in a few bands before we started Grammatics."

With each member having an interest in the music, songwriting is a flexible process.

"Every single song is written in a different way, " explains Ord. "Some songs come fully formed from Owen and we all adjust our parts accordingly, some songs will begin with Rory and myself building a rhythm track and everyone layering on top of it."

"Some sprout from obtaining a new piece of equipment and literally basing a song around it, like we did with our songs Relentless Fours and Polar Swelling."

"It makes for a really varied and quite exciting dynamic – the idea that inspiration can come from so many sources."

With song titles like The Vague Archive and the aforementioned Polar Swelling it won't come as a surprise to learn that the band's lyrics are evocative but not always penetrable.

To find out whether this is deliberate it's over to frontman Owen Brindley.

"To an extent, that is an intention," he admits.

"I've always enjoyed the cryptic element of certain lyricists, the intrigue it creates can be fascinating. I enjoy the feeling that people may develop interpretations of my lyrics, I find that exiting and inspiring.

So, Owen, what exactly are you referring to in the song Polar Swelling?

"I don't think I could give you a sane-sounding definition," he confesses. "This may sound pretentious but I sometimes use words because I like the look and shape of them."

The band recorded their album at James Kenosha's studio in Bridlington – a popular choice for Leeds bands – and Ord is full of praise for the man.

"James' biggest attribute is he can make any band feel so at ease. He is one of the most patient and enthusiastic people I have ever met. That meant we were given free rein to experiment as we pleased, something other so-called 'super producers' we have worked with won't adhere to, and in turn the recordings have suffered considerably."

"We started recording back in 2007 when we were all still learning our craft and I think both the band and James really hit our stride just as we began the album. Before then we had suffered from too many ideas and not enough know-how.

"He did an amazing job of pulling all aspects of the band together to produce something more concise."

"We've ended up with a record that we're immensely proud of," says Ord. "It took some doing but was definitely worth it in the end."

With the album under their belt the band are now off on a UK tour with fellow Leeds band Pulled Apart By Horses and Sheffield's Rolo Tomassi.

Their busy touring schedule has had its highlights.

"Supporting The Futureheads on tour in 2008 was amazing," says Ord. "It was our first taste of the bigger stage and they were the nicest guys in the world."

"Playing the main stage at Latitude (Festival] and being the first band to open the weekend in July 2008 was another incredible experience – more nerve-wracking than I ever thought possible, but I think we pulled it off."

So have there been any experiences that weren't quite so positive?

"I wouldn't say it was a low point," says Ord, "but playing to 7000 Pigeon Detectives fans at Millennium Square and having a large portion of them question your manhood was certainly one I'll never forget!"

Grammatics' debut album is out now on the Dance To The Radio label. The band will be performing at the Live At Leeds all-dayer on May 2.

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