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London Grammar

January 31, 2014

THE story of how London Grammar guitarist Dan Rothman hooked up with singer Hannah Reid while the pair were studying at the University of Nottingham isn’t as sinister as it might appear.

Biographies of the band frequently recall how the economics and philosophy student had spotted a photo of her on Facebook holding a guitar and sent her a message.

“It wasn’t quite as creepy as it sounds,” laughs Rothman.

“I did know her beforehand. It was only when I saw the picture of her with the guitar that I knew she did music. She wouldn’t have told me otherwise, because that’s just what she’s like; she’s quite shy.”

This was in 2009 when both Londoners were in their first year. Reid was studying English. In the year below on the same course was a Northampton drummer called Dot Major.

“None of us knew each other before we came to Nottingham,” says Rothman.

“I was introduced to Dot by my girlfriend. She said there was a guy she knew who was into music. He was actually a drummer in a really heavy rock band called Twelve Titans and they were terrible,” he laughs.

“They were touring around doing toilet gigs in Northampton until he came to university.

“I went round his house and we started playing some music together. I basically asked him to join the band.”

Rothman and Reid were playing gigs around Nottingham as a duo before Major joined.

“I remember we did one at a place behind Oceana though I can’t remember the name of it,” he says of a place known to many as Gatsby’s but then called Central and now a karaoke bar.

“They had a stage downstairs but we were told to go upstairs to this little room where there was a tiny stage and a bar. It was part of the flat owned by the woman who ran the venue so you could smoke up there. It was bizarre.

“We ended up playing to about five people in this room and one of them was the spitting image of Simon Cowell. Afterwards we found out that he actually was a professional lookalike.”

As a trio, London Grammar played Lenton student bar the Bag O’ Nails, The Bodega and Rock City’s basement.

The Rock City show was for CRS, the community recording studios in St Ann’s.

“I don’t know how it happened,” says Rothman.

“I think Hannah met someone from there and we were invited down. We met a guy called Trevior (Rose, who runs CRS) and he was an absolute legend.”

“It’s fair to say that Hannah and I felt reasonably out of place there; these two very middle class university students in quite a rough area.

“We hung out, played music and they invited us to a gig with them at Rock City.”

He adds: “Trevor was really supportive of us in those early days. He’s a wicked guy.”

During the final year at uni for Reid and Rothman, London Grammar were playing gigs in London as well as locally.

“The break came when we played a gig at The Wheelbarrow in Camden,” he says.

“We were soundchecking and a guy who was an A&R for Mercury/Universal said he thought we were amazing. After that the word spread.

“We had a video on YouTube (Hey Now) that attracted a couple of other A&R and we eventually signed a development contract with Ministry of Sound.”

Rothman and Reid graduated in 2011 and moved back to London.

“We got spotted as we were finishing our degrees but because Dot was in the year below, he was finishing his while we were recording the album. He’s incredibly smart so he was able to manage that.”

The first EP Metal & Dust, released last February, built up the hype surrounding the band, meaning the single, Wasting My Young Years, hit the Top 40 on its release in June.

As well as a summer of festival dates, including Glastonbury, Bestival and Leeds and Reading, the trio featured on Disclosure’s No. 1 album, Settle.

When their debut album, If You Wait, was released in September, it went straight in to the chart at number two.

Their debut UK tour was a sell-out and included the Rescue Rooms.

“It was weird because I’d seen so many bands there when I was at university,” he says.

“And playing Rock City... I think about the bands I saw there. To think we’ve sold out both of those venues makes me realise just how far we’ve come.”

So far this year, London Grammar have played shows in Australia and the US and appeared on TV in New York. They’ve also picked up a Brit nomination for British Breakthrough Act.

“Nottingham is where I found out about music and for all of us it feels like our second home,” says Rothman, whose stepsister is studying at uni here.

“Although we live in London now we never really enjoy the London shows. There’s so much pressure on us, from the press, the label and our management all being there.

“But Nottingham is like a hometown show without the pressure.”

London Grammar play Rock City tonight supported by Dan Croll and Kyan. The show is sold out.

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