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London Grammar: The Flickering Flames of Youth

By Laura Studarus; photos by Mads Perch on March 25, 2014


London Grammar: The Flickering Flames of Youth

London Grammar are still a young band. Listen to their restrained music, comprised of delicate cobwebs of keys, guitar and Hannah Reid’s soprano slur, and it might be hard to believe that the band’s members (vocalist Reid, producer/drummer Dot Major and guitarist Dan Rothman) are still in their early 20s. Couple that with their debut album If You Wait’s complex themes of youthful awkwardness and the encroaching melancholy of adulthood, and it becomes dangerously tempting to trot out the cliché and label them “old souls.”

Inspired by If You Wait, which sees a special US-edition release this March, the Guide asked Major about some of the lighter events of his child and teenage years. He told us about his heavy-metal phase, the dangers of time travel and what American invention has had the greatest impact on his life.

You met your bandmates in college in Nottingham. What were you hoping to do with your degree before the band became a full- time occupation?


I guess writing. I was studying English. That was the other thing that I enjoyed. I don’t read anywhere near as much as I used to. I’d like to read more. I spend more time producing stuff.


How old were you when you first started seriously learning music?


I started studying piano when I was 4. I was in the classical world. I still really enjoy listening to classical piano music. If I can’t sleep I put some on.


Was there ever a time in your life when you rebelled against the piano?


When I was about 10 I started playing drums. At that time I gave up piano because piano wasn’t “cool.” I always regret that.


Who was your favorite band during that time?


I used to listen to shit like Korn. I listened to a lot of jazz as well because my brother was listening to jazz. The best drummers are in jazz and heavy metal. They’ve got brilliant drumming.



How would you have responded if you could have looked into the future and seen this beautiful, melancholy music that you’re making now?


I think I would have liked it! As much as I listened to metal I always really liked emotional music. I never completely neglected the emotional side. My musical appetite was more mature than my emotional brain. I listened to loads of soundtracks as well.


In America, the big birthday is when you turn 21. Is there a major birthday like that for you in England?


It’s 18 here. I had a big American-style house party. We had beer pong. I think of that as the most American thing you can do.


I love that; my country’s big contribution to celebration is beer pong.




Do you feel like an adult now?


I wouldn’t really say that I’m a full-fledged adult. I’m in an in-between stage. No one looks after me, but I’m really a kid inside. I feel like it’s a generational thing. If you ask someone my age, you think the generation above you will always be the adults, the same way that to them you will always be the kids. When you get to 40 you’ll probably still feel like a kid because your parents’ generation will still be the adults.


If you have children one day, is there something that you’ll try to teach them that maybe you didn’t know as a kid?


I definitely wouldn’t tell them that school is the best days of their lives. To go to school you leave at eight in the morning every day. School is the best days of your life? Life sucks!



Is there anything that you miss about the freedom of being a kid or a teenager?


There’s not really anything! Being a musician is not the most adult job. It’s almost like being at university.


If you could look ahead and see where you’d be 50 years from now, would you do it?


Definitely not! It would be impossible to know what happens in the future without influencing your current behavior.


It sounds like you’ve contemplated time travel.


Yeah. The only way that you could travel into the future is to travel faster than the speed of light. I understand that concept when I think of the stars, and how the light takes thousands of years to get to us. Those stars might not even still be there.


I’m guessing that you also wouldn’t want to go back and change anything in your past.


No, I wouldn’t want to do that. If I did go back and change things I’d probably lose my phone or something.