Coming straight outta Leeds, Grammatics are a particularly eccentric solution to unforgiving doses of everyday radio pop. Weaving catchy melodies with a penchant for far more ambitious and intricate textures and ambience, Grammatics are not your average guitar-fronted indie four piece. The band have just released their self-titled debut album have toured with Rolo Tomassi and are scheduled for dates later in the year with the perhaps the kings of guitar-fronted British indie, Bloc Party. Amidst these busy times, bassist Rory O'Hara gives us some words on everything from the musical leanings of his hometown to the lifespan of the band itself.
How did Grammatics come together? Have all you been fairly musically active before this?
Owen, Dom and I formed the first incarnation of Grammatics in December 2005. Dom and Owen were friends since meeting at Leeds College of Music and I knew Owen vaguely from school and through his previous band, who I was a big fan of. I was in a band that supported his and we got talking after that. Then when they split Owen started an acoustic night in York, putting guests on every week. He invited me to play there a few times and eventually asked if I wanted to join a new band he was putting together. Our original cellist had been playing with him and got the same invitation. We had all played since we were young; I started playing guitar when I was 6 and have always been surrounded by music.
If you could, how would you describe the sound you make? Are there any premeditated notions of how you want everything to sound?
I find describing our sound very difficult. At its core, Owen writes pop songs, but they are blurred and layered with so many different things – obviously the cello belongs to classical music and we use it in a pretty grandiose way. My bass playing is influenced mainly by post-punk and punk-funk bands who had the mix of dub influence and a heavy, gritty, punchy sound – Dom’s a disciple of Britpop and has his own eccentric style of drumming – very powerful and rigid. Given those differences it’s hard to predict how the songs will turn out, and is probably why we still haven’t figured out how to describe ourselves.
Being on Dance To The Radio, do you feel there's a strong, close-knitted music scene in Leeds? What are some other bands you would recommend?
Certainly. There’s a lot of musical people in Leeds, whether they’re in a band or not, from the DIY promoters like British Wildlife, Brainwash, Cops & Robbers et al to our friends at Futuresound and the Brudenell Social Club. There’s a lot of debate but at the heart of it is a shared passion for music, which can only be a good thing. My absolute favourite band from Leeds is Wild Beasts. There are many other greats though – Pulled Apart By Horses, Laura Groves (aka Blue Roses) who sings on our album, Sky Larkin, Wonderswan, Cowtown, Duels, Vessels, Downdime and the tragically demised This Et Al to name but a few. Bilge Pump are mindblowing. Quack Quack are Damo Suzuki’s resident Leeds band, which speaks for itself. Look him up if you’re not familiar!
These days you seem to be everyone's touring buddies - would you say live music is the most important part of being in a band, particularly yourselves?
I know Owen prefers recording; personally I love the experience of touring – even if you play the same set for two months you have a different experience every night. In terms of the ailing record industry, a lot of importance has been put on live music as a way to survive, but I don’t think you could call that or recorded music more important than the other. They are co-dependant and both have their peaks and pitfalls. Aside from the industry, I love music in all its forms.
In the time you've spent together so far, what would you say was your fondest moment?
It sounds clichéd but there have been so many. Playing on the main stage at Latitude Festival on the same day as my teenage favourite Death Cab for Cutie meant a lot to me. Playing at the Astoria was amazing. Touring with These New Puritans, one of my favourite bands, was a great experience. Even just a good gig on a difficult tour can be the thing that lifts everyone out of despair – there’s been plenty of that.
Have you had any particularly interesting gigs - for reasons both good and bad
The interesting ones are always the bad ones! Getting jeered and pelted by thousands of Pigeon Detectives fans when we supported them at Millennium Square in Leeds last year was interesting.
If you had to pick just one song to sum up Grammatics what would it be?
I think we all feel that Shadow Committee was the first cohesive statement of our identity. It was our first limited edition single and has always been the first song in our set since we wrote it. Now though, I couldn’t choose. There are so many different shades of what Grammatics is now and that’s evidenced by the variety of the sounds on our album. My favourite is Swan Song.
What would you most like to achieve by the end of the year?
Just to have played well and made the most of the opportunities that have been extended to us. We’re very excited to be supporting Bloc Party in October. We’d also like to do some more travelling outside the UK – Paris gave us a taste for the Continent! Besides that, we can only hope that our music will find a wider audience – hopefully it will start to seep into the people who haven’t yet made their minds up about us, maybe even to the people who didn’t like us at first.
Grammatics are on tour supporting Bloc Party at Picture House, Edinburgh Sat 3 Oct; Iron Works, Inverness Sun 4 Oct; Music Hall, Aberdeen, Tue 6 Oct; Alhambra Dunfermline Wed 7 Oct.