Glastonbury 2014: London Grammar's Hannah Reid: 'I panic at the thought of dirtiness'

Ahead of their Glastonbury set on 29 June, Dan Rothman and Hannah Reid talk snogging, swearing and smelliness

Hey, London Grammar – are you in London?

Dan: Yes. I’m at home in my living room in my family home in north-west London.
Hannah: Yes, I still live with my mum, in Acton.

As for the Grammar element of your name, how good are you at English? What did you get in your English GCSEs?

Dan: Oh shit. I think I got an A* in English Lit and an A in English Language.
Hannah: I believe I got an A*. I was good with words. Hence the current job.

You were good. You must know your way around parentheses then.

Dan: I don’t even have a clue. Sorry.
Hannah: Nope.

What's your handwriting like?

Dan: I’ve been told I’ve got quite effeminate handwriting. I don’t know whether that’s good or not.
Hannah: It can be nice, but I'm a little bit messy, I think. I like being clean, but I can be a bit … uh, disastrous.

Your band are often referred to as ‘polite’. To disprove this reputation, please describe the last time you swore.

Dan: I'm known for having the worst potty mouth. I'm trying to curb it. We played the Radio 1 Big Weekend a few weeks ago and my girlfriend was texting me all day saying: "Do not swear, as it’s live on television." We hadn't played a festival in a while and there was a lot of emotion, so the first thing that came out of my mouth during the set was "This is fucking crazy!" It would be us: the most polite band playing, and I was the only person to say "fuck" on stage.
Hannah: It was probably five minutes ago. I blame Daniel for that. He does swear so much. It’s polite swearing though.

Like ‘ohhh, you git’?

Hannah: Not quite that. Just bad words.

There’s no denying your music evokes a sense of heightened romance. Do you think you’ve soundtracked many first kisses?

Dan: I’d like to think so. That would be cool. I’ve got mates who say they have pulled girls to our music. I wouldn't use it myself, but it’s a nice thought I suppose.
Hannah: I think probably not. It’s more likely to be played if someone feels sad about something. Maybe the end of kissing. The end of a relationship.

Did you have music playing when you had your first kiss?

Dan: My first kiss was really terrible. I don't know if I want to get into that. I have two first kisses that linger in the memory, the first one being the first proper kiss, and then there was that teenage kiss with tongues. It was the second one which was a bit awkward; it was at some barmitzvah. I can’t even remember her bloody name and I don’t think there was any music being played.
Hannah: I can remember my first kiss – there was music playing. I was 14 and it was at a disco. It definitely wasn’t romantic.

When was the last time you thought of your Ivor Novello award? What did you think about it?

Hannah: I’ve thought about it every day. We can’t believe that it happened. I feel a huge sense of achievement and thankfulness for the people who supported our music. Mine is in my room by my candles, so when I go to sleep I can remember that it happened.
Dan: I was watching a documentary about Pete Ham, who wrote Without You, and it won the same award as us at the Ivor Novellos, so to think that our song is in that same category is incredible. My mum put it on the mantlepiece, and the gold disc is up there, too.

Your sibling’s bronze swimming certificates must pale in significance. A bit cruel?

Dan: That’s what I said. That’s why, when I got the discs, I put them under my bed. I got really freaked out about it and didn't want anyone to see them. My parents were like, "Please can we literally fucking see these things?"

It’s nearly Glastonbury! Do you see festivals as a fun opportunity not to wash for a few days, or do you panic at the prospect of germs?

Hannah: I do panic at the thought of dirtiness. I don't like germs. If someone sneezes on the tube, or one of my friends is ill, I get paranoid about getting sick. If I get sick my voice suffers.
Dan: I’m in the middle. Dot is a full-on festival-goer. I’d never been until last year. I don't mind camping but I couldn't do six days of it. Does anyone like festival toilets? They're just fucking gross.

Is Dot the smelly one on the tour bus?

Dan: The joke is that I have a nice-smelling natural odour and he doesn't ... well, he doesn't smell, he’s just got that fucking hair. God knows what gets in it.

You’re headlining the John Peel stage on Sunday at Glastonbury. Last year, Phoenix headlined the John Peel stage on Sunday at Glastonbury. Who are better at headlining the John Peel stage on Sunday at Glastonbury?

Hannah: I'm sure Phoenix are. With us, it still feels like we’re fluking it every time. In our live career, we really are inexperienced.

Your music is very reflective, so your set will be a good time for festival punters to take stock of the obscenities committed throughout the previous few days.

Dan: People are going to be so depressed. It will make people cry a lot.

Have you ever seen anyone crowd surf at a London Grammar gig?

Dan: I don't think I have. I've been saying that I'm going to try it at some point. Last year was the closest we got to having a rowdy audience, so who knows? Maybe I’ll do a crowd surf. I’d quite like to. I don’t know if people would go for it.

Their arms might be a bit weak by Sunday night.

Dan: I am really small. They might carry me. But I don't think strong people listen to London Grammar.

Your debut album was described by the Guardian as the first quarter-life-crisis album. Are you all OK?

Dan: No not really. I don’t think I’m that normal. I don't think any of us are. I’ve always been a very anxious person and will continue to be that way.
Hannah: I think I was [having a quarter-life crisis] at the time. Which is a bad thing to say. I do feel pretty good now though, but sometimes being young can make people feel that way.

If you are happy, then what will the new London Grammar album sound like?

Hannah: I don't think the second album will be as sad. Whatever I write, people will have to accept that that's what it'll be.

Serious question: in July, audio streaming will be included in the UK’s official singles chart. You’re not on Spotify and that hasn't damaged your career to date, but do you think it could in future?

Dan: It’s something we’ve been discussing. It wasn't a personal decision, it was more to do with our label: there was a disagreement with our label that led to us not being on Spotify. The interesting argument is that we potentially sold more albums through not being on there. Then again, you look at how our record sold in France – it has done equally well over there, where it does exist on Spotify and Deezer. But if that’s the way it’s going, we have very little choice in the matter.
Hannah: I’m sure we will [join Spotify] – it has been a very complicated thing. There have been good and bad things about it. You'll probably have to ask our A&R. Spotify is a wonderful thing in so many ways, but maybe it did do some good, us not being on there.

Your song Strong was recently covered on the Voice in the UK, Australia and also The Voice Kids in Germany. Is the reality-TV cover version an important benchmark for a modern band?

Dan: That was bizarre. The weirdest one was in France, where the song just went crazy. We were doing OK before then, and now we're more of a household name because of that.

If you were on X Factor, what would you sing?

Dan: Probably something very English like Jamie T, so I can put on an accent.
Hannah: Whitney Houston, I Will Always Love You.

Lastly, are you as tormented as your music suggests? You’ve sounded quite chipper throughout this interview.

Dan: I don’t know. I dont think so. Hannah will answer this better than I do.
Hannah: Umm [long pause] I have no idea. Probably.


Harriet Gibsone

The GuardianTramp

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