- Mon, 2007-05-28 09:09
Grace are a West London based band who have recently performed throughout the UK, receiving much praise for their live performances which has separated them from so many of their safer contemporaries.
Grace release their debut album “Detours” on June 4th. The album is packed with a diverse mix of power driven pop/rock epics and anthemic ballads. Highlights include their limited edition debut single “Stand Still” which was included in The Sunday Times top 40 pop songs of the year 2006. Current single “Slowly” that perfectly captures the band’s trademark sound through to more down tempo songs including the sad but beautiful “Sink Like a Stone”, “Diving Bell” and the albums evocative closing track “Dark Horse” that’s bruised lyrics tell candidly of confusion and alienation.
I Like Music caught up with bass player, Ben, to talk about their new album, post-it notes from Coldplay and hearing their songs on the radio.
“I Like Music because… it makes my spine tingle.” Ben, Grace
ILM: Your new single ‘Slowly’ is released on May 28th. Can you tell us how the song came about and describe its whole vibe?
Ben: It’s a story, it’s probably our biggest narrative on the album and it’s all about a break up, about a guy who has an affair and about his girlfriend finding out, based on the personal experience of our lead singer. When we were doing the video treatments for it, we had lots of different options about what to go with and how in your face to do it. It’s quite abstract, rather than shoving it in people’s faces, we kind of hinted at it. But it’s one of our rockier tunes as well, our first major release. What we love is that it’s our first national airplay as well, our first play-listing on Virgin radio and XFM too. So that’s really cool, we’re really excited about that.
ILM: Last year's indie buzz single 'Stand Still' (Gracious Records) with its infectious lyrics and soaring dynamics, brought the band radio support from Jo Whiley and Zane Lowe at Radio 1, Dermot O'Leary – what’s it like when you first hear your song on the radio?
Ben: It’s amazing. Me and the guitarist James, were driving up after a rehearsal to watch the Kooks at The Forum, and we heard it on XFM… you know, when you get told that one of your songs is going to be on the radio and you get told the time, that’s really exciting, but this was the first time it was just on, we just had XFM on anyway and we were in the car having a chat about the rehearsal, taking the p*** out of each other and suddenly, it came on and it was like, ‘I recognise that,’ and nearly crashed the car from jumping up and down, it was brilliant, really exciting.
ILM: You play Southampton Joiners tonight (that’s our local venue) and kick off the rest of your tour, what’s your favourite Grace song to place live?
Ben: I think Slowly actually. I guess it’s because people recognise it more than the other tunes but also it’s been one of the best ones to play live, because it’s really rocky, so you can really get into it by jumping around a bit.
ILM: Your debut album Detours’ will be released on June 4th. Which track did you have the most fun laying down in the studio?
Ben: That’s a tough one. I can give you the least fun… we had to spend about two weeks getting a drum sound for Sleep All Day and in the studio it gets so involved if you’ve got enough time to take as much as you want, and there wasn’t a deadline for it, it was just a question of really making sure we got it right, so our producer who’s a wicked guy and done some amazing stuff, he’s worked with U2, New Order, Happy Mondays and Doves and he was just so intense about getting the right mic placement, he left the performance side of it and what we were playing would take hardly any time at all, but in terms of getting the sonics exactly right it was hilarious, we were in the pub for two weeks while our drummer was sat there getting a drum set.
ILM: What did you learn from Steve and Michael Brauer who mixed the album, whose eclectic credits also include Manic Street Preachers, Athlete and the Kooks?
Ben: It was amazing. It’s such an honour to work with people like that. It’s taken us quite a while to get where we are, in various guises this band has been going for eight years, and just for all of us to listen to different records and say ‘I like such and such a producer’ and listen to something else and say ‘there’s something about the sonics on this, it’s been mixed perfectly,’ and then to actually get to work with these people. We were sitting in this mix studio in New York, our label flew us out there for two weeks, we were like, ‘what the f*** is going on here… we’re getting all expenses paid trip to New York, basically a holiday, and sitting in this amazing studio with notes on the cupboard, like ‘To Michael, thanks for all the darts, love Coldplay.’ He sits there and actually plays the mixing desk like an instrument. He’s really intense, moving these different knobs, he’s obviously totally in love with what he does, but also he’d really get into the tracks and we’d get pissed every night because we were so happy with what he was doing and he was loving it. It was brilliant, so much fun.
We’ve been raring to go, loving what we do, and to get people on board who feel deeply passionate about it, whether it’s people from our management or record label and especially the producer and the mixer, it’s incredible. We’re doing what we always wanted, it’s amazing.
ILM: ‘Detours’ displays a comprehensive grasp of classic British rock influences - from Muse, Coldplay and Snow Patrol - but effortlessly manages to filter them together to create a unique, trademark sound. Can you describe the Grace process of writing and making music?
Ben: It really depends on the tune and depends on where it’s coming from and who’s written it But generally, the common thread is that it’s always really heartfelt and as honest as possible. We’ll look at bands around, like little Indie bands who are doing something almost just to be cool. But all of us have a feeling that you should just write from the heart, so it actually means something; whether it’s about a bowl of soup that you ate at lunch or a girl that you once shagged or split up with, like with Slowly, if it comes from an honest place, that’s reflected in the music.
ILM: Yeah, I think that approach works better live too, because the audience are more likely to connect with something that’s true and heartfelt than something that isn’t.
Ben: I think so, if it’s obvious that you actually care about what you’re singing. I mean you get amazing interpreters of songs, like Ella Fitzgerald, but there is something a little bit different about singing lyrics and music that you’ve written, it’s a totally different process.
ILM: You’re on the recently re-launched ‘Charisma’ label, is the legendary home for Genesis amongst many others. What advice do you have for others on getting the right deal?
Ben: We were literally showcasing for years. In terms of playing to different record labels and getting people to gigs, we were doing it for years and years and what we learned over that process and the only advice I can pass on to anyone is that it’s all about the songs.
Having spent five years doing songs that didn’t get us anywhere… when you’re in a band, you assume that what you’re doing is amazing and you can be blinded by that a bit and think, ‘we are already good enough and the industry are in the wrong for not taking us seriously,’ but actually… I mean there are plenty of people in the industry who haven’t got a f***ing clue, but quality will out itself and if you have amazing songs, then people can’t ignore you. I’m not saying that’s what we are, I have total faith in ours, but I think that now our songs have got to a level of songwriting craftsmanship and that’s something that needs to be worked at and honed.
Our drummer writes a lot of our material and he’ll sit at home everyday and write and rewrite and it’s like anything, it takes practice. It also takes a lot of luck too. We might not be here if we’d not had the right people on the right day in the right mood. But if you’re persistent enough and have enough faith in yourself and do actually have the songs and can carry them off live, then you’re there.
ILM: Please name a song that instantly makes you chill out?
Ben: Damien Rice – O, but recently Regina Spektor, I’m really into all of her stuff. That’s really nice to chill out to.
ILM: Are you playing any festivals this summer?
Ben: Yep, we’re playing the Latitude Festival in the Midlands and we’re playing on the same day as Damien Rice, which we’re excited about. That should be wicked. That’s the only one in the book so far. We were a bit late with our album release to get any of the Glastonbury’s or anything like that, but hopefully it’ll be the Pyramid stage next year… [laughs] we’ll be headlining the main stage, it won’t be The Who, it’ll be us.
[ILM and Ben decide that would be ace and put it in our diaries for next year – Grace for Glastonbury 2008]
Slowly single - May 28th 2007
Detours album - June 4th 2007
Grace are: JP Jones – Vocals, Ben Lumsden – Bass, Sam Swallow – Keyboards, Chris Hutchings – Drums, James Hayto - Guitar