“Vive le difference” sings Grammatics’ Owen Brinley on ‘Polar Swelling’, and if you’re looking for an approximation of what this band are all about then there are infinitely worse starting points.
If, on the other hand, you’re searching for the next Libertines or Arctic Monkeys then do yourself a favour and stop reading now. Grammatics can be defined just as easily by what they’re not as what they are: there’s no place here for recycled musical ideas or contrived social realism.
Formed in early 2006 in Leeds by Owen and drummer Dominic Ord, Grammatics’ mission was and is to combine their disparate influences to make cultured, artistic pop music by their own elaborate rules.
Previously, they ran a popular monthly indie night in York – Grammar, from where they take their name. DJing together, they realised that although they shared a collective love of classic British art bands like Blur, Pulp and Suede, they had an equal fondness for acts of a heavier, dancier persuasion: The Faint, Hot Chip, Queens Of The Stone Age.
They began asking themselves questions like “What if Pulp had Q.O.T.S.A.’s rhythm section?”, and wondered how they could possibly combine these seemingly incompatible reference points into a complicated pop of their own creating.
Heads were scratched, and the seeds for Grammatics were sown. A bass player was found – Rory O’Hara, Grammar regular and kindred musical spirit. They disappeared for a while to write some songs, and came back sometime later with a five track demo.
Owen had written reams of often surreal, sometimes introspective (but always inspired) lyrics, and combined them with muscular, verging-on-metal riffs. And he wanted them played on a cello. Dom had virtually given himself arthritis by banging the drums so hard, while Rory’s basslines were ready for the floor rather than the ‘pit. Yet, somehow, it still sounded amazingly cohesive.
It was certainly enough to attract the attention of local label Dance To The Radio, and Grammatic’s limited edition debut single ‘Shadow Committee’ was released in October 2007, quickly selling out. Radio 1’s Huw Stephens was the first DJ to give it a spin.
Cellist Rebecca Dumican left towards the end of the year, but the band soon found her replacement. Emilia Ergin, a Swede whose CV boasts a spell in Stockholm’s Youth Symphony Orchestra, completes the current lineup.
2008 kicked off with a stint supporting The Futureheads – Emilia’s first shows with the band – on their nationwide headline tour, an appearance at a sold-out Astoria in support of DTTR labelmates The Pigeon Detectives (an NME Awards show, no less) and the recording of their second single with James Kenosha, the man behind celestial ‘Shadow Committee’ B side ‘Broken Wing’, as well as new recordings by fellow Leeds acts Duels and This Et Al.
The result is a limited edition, double A side release featuring ‘D.I.L.E.M.M.A’ and ‘Polar Swelling’, two wildly different pieces of music with one thing in common: they don’t sound like they’ve been recorded by a new band still finding its feet; rather, they sounds more like the kind of ambitious, forward-thinking creations you’d expect from any of the bands that inspired Grammatics in the first place. Most importantly, they sound like they couldn’t have been recorded by anybody else but Grammatics.
If you’ve yet to catch on, now’s the time. Vive le difference.