Shoegazing superstars bdrmm have been taking the world by storm. After signing with Sonic Cathedral and announcing their debut album, Bedroom, it feels like every week something new and exciting comes their way, whether it be an interview with NME or a publishing deal with Sub Pop Publishing. In anticipation of their debut album (out next Friday 03/07/20), we managed to ask Ryan and Jordan Smith, the frontman and bassist of the project respectively, a few questions!
bdrmm from left to right: Joe Vickers (guitar), Danny Hull (synth), Ryan Smith (guitar and vocals), Jordan Smith (bass), Luke Irvin (drums)
DRAB: Hey guys, thanks again for letting us ask you a few questions. It’s probably safe to say that by this point, certainly as far as the Leeds DIY scene is concerned, bdrmm are fairly ubiquitous. For those though, who haven’t yet had the pleasure to know you and your music, how would you describe yourselves?
Ryan: I guess if you had to give us a genre, we happily wear the shoegaze label with pride, but we’re influenced by a whole range of different music from jazz, to movie scores, anything that sounds interesting to us. I guess we’re just trying to make music that other people will find engaging and exciting.
I was reading a few other interviews you guys have done and I saw that this project came from a few demos that Ryan did just on his phone. Comparing that to where you are now - a five-piece, recording at prestigious studios like The Nave - would you say there’s been a shift in how you write music and see the project as a whole?
Ryan: We do write a lot more together now, but it’s still me who will do the majority of the writing, then bring it to practice where everyone will add their own little bit of them to the track. No demo I have written has come out as it was originally recorded, which I love. I think this will change once we can start practicing again. I’d like to start writing as a whole, I just think it will make it more interesting to have five people’s creativity rather than one.
I feel like it's fair to say that Leeds, as a whole, has a pretty strong, closely-knit DIY scene. How does that DIY spirit play in with some of the (highly deserved) far-reaching success you’ve seen, including signing to Sonic Cathedral, and receiving the attention of institutions like NME and KEXP? How has this success felt for all you guys?
Ryan: Well, as a band from Hull, I don’t really think we’ve had a chance to dip our toe in the Leeds scene as much as we’d like to. We’ll always just be Hull boys moving around different locations. I have a lot of respect for the Leeds scene though, there is a LOT of talent here, and we’re just grateful to have been able to play places like Brude and Belgrave. We work closely with Super Friendz, and they put on some fucking wild shows, a pleasure to have them backing us. I don’t really know how that has affected our current status, getting so much recognition is overwhelming, especially when you never expect it. We’re just really grateful for all the support we get, wherever it’s from.
Cover art for Bedroom out 03/07/20
Do you think you could speak a bit on what the music world back in Hull was like and your reasons for moving to Leeds?
Jordan: I originally moved to Leeds to go to university, and Ryan and our drummer, Luke, both wanted to move because their pals were here. The closing down of Fruit kinda saw the end of music venues that we loved there… We’re still eternally grateful to the Adelphi and Polar Bear, as they gave us our first platform to showcase our music, but life sorta got in the way of all that stuff and we all grew as people to want to explore new ventures. I still believe we’re a Hull band and part of that music scene 100% though. Going back to Hull for stuff like Humber Street Sesh reinforces our love for the scene and it’s one of our favourite days of the year. The sense of community that Mark Page and co. manage to make within Hull is really admirable and one that I’ll always appreciate for sure.
A fair few of the bands you’ve played with at those venues, such as Lumer and Polevaulter, have quite an abrasive edge to them. Comparatively, there’s a dreamy gentleness to a lot of your music. When planning your live shows, is matching your sound to theirs ever a consideration, or is that variety something you welcome?
Jordan: A lot of our music stems from the same place, I think. A lot of our recorded stuff enforces the gentle side of our music but playing live always brings more energy and grit. A lot of people say we’re the loudest band they’ve heard live (which I don’t believe but welcome it with open arms). Challenging yourself to work with artists you wouldn’t really consider putting together, sonically, always yields fun results. Some of my favourite shows have been playing with the Lumer and Autosuggestion (great Hull band, check ‘em out) guys coz we just have a great time. It’s an appreciation of people and music rather than any one genre.
bdrmm live at Eiger Studios with Delinquent Zine
Building off that last question, how do you see your sound fitting in with the broader musical fields and trends out there currently both in Leeds, and the rest of the world?
Ryan: The music we make seems to span over so many genres that I think it gives more people a chance to resonate with. I’d like to think it will go down as well as it seems to be doing locally haha. To be fair a lot of our listeners seem to be further afield, Asia especially. We just can’t wait to be able to actually get over there, which to be fair, I can’t see being in the far distant future... all being well.
You have a debut album, Bedroom, out very soon on the 3rd of July (hopefully not a surprise to anyone reading this or involved in this interview), which I imagine must be pretty exciting! How are you guys feeling about that, and how has that writing and recording process been in comparison to the singles, and EPs you’ve put out so far?
Jordan: I can’t wait for the record to come out. I think there was a time when we were recording it when we were all a bit worried about never getting it finished, but the last session we had in there was just a sense of pure jubilation. I still listen back to it now and think it’s better than I ever originally thought it could be. Going from recording singles to an album was a really gratifying experience and probably made us consider the music and themes that we want to convey as a band more precisely, and being afforded the freedom to experiment with new sounds and textures can be attributed to Alex Greaves and his immense patience and understanding of us as a group. We’ve finally got to a stage where the music speaks for us as a whole and the band dynamic has really started to take shape in the studio. I’m just excited to start on album 2.
So far on the singles from the album, as with much of your music, there’s a strong feeling of melancholy. Is that something we can expect across the whole album? In general, how would you describe the themes and sounds that will be on your debut full length?
Ryan: I think people are going to be surprised by the album. There was so much thought gone into it, and especially with the tracks being so personal to me. I think the honesty presents itself in so many different ways, whether it being drenched in distortion and reverb, or just vocals and a 12 string guitar. It’s a break up album, but it’s not just about a relationship ending, it’s about all the fucked up shit in between.
In addition to the singles, you’ve been putting out remixes of your tunes done by people like International Teachers of Pop, and Glok of RIDE fame. I imagine it must be pretty interesting to see your music reimagined in a completely different style by completely different people. What’s that process like and how does it feel to hear those remixes?
Jordan: It’s pretty bonkers really! Working on remixes before, it's not exactly an easy task but everyone involved has proper killed it. It’s such a privilege for established musicians like ITOP, Glok and Ditz to give our music the time of day, and hearing them all for the first time was ace. We’d never really considered it until Nat (Sonic Cathedral) brought up the idea and in the end it couldn’t have worked out better.
"A Reason To Celebrate" remix by GLOK
On a slightly more negative note relative to the excitement of those remixes, as with most musicians a lot of your plans, including a tour you had booked in, had to be put on hold due to Covid. How are you guys coping with the pandemic? Do you have anything in place for when we see the other side of it?
Jordan: Yeah, we had to put a lot of things on hold which we were really stoked for, our first venture out of the country springs to mind but all those shows are currently in the process of being rearranged so all we can really do is wait! The pandemic has allowed us to develop new musical ideas and I think it’s made us all appreciate how much the band actually means to us. Going from practicing and seeing each other every week to spending months apart is a bit of a shock. Me and Ryan have been shooting loads of Ableton files over to one another though, so the sense of collaboration is definitely still there (maybe something will come of that, who knows?). If anything, we’re raring to start working on new material and hopefully get back on the road as soon as it’s safe to do so.
Before we close out this interview, is there anything else you guys want to add or shoutout? Any recommendations you want to leave our readers with, or any words of wisdom you feel like you can provide?
If anybody we know is reading this, hello. If we’re still isolating when this comes out, which let's be honest, it will be, just be safe, if you’re feeling shit, talk to someone, if you’re feeling uninspired, you’re not the only ones. Everybody is in the same boat, just look after yourself, there’s nothing wrong with doing nothing, this is a rare opportunity you have the chance to do it. Educate yourselves on things that actually matter, we’re living in bleak times but change can happen, we all just need to learn.
Stuff we’re currently listening to;
Ryan – The Cool Greenhouse, Corridor, LOW, Funkadelic, Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist, Fugazi, Little Simz, Amen Dunes, Jockstrap, Crystal Stilts, Max Cooper, Dorothy Ashby.
Jordan – Gil Scott-Heron, Arthur Russell, Broadcast, clipping., The Velvet Underground, Fiona Apple, Stereolab, Modern Nature, Handle, Tim Hecker, Charles Mingus, Cluster, Portishead.
Certainly a lot of really cool bands in both those lists. Little Simz and Jockstrap especially have been finding themselves mentioned in the DRAB group chat a lot! Hopefully, people take that last hopeful message to heart, but either way, we can all be united in our excitement for your full length, Bedroom, out on the 3rd of July via Sonic Cathedral.
Writing by Varun Govil
Photography by Sam Joyce @samjoyce.photos