If Hannah Reid wasn’t centering London Grammar with sweeping, emotive vocals over the British trio’s stark, atmospheric electro-pop, the singer imagines that she’d become a psychoanalyst.
“My writing is all about that really, about psychology and the human condition, and a stream of consciousness as well,” says Reid, 25. “There are songs where I don’t even know what I meant at the time, and I look back and interpret it a different way.”
That’s the case with the brooding, introspective material from London Grammar’s debut, If You Wait, released last spring in the U.S. “I never thought anyone would ever hear it, so it really is just a window into my soul,” Reid says from London as the band slowly works on a follow-up album. “I just hope that now, when things are slightly different, I can still find a way of being that open.”
Reid’s head has been spinning since If You Wait topped the U.K. charts in late 2013, catapulting the group into the international spotlight. London Grammar hits House of Blues on Jan. 26 as part of a U.S. tour postponed from last fall, she says, due to recording commitments and exhaustion from the road.
Reid, in particular, has worked to overcome the pressures of touring, which have included muscular strain on her larynx as well as stage anxiety, which she’s suffered from since youth.
“I had maybe dreamt of being an actress, but I stopped being in plays and things like that because I had terrible stage fright,” Reid says. She only got back in front of audiences after guitarist Dan Rothman drafted her to start a band while they were attending Nottingham University, and they enlisted fellow student Dominic “Dot” Major to complete London Grammar on drums, keyboards and percussion. As they shot from small bars to festivals, Reid’s cool confidence at the microphone belied the extent of her nerves. “It is something I constantly work on,” she says, “but it does make me very tired, being nervous all the time.”
Reid credits Emotional Freedom Techniques, which tap energy points on the body with fingers instead of the needles from acupuncture. “Performing was like a phobia, and I was able to reduce it into a manageable fear and anxiety before I go on. And EFT definitely helped,” she says. “I think it definitely relaxes you and makes you feel more positively.”
Reid certainly soars in London Grammar, from trip-hop ballad “Strong” to standout “Wasting My Young Years,” which recalls the club-thumping shifts of “Help Me Lose My Mind,” a track on electronic duo Disclosure’s 2013 album Settle that introduced many people to London Grammar.
The trio’s disparate influences span Fleetwood Mac, the Doors and Radiohead as well as the xx, the moody electronic group to which London Grammar is often compared, partly because of Rothman’s skeletal guitar lines. “It’s just a compliment, really,” Reid says. “We are in a sort of post-xx era.”
With her dramatic vocal range and stately classical-folk shadings, Reid also reminds one of Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine, though she cites old-school influences. “My mum always listened to Motown and all the big singers,” she says, naming Tina Turner, Michael Jackson, Sinéad O’Connor and Adele among her inspirations.
“All three of us are very different people and have very different tastes for music,” Reid says of her band. That led to friction in recording If You Wait, which, ironically, took 18 months to finish, with a sparse approach winning out. “There were arguments, sometimes over songs, but after that tension always came the right song,” she says. “We’re best friends.”
It’s been a long time since the three musicians made If You Wait, yet Reid still doesn’t share many details about the follow-up, saying they have “just ideas” at this point. “We haven’t made any decisions about what we want it to sound like,” the singer says during her break for the holidays. “The second album will be different in certain ways. I think it will be less quiet at moments. It’ll have more highs than lows.”