Francine Wolfisz speaks to Dan Rothman, the Jewish guitarist of award-winning band London Grammar
Dubbed as “the next big thing” in electronic music, 2014 has been a huge year for London Grammar.
The band has seen its popularity rise here and on a global scale, especially in the US and Australia, and critics named them winners at the recent Ivor Novello Awards, following an earlier Brit Award nomination.
Meanwhile, their debut album, If You Wait, went platinum within months and has sold more than 780,000 copies worldwide, including 400,000 copies in the UK alone.
Not bad at all, when you consider the “main hub” of creativity for the album was guitarist Dan Rothman’s home in Hendon – a fact the former Jewish Free School pupil certainly finds bemusing.
“Most of the pre-production process took place in my garage or bedroom,” laughs Rothman, who grew up in Mill Hill and Hendon and whose family are former Kinloss Synagogue members.
“The last year has just been amazing. I’ve had some time off to reflect on everything and it’s made me feel very grateful. I realise how lucky I am. Many of my mates don’t really like what they do, but I get to love my job.”
The 24-year-old musician will shortly headline at Glastonbury alongside the rest of the band – vocalist Hannah Reid, also 24, and keyboard player Dominic “Dot” Major, 23 – before embarking on a summer of gigs around Europe, as well as the Fuji Rock Festival in Japan and Splendour In The Grass in Australia.
The talented trio first met in 2009 while students at Nottingham University. Rothman’s girlfriend was friendly with Reid and he noticed she was holding a guitar in her Facebook profile.
“I realised she was a musician too and asked if she wanted to write some songs. That’s really how we started.”
The pair met Major, who apart from playing the keyboard is also a keen percussionist, about a year later after spotting him playing the rather exotically-named djembe in the student union, and London Grammar was born.
“We knew that we wanted to have “London” in the name because that’s where we were all from and that was our identity, while ‘Grammar’ basically just sounded good. A lot of people wanted us to change that name, especially when we met with record companies, but we resisted. It worked in our favour in the end.”
Although the economics graduate admits that at first his mum was “concerned, in a really typical Jewish mother sense, for me to get a proper job”, Rothman eventually brought her round to his determination to make it in the music industry.
The keen guitarist tells me: “He’s quite musical as well, so he could see how talented Hannah and Dot were and realised the band had something. Ultimately there was very little for us to lose and now both he and mum are very proud of us.”
They were signed to Ministry of Sound straight after leaving university in 2012 and took the time to develop their first album.
While the band is “pretty collaborative” in terms of music and production, Rothman tells me it is Reid who makes a “massive contribution” towards the lyrics and song-writing.
“Hannah is an incredibly talented songwriter, one of the most talented I’ve ever met,” he explains. “She has this ability to write lyrics and music that capture people’s imagination.”
Their collaborative talent for song-writing certainly shone through with their single Strong, which peaked at number 16 on the UK Singles chart and won London Grammar an Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically.
The band was also invited to support Coldplay at a recent show in Los Angeles, something Rothman describes as a “massive honour” for the relatively young group.
Despite their rising popularity (and ability to sell more than Miley Cyrus or Robin Thicke), London Grammar has purposely refrained from grabbing the headlines, preferring to remain a little under the radar.
As Rothman tells me: “We don’t do many promos or interviews, because at the end of the day we are first and foremost musicians.”
That said, neither does the band shun the many incredible offers that have come its way over the past few months. These include appearances on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and an invitation from Anna Wintour to pose for US Vogue during a recent trip to New York.
“No way, absolutely not,” he laughs. “I’d be the shortest model you’ve ever seen, it would be ridiculous! The fact that I was in Vogue is funny and it’s great that I can say I was in it, but I don’t think I’ll be modelling again anytime soon!”
In fact, for Rothman, much like his bandmates, the main focus is on “making good music”, rather than straying onto the catwalks of Paris or Milan in the near future.
“We’ve achieved a great deal in a short space of time, which is amazing and we are very grateful for that. As far as we’re concerned, the most important thing is maintaining that and just hopefully writing another good album. The music comes first. If we get the music right, good things will continue.”
- London Grammar will perform at Glastonbury 2014, from 25 June to 29 June.
- Their latest single, Sights, is out now. For more tour dates, visit www.londongrammar.com