It’s not easy being in Michael A Grammar. Faced with deportation, hard drive meltdowns and plucking bass players from life drawing classes, the band have somehow managed to battle against the odds and record their amazing self-titled debut released 29th September on Melodic Records.
Combining the bands two E.Ps to date with four new tracks, the bands sonic development is perfectly demonstrated with a collage of sounds ranging from funky post-punk grooves, interstellar guitar lines down into propulsive motorik jams influenced by the likes of Broadcast (from which their name derives), Slowdive and a wired-up version of The Beta Band
If Michael A Grammar’s previous two E.Ps (Random Vision and Vitamin Easy) cemented how devastatingly accomplished this young band has become in the last 18 months, then their debut album ‘Michael A Grammar’ (made up of those first two EPs and 4 brand new tracks) is set to confirm that good things come in threes. It’s the Brighton four-piece’s triumphant debut album and it brilliantly captures their sonic evolution and live prowess from conception through to the present day, and gives us a heady insight into their future.
“Had we set out to record everything straight away, we’d probably have drifted into an infinite tundra of sub-satisfactory jingles and drowned early on,” explains guitarist and singer Joel Sayers. “This record marks the voyage of change that has been underway since our beginning, documented in the way we know best.”
Whilst most young bands simply start up, make a record, and then tour it out, Michael A Grammar boast a freshness contrary to having already experienced their fair share of ups and downs. Following the release of their first Vitamin Easy EP when just 20 years old (four transcendent, psychedelic tracks of Slowdive-style sparkle that surfaced from sessions in a Victorian coach house whilst attempting to recreate lost songs from a crashed hard drive) the band’s original bassist Daniel Ondieki was facing deportation back to his native Kenya.
“Unfortunately Daniel had to leave due to visa issues with “The Combine”, though it could’ve been worse had Nigel Farage been in the hot-seat with a stick up his arse,” says Joel. “Thankfully we found Clémentine with her clothes off at a life drawing class and invited her into the family. We’re now waiting on the fifth member…”
Michael A Grammar’s evolving line-up was unveiled on their next installment, the Random Vision EP. Recorded in the basement of their Nottingham student house by Joel and fellow founding member Frankie Mockett (both guitar/vocals). They were joined by John Davies (drums) and French bassist Clémentine Blue, whose driving riffs enhanced the group’s widescreen and stoned out jams towards a more buoyant ‘not give a fuck’ blistering live show. This EP, recalling Boards of Canada’s mind-ensconcing atmospherics, The Beta Band chowing down on ritalin or Broadcast (whose song ‘Michael A Grammar’ lends the band its name) propelled them forwards. A feature on Mary Ann Hobbs’ XFM podcast ensued, as did a session for BBC 6music’s Marc Riley, live appearances at The Great Escape and Camden Crawl followed shortly after an invite by British Sea Power to be main support on their sold out tour, an invite to play Green Man and a European autumn headline tour are next on the horizon.
Marking Michael A Grammar’s biggest progression to date, the album’s anthemic final third (which they’ve named collectively as the suitably intergalactic ‘Lunar Sea’) kicks off with ‘Mondays’ – it skilfully sets the tone with petroleum powered melodies fired from layered Brit Pop guitars, devastating distortion and woozy vocal effects. ‘Nature’s Child’ explodes into a ambush of axe-wielding noise and ‘You Make Me’ is a patchwork quilt of manipulated psychedelic organ textures and varying sources of inspiration;
“The words are a mix of notes I’d scribbled down in various places,” Joel reveals. “Some come from listening to Souls of Mischief; another line comes from a poem in the film Patton.” Shifting from the DIY charm of a friend’s old office in Portslade, Brighton, to a fully-equipped studio for the first time, the tracks were recorded live with external producer, Julian Tardo.
“Each part of the album is an indicator of our present,” they say. “Obviously as things change, so too does the music and the way it’s recorded. As a result we feel more confident within ourselves which has inspired us to bring it back down to earth and record in the manner we did.” All live recordings, single takes and a ferocious attitude gives these tracks a contagious energy.
Everything has been leading towards this moment; Michael Grammar is the story of four young friends progression personally and sonically into adulthoodthrough their past, present, and if you listen to its entirely improvised hidden ending, maybe a glimpse into their near future
Tracklisting / /
1. ‘Upside Down’
2. ‘All Night Afloat’
3. ‘Light of a Darkness’
4. ‘King & Barnes’
5. ‘The Day I Come Alive’
7. ‘Upstairs Downstairs’
8. ‘The Way You Move’
10. ‘You Make Me’
11. ‘Nature’s Child”
12. ‘Don’t Wake Me’