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I had the opportunity to interview bdrmm this year for Big Takeover Issue 87. This is the guts of that conversation, here for your perusal. Thanks to the band and Ryan at Sonic Cathedral for setting this up. bdrmm are:
Ryan Smith (guitar, vocals)
Jordan Smith (bass)
Luke Irvin (drums)
Joe Vickers (guitar)
Danny Hull (synth, vocals)
EK: Tell me about your formative years. What got you guys into music? Can you tell us about very early groups you belonged to?
Ryan: Music had always been around me growing up, whether it was listening to my mum practising her aerobics routine to Urban Cookie Collective, or my dad introducing me to Radiohead at a criminally young age. I was always going to end up doing something creative, or at least joining a gym. I’ve been in bands growing up too, Joe actually used to manage the first, and played bass in the second, he’ll be CEO of the fourth.
Jordan: My dad showed me an eclectic range of music from a young age, so my musical tastes have been moulded by him in a sense. ‘bdrmm’ is my first band, but I got a lot of practise in playing along to various Deerhunter albums when I got my first bass.
Joe: I think my earliest musical memories come from hearing my mum and dads’ Beatles albums. The White Album mostly, running around the room to “Rocky Raccoon” and “Oh-Bla-Di” or whatever it’s called (Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da). Well, me and Ryan had a band a few years ago called Babies. We were OK.
Luke: My first band, years ago, was just me and a few mates trying our hardest to be Joy Division/Stone Roses. Was the most fun I’d ever had. I got introduced to the Hull music scene and we played at some incredible local venues like the Adelphi and Polar Bear (RIP). I fell madly in love with live music and being onstage.
EK: How did bdrmm come into being? How do you all know one another? How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it?
Ryan: I started writing daft demos on my iPhone, which ended up being an EP that I uploaded to BBC Introducing, and ended up getting played on Radio 1 so I thought I’d best get a band together. Jordan is my brother, so I have known him arguably the longest. We have a criminally similar music taste, so it was only a matter of time before we started making music together. I’ve known Luke since he learnt the entirety of our set in 2 weeks, arguably the nicest person I know, and Joe, he’s just my closest mate. We’re actually quite a nice(ish) bunch. I still don’t know how to describe our music to people; it’s shoegaze, for the moment.
Jordan: I’ve known Ryan since birth. Luke became one of my best pals through mutual mates, and Joe was my imaginary friend who came to life after an incident at the glue factory. I’d describe our music as ‘lacking bassoon’.
Luke: I met the Smith boys at this pre-drinks at a practice studio near Spiders in Hull. We ended up having a drunken jam together and they asked if I wanted to come down to a practice as they were looking for a new drummer. I was a massive fan of bdrmm and REALLY wanted to be in the band, so I spent a full week behind a kit with my earphones in, listening to all the tracks on SoundCloud. Turned up already knowing the songs and I got the job!
EK: What informs your song writing and inspires you to write? How does the group write the music and lyrics?
Ryan: The record was basically me documenting everything that came into my head over the past 5 years and the others putting up with it. Going forward, it won’t just be me doing the writing.
EK: Hull seems to have quite a few bands from that scene. Would you say that’s true, or does everyone gravitate to London eventually (not counting COVID, of course)? It sounds like, from reading interviews, that there is a bias against bands from Hull. Do you know why?
Ryan: Nah, that’s not true, there’s a distinct lack of music coming out of Hull at the moment in my opinion, or maybe that’s just because I don’t live there anymore and aren’t subject to it as much. When I was there, it was hard to get excited, or maybe it’s because I’ve grown up and my taste has developed, growing up, I would just go to any show I could and would have loved it, so it could just be down to age? I don’t know, at the moment, there’s nothing that’s getting me going, but by no means does that mean Hull has a shit music scene. I adore that place. Cannibal Animal are the only band left in Hull that I’m genuinely excited to see after lock-down.
Luke: Hull has always had a bad reputation for some reason, but it has an incredible music scene, we have 30k+ people turning up every year to Humber Street Sesh, a festival made up almost entirely by local artists. Hull’s a place that’s always struggled to get the recognition it deserves. Things have definitely taken a turn for the worse lately. FRUIT closing a few years ago was a big blow, now Polar Bear has gone (please donate to help save it if you can! Save the Polarbear). (Update: the club raised enough money to survive).
EK: Who was the most popular band before COVID hit your shores? How soon do you think you will get out playing again?
Ryan: God, I don’t know, Black Midi? They were everywhere, weren’t they?
Jordan: I don’t know. The Backstreet Boys? The idea of getting out to play shows again would be ace. I think the world is still a tiny bit fucked up for us to be wailing in venues again though. Short answer is soon, I hope.
Luke: Hopefully we’ll be back out early next year, just depends when it’s safest to do so.
EK: Given the changes in the music industry and the difficulty of staying afloat for artists, how do you keep going? How do you stay motivated?
Ryan: Just keep writing. I’ve managed to get a lot of stuff for the 2nd album written during lock-down, which has been nice because I know it can get hard to keep motivated at the best of times, let alone during COVID. Also, Hull Live articles.
Jordan: It’s hard, man. Sometimes you wake up really positive and feel like everything will be fine. Other days can be tough. It’s just finding a balance in keeping yourself healthy (mentally) and finding inspiration where you can, I suppose.
Joe: I think we have been kept busy with the album coming out during lock-down, so it’s not been too bad, with the praise that’s come with the release that’s been a good motivator. Although we haven’t had much in terms of practice and performing there has been loads going on behind the scenes kinda thing.
EK: Do you have any idea where most fans of your music reside? It does seem like you’re making quite the splash on the shoegaze scene over here in the States.
Ryan: It seems like a scattered affair, people from everywhere seem to pop up every now and again. It’s been very humbling that people in the UK enjoy us, let alone Sweden.
Jordan: I think we have a few fans in London now, but that’s only because before lock-down we were playing there so frequently. It’s nice that it’s making its way around the world really. You don’t think of all that when you’ve stood in a small practise room writing these tracks, but yeah, it’s nice.
Joe: Japan seems to have a big shoegaze following, seems to be going down well there also.
Luke: London is always a laugh and regularly turns out the bigger crowds we’ve played to. We’ve been getting messages from people around the world though who like the album, very strange feeling for a few lads from a small Yorkshire city.
EK: Can you tell us what books, literature, or art inspire you?
Jordan: I read this book called ‘Ocean of Sound’ by David Toop for a university project I was doing. It’s essentially a who’s who of great musicians, but it got me really into stuff like John Cale, Steve Reich, La Monte Young, and Philip Glass. I also have this book that’s just the collected works of Francis Bacon that I look through quite a lot for artwork inspiration. The same with Robert Crumb. I love both of their work a lot. The Simpsons also subconsciously dictates most of the things I say daily.
EK: What music are you all listening to right now?
Ryan: I have been listening a lot of Galaxie 500 recently, a track called “Decomposing Trees” has taken over the past few days. Weyes Blood too, I adore her latest album.
Jordan: I’ve been listening to loads of Powerplant at the moment. They’re a band from London and are fuckin’ ace. Really hope we can play with them at some point. Also, the Skyrim and Oblivion soundtracks.
Joe: Today’s been a Kraftwerk day..tomorrow, who knows?
Luke: I’d say my favourite band at the moment is easily Protomartyr, all 5 of their albums are phenomenal.
EK: Who do you get compared to the most musically?
Ryan: We have been getting Ride a lot recently, especially after the album release, but then we’ve had The Horrors and Slowdive. I don’t personally think we sound like any of them, I think it’s more bands you’d find us in a playlist with, which essentially is the new comparison.
EK: Do genre labels bother you, or do you find them useful?
Ryan: Not at all, it seems like a very trivial annoyance.
Jordan: We’ve always never really known what our genre is. I think we have accepted the shoegaze stamp with open arms, but it’s not really affected the way we write or anything.
Luke: I wouldn’t say labels bother me; I just struggle to put one to us. They’re a bit like nicknames, other people give you them, not yourselves. Shoegaze is definitely our go to one now and it’s been wonderful to be welcomed into the Shoegaze community.
EK: What do fans have to look forward to? I know anticipating a tour is out of the question right now, but what about lock-down sessions?
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