It’s no coincidence that coming of age stories often deal with a sense of inner-turmoil. Leeds / Hull based outliers bdrmm know that growing up can suck – but they’ve channeled what it means to be in your early twenties into glistening, dreamy shoegaze that will sort your head out quicker than any anxiety app.
The debut album ‘Bedroom’ has got lots going on, lyrics about unplanned pregnancies, samples of Megabus drivers, gloomy guitar lines – and above all there’s a determined sense of youth. This might be shoegaze, but that label shouldn’t be thrown at the band as an all-encompassing statement, bright songs like ‘Happy’ feel more urgent and upbeat than your typical idea of the genre.
We call frontman Ryan Smith after he’s been using this strange downtime to spend in his garden. “I get a compliment about ‘effortless vocals’ and it hurts sometimes”, he laughs after a comment on how natural the album feels. It might appear as such from the outside, but there’s nothing effortless about their first record. It’s something that’s been meticulously honed over a long period of time.
‘Bedroom’ tackles some pretty serious themes, how did it all come together?
“It’s been written over three or four years now actually. The first single ‘Happy’ was one of the first songs I ever wrote and it’s about being in a relationship that wasn’t working but moving on through it. There’s a lot of other things that have happened, I’ve had quite a bad spat with alcohol and substance abuse which has taken a toll on my mental health. There are so many bands trying to speak about politics at the moment which I get and really appreciate but there needs to be someone dealing with the things that happens with us as people.”
So in many ways it was you dealing with those issues through the music?
“It’s definitely an escapism. I always take a notebook everywhere and write. As soon as you get a negative feeling or whatever, I couldn’t express that more to anybody. Just doing that simple action is the best form of therapy you can do, just to get it out there. If you say something to someone, you’re opening up, you’ll feel so much better. Even if you’re not telling anyone, you’re getting it down and you’re getting it out of your system. That’s where most of my lyrics come from because sometimes I don’t even know what the feeling has been, upset, mad or ecstatic, it’s just pages in a notebook that have translated from my brain to a piece of music.”
You mention the word therapy – did you want the album to feel like that as well?
“Yeah, I think going down the road of speaking to a person is trying to let people know that you don’t have to feel stupid to feel sad. There’s so many different reasons behind it, we want to be the band that you can listen to and escape like that, almost like a therapist. A lot of people say they interpret our songs very differently, I could be writing a track about an unplanned pregnancy, someone will take that into something that’s happened to them, because the way we write is easily accessible but there’s so much meaning behind it. It’s a hybrid of relationships, mental health, growing up, being in your twenties and all the shit that happens.”
Was it important for the music to reflect that inner struggle?
“Yes definitely. All the music I listen to is like jazz, ambient tracks, film scores and I feel like that’s the music that emotes the most in you. So as much as put the words across we really wanted to focus on capturing that in the musical element as well. Brian Eno is one of my personal heroes. For me I can sit in my room and listen to ‘Music For Airports’ and go about my day because there’s no set structure to his work. You can drift in and out, create what you want, read or whatever. The music is definitely important, there are a lot of instrumentals on it and I think there will be a lot more to come. The words definitely bond really well with the music that we make. Some words got added in the studio after it had been made and visa-versa.”
There’s also snapshots of everyday life like the Megabus sample – how did that come into it?
“I’d probably had the worst night out I’ve ever had. I went to see Girl Band in Manchester and then ended up staying over the night, the next day I had no money and no phone so I had to resort to certain crimes. I finally managed to get back on the bus, I got a charger and then was absolutely dying. I was sitting behind the bus driver who let me on for free, I heard him talking to his mate about going for a pint together, it uplifted what had been a really horrible day. I managed to sneakily grab a bit of that dialogue. We wanted to put those imprints of daily life on the album. We’re massive fans of Deerhunter and they’re a great example of putting what you want in where you want. The sample sounds like a synth, but if you know you know.”
What’s the symbolism behind ‘Bedroom’, is that a referencing to the roots of the project?
“Yeah it originally started just by myself. I wanted to do my own thing because I’d just started listening to a lot more electronic music. I made an EP on my phone in a couple of days thinking nothing of it, uploaded it to BBC Introducing and then went about my business. Then a few weeks later I got an email saying I’d been played on Radio 1. I was like, fuck, I should probably get back to this. So that was the point when I realised that was ‘bdrmm’. It literally started in my bedroom so I used that name without vowels. It’s humbling to say that we’re called that because of that process. Then I realised it was time to put the band together.”
Sonic Cathedral feels like a natural home for you (with such an unrelenting drive for other noise and shoegaze names) do you feel at home there?
“I don’t think we ever regarded ourselves as a shoegaze band, which is a word that gets thrown about a lot. We used to say we’d love to watch ourselves live to know what we sound like. People would ask and I’d just say, well, we all like Radiohead so that was our genre for a bit. Then as Sonic Cathedral started creeping in it was like, fuck, maybe we’re a shoegaze band? Here we are now and we wear the badge with honour. It’s like having a mate with Nat at Sonic Cathedral. He’s not trying to push us at all, he’s just trying to guide us in the right direction that doesn’t involve one of us dying. I just wanted to do a 7” and that was me done. But to have someone who has facilitated an album and having somebody there who digs it is really humbling and we couldn’t be more thankful.”
Bdrmm’s debut album ‘Bedroom’ is out July 3 via Sonic Cathedral