Friday, July 3rd, 2020
bdrmm on Their Debut Album “Bedroom”
Jul 03, 2020
By Dom Gourlay
One constant in this most surreal of times has been the influx of great records released so far in 2020. The latest of those is Bedroom, the debut LP from Hull, England-based five-piece bdrmm. Released today via highly respected British independent label Sonic Cathedral, Bedroom is the culmination of four years hard graft that literally started in founder member, guitarist and frontman Ryan Smith’s bedroom.
Having started bdrmm in 2016—initially as a solo vehicle for his own compositions—Smith then enlisted the services of brother Jordan on bass, Joe Vickers on guitar, Danny Hull on synths, and most recent recruit Luke Irvin on drums. With a settled line-up in place, it wasn’t long before their collective wares started to attract attention from blogs and labels alike. So, when Nathaniel Cramp from Sonic Cathedral offered to put out “C.U.” last summer as part of the label’s seven-inch Singles Club, there was no turning back.
Having since put out a four-track EP entitled If Not, When? as a precursor to Bedroom, it’s probably fair to say expectations were high. Comparisons with the likes of DIIV, Beach Fossils, Deerhunter, and The Cure have already been thrown at bdrmm, and while lesser acts might find such grandiose luminaries daunting. The five-piece have simply taken it in their stride, conjuring up an instantly recognizable sound all of their own.
It’s still lockdown here in the UK, albeit in relaxed form, and Ryan Smith is currently in the middle of recording an acoustic session (soon to be released on Sonic Cathedral) with brother Jordan when Under the Radar disturbs him.
Dom Gourlay (Under the Radar): There’s a lot of great music coming out of Hull at the minute with bands like LIFE, Low Hummer, Serial Chiller, Bunkerpop, and Matt Edible’s numerous projects all releasing great records in recent months. Would you class bdrmm as being part of the same scene?
Ryan Smith: I’d like to think so. Any band from Hull should want to be seen as part of that scene. We’ve always done our own thing. I started out recording demos in my bedroom. I recorded the first bdrmm EP on my phone as I didn’t really expect it to become a band. I’d been in bands before so just saw this as my own personal thing. I just wanted to write and record music, but after I recorded that first EP then uploaded it to BBC Introducing it got played on Radio One. So, I thought maybe it’s time to get a band together. From there everything seemed to fall into place.
Was it an easy shift from being a solo bedroom project into a fully functioning five-piece band?
It was really easy. My brother’s on bass and the others are mates I’ve been in bands with before. People I’ve always known through having a shared interest in music. The way it came together was quite organic. We never planned for it to be anything major like it’s wonderfully become.
Has it been advantageous being based somewhere like Hull where you can develop at your own pace rather than coming from London or Manchester where you’re immediately put under the spotlight?
Probably not. I think it’s quite difficult if you come from Hull! There seems to be some kind of stigma against most of the bands from this part of the world getting any of the spotlight put on them. Obviously, LIFE are one of the exceptions, and Lumer are doing well too, so I guess there are pockets of bands that seem to have gotten their music out beyond Hull. But in general, it’s a difficult place to break from. I’m glad that bands from here are finally getting some recognition because at times it felt like we weren’t being seriously. I don’t think people have ever thought of it as a musical city in the past. Whereas I’m now noticing more than ever that people are.
With festivals like the Humber Street Sesh steadily gaining a reputation outside the city, Hull seems to be at its most vibrant right now.
We have so much thanks to give to Mark Page who runs the Humber Street Sesh as I’m sure every other musician from Hull does too. He’s a genius. He’ll give you a platform as much as the Adelphi will or your local pub. He really believes in the local music scene, which is a real blessing.
How did you first become involved with Sonic Cathedral?
It was a bit of a weird one to be fair! We were playing a show in London—I can’t remember the venue—and Nat [Cramp] from the label said he was going to be popping down. So, we were all on edge because that was a big deal for us, and then he spoke to us after the show and said let’s release some music together. We were absolutely over the moon! Ever since we’ve been working with Nat it’s been a godsend. I don’t have a bad word to say about him. I think he’s very interesting and just a great person to be working with, which is a rare find. We’re absolutely overwhelmed that he’d be listening to us let alone releasing our records.
The 10 songs on the album Bedroom seem quite personal, almost in a conceptual way. Is that how it was always intended to be?
Some of those songs date back to when I first started bdrmm. “Happy,” the first single off the album, was actually one of the first songs I ever wrote four years ago. So, over the next four years the album was written and I mostly tend to write about things that have happened to me. As a concept it happened accidentally. It’s more of a concept for me than anything but it’s definitely open for people to interpret themselves. The way it’s written lyrically isn’t too deep or about specific events to anyone else but me. So, people can take their own interpretations from it, which is a really nice thing. We released the EP last year and it was around that time we started recording the album with the intention of putting it out this summer so its come around pretty quickly to be honest.
Which song came last?
“A Reason to Celebrate” was the last one we finished. We’d only played it a couple of times in practice then we recorded it and fell in love with the song. So, we knew it had to go on the album. It was the first song we listened back to in the studio that we really thought nailed our sound and what we were about. It was the icing on the cake. Even when I hear that song played on the radio it gives me goosebumps.
Was it quite a cathartic experience writing an album that meant so much to you on a personal level?
Definitely. When I do write it can be quite therapeutic, especially if I’m writing something down as it helps me get it out in the open. If you’re feeling shit, talk to somebody about it because more often than not you will feel better. So, channelling that ethos into my own writing helps me as much as I hope it helps other people. One thing I’ll always stand behind is how big an issue mental health is. It’s finally being touched upon in music but I think it’s still important to shine a spotlight on it, especially with everything that’s going on right now.
Was Bedroom always going to consist of 10 songs? Were there any other songs written and recorded that didn’t make it onto the album, and if so, will they be revisited in the future?
We must have at least 100 songs sitting back! I had an album recorded a couple of years ago that was made up from a load of old demos. We did have a lot of songs to pick and choose from, but there was a lot of thought went into the 10 songs that made up the album, and especially the order that they’re in. I think we were all on the same page when it came to which songs went on the record and how it sounds.
Looking ahead to the future—particularly with the COVID-19 pandemic still being at the forefront of peoples’ minds—how do you see the music industry changing to adapt and survive in what will be a very different climate?
I don’t know. It is a weird one. All we can do is try to stay positive. We do seem to have a wonderful group of people that enjoy us. We’ve got a couple of sessions lined up. I’ve been using this time very productively in writing stuff for the future and there’s talk of recording a second album already. Regardless of what happens in this COVID nightmare we’ve just go to carry on as if it hasn’t happened because as soon as you let it ruin your life you’ve lost.
You’re also putting out an acoustic session soon on Sonic Cathedral?
Me and Jordan have been recording some sessions between us and sending them from house to house. We’re looking at releasing them in October as a live EP/remix record that’s going to get pressed onto vinyl. I don’t really know as much about it as I probably should. That’s Nat’s territory. But aside from that, I’m just gonna keep writing.
What advice would you give to a new band just starting out?
Don’t lose faith in yourself. It’s a difficult time and inevitably going to affect your mental health so just do what makes you happy. If you want to record, record. If you don’t, then don’t. Don’t put pressure on yourself to feel like you need to be doing something. With music, don’t stress about it. Don’t just do things to try and please other people. Do it in your own time. Be influenced by things and don’t let people tell you any different. Just be true to yourself.
Bdrmm are a good example in that you’ve taken a number of influences to create your own distinctive sound.
We’ve all got such varied tastes in music that when people ask us what genre we are, we simply have no idea! We usually answer that we all like Radiohead and that’s about it. I think its important to be influenced so many artists without trying to sound like any one in particular. It’s something we’ve been aware of from the outset.