Album of the Month
Hull/Leeds based five-piece bdrmm presents their acclaimed debut Bedroom via Sonic Cathedral.
The 10-track album was recorded late last year at The Nave studio in Leeds by Alex Greaves (Working Mens Club, Bo Ningen) and mastered in Brooklyn by Heba Kadry (Slowdive, Beach House). It’s a hugely accomplished debut and a real step up both sonically and lyrically from their early singles, which were rounded up on last year’s If Not, When? EP.
Musically, there are nods to The Cure’s Disintegration, Deerhunter and DIIV, while the band reference RIDE and Radiohead. There are also echoes of krautrock and post-punk,
from The Chameleons to Protomartyr, plus the proto-shoegaze of the Pale Saints’ The Comforts Of Madness, not least in the cross-fading of some tracks, meaning the album is an almost seamless listen.
As a result, Bedroom becomes an unexpected and unintentional concept album, running through the different stages of a break- up set against the backdrop of the ups and downs of your early twenties.
“The subject matter spans mental health, alcohol abuse, unplanned pregnancy, drugs... basically every cliché topic that you could think of,” reveals frontman Ryan Smith.
“But that doesn’t mean they ever stop being relevant. It’s a fucker growing up, but I’m lucky enough to have been able to project my feelings in the form of this band, surrounded by four of the best people I’ve ever met.”
And that band name, in case it needs explaining, is pronounced the same way as the album title.
“I never thought I’d get to the stage where I would have to explain it so much,” says Ryan.
“We have been pronounced as Boredom, Bdum and my old boss actually thought we were a ska band called Bad Riddim. We’re all sarcastic cunts, so Bedroom spelt correctly seemed like the perfect title.”
He’s right. The perfect title for the perfect debut album.
“I remember being in my bedroom before a 12-hour shift at the local pub I worked at and I was listening to Washed Out (probably ‘Feel It All Around’) when something inside resonated really strongly and I decided to get out my GarageBand phone-to-jack interface and wrote a demo called ‘Everything’,” explains bdrmm frontman Ryan Smith about the humble origins of the band back in 2016.
“I was extremely proud of it, especially considering it was recorded on an iPhone, I stuck it on the BBC Introducing Uploader not really thinking much of it. About a month later, when I was cleaning pots in the kitchen at work, I got an email saying that it had been played on BBC Radio 1 on what was Phil Taggart’s show. I was ecstatic. It was then that I knew I needed to get a band together".
“The first person I asked was my younger brother, Jordan, due to our disgustingly identical taste in music, and an old bandmate, Joe. They came round to my house in Beverley and we set up our amps in the living room and jammed through a bunch of demos I had written, including ‘Happy’, which has made it all the way to the album. I still remember it so clearly:
it was a beautiful day and there was such a sense of optimism in the air. “We then moved to a practice space in Hull, which was actually the third floor of an old department store building in between a bank and a Tesco Express. Enter synth player, Dan. We wrote some tracks together, with the aid of a drum machine on a Casio and a projector that would be showing:
"Debut album BEDROOM out July 3," either the football or ‘psychedelic visuals’ on YouTube.
We had a drummer for a while – he was called Aaron and he played metal. We recorded two songs at The Nave, in Leeds, with Alex Greaves who has now become an integral part of the band.
We released ‘Kare’ first, after much deliberation, and it went down really well, becoming Hype Machine’s Most Blogged track.
We followed it with ‘The Way I Want’ and then Aaron went to France. This is when Luke, our current drummer, came
along. He picked up the songs in two weeks and, finally, we were playing the music as it was intended to be heard.”
More importantly, the gang was now complete; bdrmm really are a classic band, in the sense that they are a bunch of
misfits against the world. In the nicest possible way, and like all the best bands, there is something ever so slightly wrong
about them, something slightly out of balance – not least because they range in age from teenagers to their mid-30s.
With the new line-up, they played incessantly, supporting the likes of Fat White Family, Her’s and Viagra Boys, and
recorded two more songs, ‘C:U’ and ‘Heaven’.
“These were the first ones I noticed people singing back to us,” says Ryan. “There’s no better feeling than knowing people like your tracks, not just enough to buy them, but to know the words.”
It was when ‘C:U’ got its one and only play on BBC Radio 6 Music, courtesy of Steve Lamacq’s late-night Recommends.
After that, the band was invited to participate in the Sonic Cathedral Singles Club series of 7”s. They were able to give ‘C:U’ a repeat airing along with a new song ‘Question Mark’. This time, it got a few more plays on the radio, and gave the band the invitation for future releases with the iconic label Sonic Cathedral and to put out the EP as a round-up of everything to date, along with a new song called ‘Shame’, which won over more admirers, including the likes of Lauren Laverne.
“I think the title If Not, When? came from the nauseating feeling of everything being too good, that it’s inevitably going to come to an end,” laughs Ryan. “Happy sod, I know.”
At the same time as all of this, attention was turning to the big one: the debut album.
“We spent four months in and out of the studio, overall,” reveals Ryan. “We went in with a peculiar approach of just going in and choosing which track we wanted to work on, which changed daily, so no one track was completed first, they all kinda came together at the end.
There was a lot of changes made in the studio, too, which Alex Greaves assisted on. He was great. We’ve always worked really well together but this time felt a lot more comfortable, we were able to speak up and have more of a hands on approach in the production. On the other hand, he was able to tell us when he felt another guitar line would fit better, or a different synth could be used, or to completely drop a piano track because I couldn’t play it well enough.
That was rough, but I’ll always admire his honesty. That’s what makes this record different, its very honest.” says Ryan.
With her stellar CV of like-minded artists, Brooklyn-based engineer Heba Kadry was an obvious choice to master the
album. “She has worked on so many albums by artists we adore – Slowdive, Deerhunter, Beach House, Alex G, Björk, John Maus – not to mention soundtracks including The Lighthouse, which is my favourite film of the year,” says Ryan.
“When we heard the finished album, I think we were all taken aback by what we had created. I think that is due to how
honest it is. When I listen to a track, I want to be able to feel what the writer was feeling at the time of it being recorded.
That’s why we resonate with shoegaze so much – it’s not just a song, it’s a feeling.”
But Bedroom is so much more than just a genre record; it works its way from fuzzy indie-pop to heavier dirges via sound collages and a bizarre sample of a mirthful Megabus driver.
And it doesn’t just sound great, but it also looks incredible, thanks to the artwork of bass player Jordan.
Its stark, monochrome abstractions are at odds with the bright colours of the band’s early releases.
“With previous singles, I always tried to create something that would make someone think, ‘This looks fun, I’ll listen’,” explains Jordan, “but the process for the album was very different. It was painstaking at times, but far more rewarding. In the end, I think it runs well in parallel with the record – it’s destructive but beautiful at the same time.”
“We have put a lot of hard work into creating this record,”concludes Ryan.
“It’s been really difficult, too, we all have personal things going on.
I know Joe has tried to quit three times, but I’ll never let him. Everybody needs an escape from the bleak reality of modern-day existence and, for us, this band is it – and I really hope we can be somebody else’s, too.
We’re all very excited by this record. We’ve come a long way and we haven’t even started yet...”
Pictures by Sam Joyce
Special thanks to Sonic Cathedral
bdrmm - Bedroom
Label / Sonic Cathedral