As the Revive Live Tour returns, we speak with Grandmas House on grassroots venues, starting small & how not to master TikTok dances...
Post-punk trio Grandmas House began making their mark in Bristol’s plentiful music scene back in 2018, winning crowds with their grungy guitar lines, grizzly vocals and hard-hitting punch that came alive as they played the best of the city’s buzzy venues. As Yasmine (guitar & vocals), Poppy (drums & vocals) and Zoe (bass) developed as a band and began preparing to take their set around the country in 2020, lockdown kept them like all of us in the confines of their shared home, whilst the small and independent venues they had looked forward to playing stayed shut and hoped to make it.
Last year the Music Venue Trust partnered with the National Lottery to help support these same venues with the Revive Live Tour, which saw over 74,000 gig-goers come and support 138 grassroots venues across the UK. This month the tour recommences, drawing big names such as Bastille, Kojey Radical and Becky Hill plus an exciting list of burgeoning acts including Grandmas House, who will visit Exeter, Trowbridge, Saint Albans, Bishops’ Stortford, Norwich and Folkestone. As they prepare to set off and help #ReviveLive, we sat down with the trio to look back on, from their first shows onward, how important these grassroots venues have been for them as a band and too for the wider creative community.
Before we get into your first gig experiences, how have the last couple of years been for you as a band? What did you focus on when performing wasn’t possible anymore?
We were practising and writing as much as we could. We were quite lucky because we had a drum kit and amps in our old house so we were able to keep writing during the day whilst trying not to annoy our neighbours. We did some live streams too, but mainly we just had so much more time to write new songs, because before we were gigging every week, and really didn’t have much time to work on new stuff. So it was good for our music, having the time to sit there and write together.
How do you feel about livestreaming? I can imagine it divides opinions.
I think after a while we were like, I can’t do another live stream, haha. We did a few different kinds though, at least. We did a couple on Instagram which was quite stressful, because it’s so laggy, but then we also did a few at some venues in Bristol that were recorded it properly.
It was fun, but after a while it makes you go, please can we just play live again? Having people there just makes such a huge difference.
Did you keep yourself busy with any other lockdown trends? Are you sourdough experts now?
No, but we did get into the frothy coffee. We’d wake up and that was the only thing we had to do, haha. That was when lockdown was still exciting; making a frothy coffee in the morning, it felt really wholesome. Then after two weeks it was like, yeah this is horrible, I’m going to make myself a normal cup of coffee, I can’t be arsed any more.
We did get very into TikTok too. We learnt some TikTok dances as a band, and got into a few arguments over the dances because I’m a very slow learner but the other two aren’t.
I’ll make sure to include some of those into the interview then…
Yeah, see if you can see the tension on our faces. It was also always the hundredth take we’d use at at first but by the end it was like, oh never mind just use this first take, whatever.
You’d not really left Bristol and toured properly at that point, had you? Do you think having all that time made you more better prepared for getting stuck into it?
I think it made touring better. The confidence we have now compared to what we had pre-lockdown is very different. We were very shy and had a lot of imposter syndrome and didn’t think we were capable of doing it before, I think. Also we built a whole team in that time; we actually met our manager just before it all happened, and she hadn’t seen us play yet, so she had to wait until November, when we did a socially distanced gig. Then we slowly built a whole team, so having all these people believe in us and want to work with us meant a lot. The time we’ve had to sit and think about music has actually benefited us; there’s more time to be creative, like we made our music videos in our house.
Let’s go back to your first ever gig as a band.
It was at The Thunderbolt in Bristol. We had a different bassist back then – Zoe was actually filming it in the crowd. We were so, so terrified. It was a fifteen minute set or something, we didn’t have many songs at all, but the landlord Dave, who’s just so sweet, basically forced us to play. We needed someone to force us to play a gig, and we told him we’d been practising and he was like, “Right, you’re booked in”. Poppy’s brother was headlining with his band, and he got us in to support. We knew lots of people there, but we were so nervous.
Was The Thunderbolt an important hub for you before you’d played there, then?
Definitely. I think people don’t know it that well, which is weird, but we try to spread the word about it because it’s such a cute venue. But it’s not super central, it’s more towards the train station, so it’s a bit out, but they put a lot of gigs on and give a lot of small bands a lot of support and give a lot of opportunities to bands that haven’t played much.
Do you remember how the show went?
Well, it definitely wasn’t tight haha, but it wasn’t too bad. It was just the fact that we did it and came off stage feeling so proud of ourselves, because I never thought I’d do that. The fact that we did it was enough.
Since then you’ve built up a reputation in the city as a ‘live band’. Can you talk me through some of your other favourite spaces?
There are so many great venues in Bristol, so many. We love The Exchange; we’ve played a lot of big support slots there, and from the beginning they’ve been giving us opportunities. We’re not sure if The Old England are back putting shows on after lockdown, but it’s this small, sweaty space that really suited us. It’s still a really nice pub.
When we were at uni in London The Windmill Brixton was always a favourite of ours and we always wanted to play it. Then we headlined back in October 2021, which felt amazing. A really important venue.
Yeah, that venue is really a central hub for a lot of London bands isn’t it. Who are some of the bands in your orbit in Bristol?
Slagheap – we’ve played a lot of gigs with them, and they’re really fun. Grove is one of our mates, and they’re doing really well at the moment, which is amazing to see. Katie J Pearson is one of our mates, too; we saw her at Green Man Festival and it was insane; we had never seen such a big crowd for her before. Oh, and Saloon Dion, who I think have moved to London now. They’re made out of loads of friends fro other bands in Bristol that didn’t survive lockdown, so they’re a Bristol band even though they’re being billed as a ‘London band’ now. Don’t forget Menstrual Cramps, too. Ah, that takes me back.
Some excellently named bands coming out of Bristol, then. What are you looking forward to most about the Revive Live Tour?
Well all of the venues and cities we’re playing we haven’t been to before, so definitely that. We’ve got a few new songs that’ll hopefully be ready for then too. No, they will be ready, ha. We’re recording before then, so they’ll have to be ready. We’re just really excited, because we played so many shows in 2021 and then stopped, and we find it really hard to stop once we’re on a roll.
What else does 2022 have in store for you?
We’re set to play Paris for the first time, which is the first time we’ll be out of the country which is insane. Switzerland too, actually. Oh my god, and South by Southwest in Texas. Insane. And more, but we’ll see what with you-know-what.
Yeah, there must have been so many let downs in that respect. Have you learnt to stop getting your hopes up or are they always just as disappointing?
It has definitely taught us just to learn to enjoy what’s happening in the moment; like, I’m just focused on January and not looking past that now, because I just don’t want to get too excited. But lots of festivals to look forward to, and another EP soon as we’re recording again very soon. We’ve previously recorded in Bristol and Bath but we’re doing this one in London, and we’re going for more of a live recording to capture that energy as best as we can.
Why do you think these venues we’ve talked about like The Thunderbolt are so important, not just from your own experience, but what do they add to the community and what is lost when they’re forced to close?
Small venues just give you the opportunity to just start playing. We were so new in Bristol, and we just didn’t know anyone. We weren’t really in the music scene until we started playing. Just by playing little gigs, we met so many different people and felt part of this tight-knit community. So these venues help bands that haven’t played yet get their first gigs. Everyone’s just helping each other out, and you want to see your friends succeed.
I don’t know whether without The Thunderbolt we would have even played a gig, to be honest. It just shows that these venues just care about music, and people playing music. They care for the arts.
Grandmas House play the likes of The Cavern, Exeter, The Horn, Saint Albans, Norwich Arts Centre and more from 23-29 January 2022 as part of the Revive Live Tour. Tickets and dates can be found here.