This is GRAMN. A brilliant, yet intensely stimulating trio made up of leading lady Aux, James, and Johnny. To my surprise GRAMN was created “just over a year ago and is a wonderful accidental situation” says frontline singer Aux, and in this short time, they have released several singles which make-up the EP MEDIUMN, have featured in Wonderland Magazine, and caught the eye of Capital Xtra’s Rob Bruce.
Stimulating, thought-provoking, and a breath of fresh air are words I would use to describe the music created by the group, making everyday conversation and frustration into catchy theme songs that stay on repeat in your head. I say this, as while interviewing Aux, their latest track Minimum was on repeat in my mind. The Hackney-born and bred musician, was all you imagine her to be, a self-proclaimed “rude gyal”, she is someone who is just as open and honest as her lyrics perceive her to be.
Here’s what happened when we connected for an in-depth discussion of the trio’s journey so far.
Who are GRAMN?
It’s mad because we made GRAMN on a whim and now it is something we spend all our time working on. I was working with James, who does a lot of the production side of things, on another project of his. And I kind of became an honorary member of their group. So, he started to produce all these weird sounds and was like “do you want to do a project?” it was kind of an alternative/hip-hop/RnB sound and I was like okay, let’s do it!
And then Johnny said he really loved my voice and yeah… now, we’re GRAMN.
You have released an EP and several singles this year, how has the pandemic affected your music?
If I’m honest, I feel like most artists that I consider to be good artists will have problems. Naturally, problems create a weird space in your brain because you’re so stressed, so you make and create to distract yourself. I think in that respect I was able to master my skills and practice a lot more.
It is a very unique situation; it was nice to get a much larger audience for critique because everyone is at home and listening. Whereas, if the world was normal and people were going to work, they wouldn’t be online as much. It was hard, but we had a unique opportunity to make and create more than we would have if we were doing our full-time jobs.
Was the EP created during lockdown 1.0?
It was rounded off during lockdown. It originally did not even start out as an EP; it was just us making songs. A lot of songs did not make it on to the project because we knew how we wanted this EP to sound.
I recently read your interview with WAX magazine, where you speak on your life with mental health. In a way that made me feel like I resonated more with your music and lyrics. Do you feel a greater responsibility to discuss these topics all the time now?
I feel like artists in general have a critical opinion of the world and how you view things and how things should work. For me personally, I wouldn’t be comfortable expressing myself for someone else’s entertainment if I wasn’t telling my truth.
I don’t know if it’s because I worked in customer service, or I am a person of colour or if it’s because I am a woman, but a lot of people feel like I shouldn’t be heard. I fit a few different criteria for that, socially, and I’m just not about that. If I’m going to be sad about working a minimum wage, I might as well make it into a bop.
You know when you hear really sad tunes and you connect with it, but you can’t clean your kitchen to it? It has to be a good song but has to be the truth.
So, when you are crafting your music, lyrics, or music videos, do you ever stop yourself and think, okay this is too honest, or this is too open?
I don’t even have a line; the line is a dot to me. There have been lyrics in tunes that we have had to change. Ultimately, we are all human beings, and whether or not I agree with your position or opinion, you have a right to state your opinion. So, I feel like I draw the line if it’s a bit too much for people to fathom.
So, for example, I called out racism with mini milk… I don’t care if you’re offended or upset!
Was that difficult speaking about racism with the track Mini Milk? Because obviously, GRAMN is made up of two white men, so can you explain the thought/process of mini milk?
I think it’s a very uncomfortable conversation to have with your mates especially when they are white just because it is a hard pill to swallow. And like Black people, a lot of people are being generalised as if one opinion accounts for all.
But at the same time… Muhammed Ali said that if there are 100 snakes behind a door but 90% were poisonous, would you still open the door for the 10% because they’re okay? That resonates with me because you have to take risks with people. So, with mini milk, it was kind of like, I’m so tired of this chat but if we have to keep having it then let’s do it, and it can’t be a one-sided conversation.
I think what I’ve found with some white people is there is certain exhaustion with being white because they don’t want to have to keep having the race conversation with people of colour, but you don’t get to be tired! If we still have to suffer from the sins of your forefathers, and you’re telling me to be quiet….
When I am free to move as a woman of colour, when I am free to cut my hair how I want, to do and say what I want, only then we can stop talking about it.
If you’re wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt and you say I’m pretty for a Black girl, if you have white-guilt and then tell me I’m pretty because I’m not too dark or telling me ‘I’m not a typical black girl’, you can have your opinion, but I’ll cuss you for it.
That’s what mini milk is.
East London, especially areas such as Hackney and Shoreditch etc, have become a hub for creativity. Do you think being from Hackney has helped your creative vision?
Ultimately, when you’re an artist you are made-up of your experiences. I don’t know if it helped or it’s just who I am now. If you like who I am then you probably like Hackney, there [are] a few things that make me who I am, and Hackney is one of them.
Being from the hood can give you a number of things like work ethic and perspective. So yeah, that makes the music happen.
I am often in Hackney and the thing that gets me most is the class clash of rich and working-class. GRAMN is almost a good representation of that, do you think this enables you to tell a more truthful story on privilege?
Yes, because I get first-hand experience of it and I’m lucky with the lads we have open and honest conversations all the time. I know its mad because when I am with them, I feel safer, we know that there is a divide in gentrified areas like Hackney, but the micro-aggressions they have tells me they think I’m not supposed to be there. But then it’s like, you’re telling me I’m not supposed to be here but you’re wearing your coach bag in Dixies…
Who or what inspires you to keep going?
That’s so hard. My mum is the original rude girl. My mum is a massive inspiration and my sister as well, they’re both so blunt and straight to the point. I’ve always wanted to be like her, so I take her approach when I sing.
I take a lot of inspiration from Black musicians, like James Baldwin, Nina Simone, Beyoncé, and then there is Celine Dion, and also the spice girls.
I just like people who stand up for what they believe in and own their brand.
The visuals for “Minimum” are something I have not seen done in a while. Are your visuals just as important as the music produce?
I don’t think they’re important at all. However, with my visuals, it is definitely its own thing. It’s not more or less important, they just have their own space. With the Minimum video, I had to make it my own, these rappers always boast about money and I don’t have that! So, I made my outfit out of tinfoil.
Who comes up with the ideas?
They’re all from me! I just like to do creative stuff, I like to create my own things, I obviously have help with that, but ideas are mostly me.
How long did the minimum video take?
We nearly died, girl. We spoke about it for so long and then my manager gave us the deadline of three weeks. So, we had such minimal time to think about it and we made all the outfits, in six days! And the day before the shoot, I was laying in my bed sewing and I had probably slept for three hours the day of the shoot. But we did the same with mini milk… my mum says I like to walk through the snow in crutches…
I wanted to give people between the ages of 15-35 a full dose of nostalgia, Missy Elliot was the inspiration for it.
What is something people wouldn’t know about GRAMN but it’s time they got to know?
I’m not cool. I am a granny, I am anti-social, I just want to smoke and make tunes. I have such bad stage fright, even singing in the studio I get nervous. Any sort of anxiety, I have, which is worse because I fear failure.
I still have significant doubts about my career choice, because it is so hard to have a break-through.
What does 2021 look like for GRAMN? What can we expect?
With the political climate going on right now… I feel like I’m just going to have to come for everybody because I feel like… BORIS!!!
2021, is definitely going to have more music, hopefully, live shows, and some collaborations, which would be fun in terms of music videos… like if Teyanna Taylor did a music video with Ozzy Osbourne.
Watch “Minimum” to by GRAMN here:
Words by: Hiba Hassan