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The Grates – Ben Lee Saves the Day!

‘Things got really busy, really quickly,’ explains Patience Hodgson, lead singer for The Grates, from her share house in Brisbane, where in between interviews she is vacuum packing a mess of her belongings, which she promises she will sort through after touring The Grates’ latest album Teeth Lost, Hearts Won.

The frantic pace of recording and touring is still new for The Grates– John Patterson, Alana Skyring and Patience. At the start, trio of then high school friends were just another band – they wrote some songs; they played some songs; they recorded some songs; they developed a borderline unhealthy obsession with food (Patience claims, it was either ‘drugs or food. I think we picked the better one for long-term band friendship stability. It’s probably cheaper too.’). And somewhere along the way, between New York steaks and Chicago deep dish pizzas, they crossed the line from friends to family, with Patience the clear frontwoman and the middle ground (musically, that is) between ‘hard to please’ John and ‘easy to please’ Alana.

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Band dynamics weren’t all that was changing, though. The band’s first album Gravity was literally just that, a bunch of weighty songs falling from the sky and landing The Grates on the radar of punters.

‘With the first we weren’t ever at any stage writing an album. We were just writing songs and playing live at the same time,’ says Patience. ‘It was all about sharing and just chucking the music out there, we weren’t precious about it in any way.’

But as happens for so many musicians, the first album leads to a second and all the pressure that comes with it. Whereas Gravity fell into place with seeming ease, the second (and just as aptly named) album Teeth Lost, Hearts Won was a brutal fight to find inspiration and live up to the expectations The Grates set for themselves.

‘I didn’t really ever worry about fan expectations or even our record label,’ says Patience. ‘But we had our own personal standards; we wanted to write good music. A guy that sung on our album called Tim Fite, from Brooklyn, we all just absolutely adored. I wanted to be able to respect my own work as much as I respect his work.’

As the pressure grew, so did Patience’s panic that the band might not be able to write songs of the calibre they wanted. And that’s when Ben Lee came along to save the day.

‘Not to be a total namedropper, but Ben Lee and I, we got to know each other. He called me this one morning where I was having a freakout and he said to me, “Oh, Patience, you’ve got second album syndrome, don’t worry about it.”’

Those were the magic words. The band realized what they were going through was just the standard second album jitters, and they relaxed.

Soon after that, John’s parents left on holiday, allowing the band to return to the location where they wrote most of the first album. After six months and thirty mediocre attempts at various songs, the band broke the ice with ‘Carve Your Name’. Now the album’s second track, ‘Carve Your Name’ was the first to ‘click for everybody,’ according to Patience. And just like that, the fight was over. Inspiration found – Teeth Lost, Hearts Won.

Teeth Lost, Hearts Won is in stores now. To catch the live version, grab tickets to The Grates gig at Capitol on October 25. In the meantime, check out Future or Otherwise, The Grates border-line ridiculous blog, at thegrates.blogspot.com.

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