The bdrmm generation: why they are the future of shoegaze, not the past

bdrmm photographed by Sam Joyce

bdrmm have just released their new single, ‘A Reason To Celebrate’, which sounds like a latter-day shoegaze classic in the making. The band’s frontman Ryan Smith describes it as their “ode to the genre”. “We wanted to make a proper shoegaze song,” he explains. “When we finished recording it, I think we were all a little overwhelmed – this was the music that we always wanted to make.”

In the last couple of years, there has been a sea change in the shoegaze scene. There’s a whole new generation of bands whose parents were original ’gazers, wide-eyed with wonder and inspired by all the genre can offer, rather than limited by it or simply copying records that were made before they were born.

bdrmm are one of those bands. When we first heard them in 2018 they seemed too perfectly realised, too knowing to be so young. Ryan is 26; his younger brother and bassist Jordan has just turned 20 and jokes that, when Sonic Cathedral started in 2004, he was “still battling my abhorrent addiction to rusks”.

Ryan and Jordan Smith pictured in the early 2000s, and live in Leeds, 2018, by Sam Joyce

It would be another few years before they became addicted to shoegaze. For Jordan the gateway drug was DIIV’s debut album Oshin, for Ryan it was M83’s track ‘Outro’, which he heard on a Persil advert. “I was astounded by the epic-ness of it all,” he recalls, “and that definitely washed its way into my subconscious.”

Then came the big discovery: Slowdive. “I heard ‘Alison’,” says Ryan. “I don’t remember where I heard it, I don’t even know how I heard it, but I remember Souvlaki being my ‘main Christmas present’ that year. That was the record. It’s a masterpiece.”

“‘Souvlaki Space Station’ was the first song I heard and it floored me,” adds Jordan. “The tone of it all, and the fact that I couldn’t understand it made it all the better. Suddenly, I was transported into a space where there ultimately were no limits. It was around this time I started pestering my parents to buy me a guitar.”

Of course, making their own music inspired by their new discoveries was the logical next step. “The first two guitar pedals I owned were an Electro Harmonix Cathedral reverb and an overdrive/distortion that I picked up from a charity shop,” reveals Ryan. “I think having only those sounds to experiment with when I was sat in my room making life for my neighbours unimaginable has definitely shaped my ear for shoegaze.”

“When I first heard that DIIV album, the way that all the instruments sat together in the mix was a big part of it for me,” explains Jordan, who also points out that it wasn’t just the immersive nature of the music that appealed. “As it coincided with me becoming a teenager, the themes of isolation and anxiety definitely also resonated with me at the time, and to some extent still do.”

But by choosing the genre that we love so much, are they simply being self-consciously retro? Not according to Jordan: “I think the music sort of sits within its own bubble and nothing really touches it. I suppose that’s what appeals to me the most about it – the fact the music doesn’t rely on modern mainstream trappings. But it’s definitely still relevant, especially in how it’s inspired contemporary musicians to give in to the temptation to experiment with reverb and delay, just turn it up to 100% and see what happens, you know?”

“I think it felt retro because the majority of bands didn’t play any more,” says Ryan. “But since Slowdive released their new album, I have definitely felt the genre’s presence become more apparent. I love just being able to have conversations about certain albums, as opposed to having to introduce people to them. It’s a slow-burning popularity.”

“And it’s more popular than ever before,” concludes Jordan. Who are we to argue?

Pre-order bdrmm’s debut album Bedroom now