RESOUND chats to Hull’s BDRMM about their luminescent new album I DON’T KNOW, the move to Mogwai’s Rock Action records, soundtrack ambitions and Alistair the Estate Agent. 

Originally set up as a solo project by vocalist/guitarist Ryan Smith in 2016, the band now includes his brother Jordan on bass / keyboards alongside guitarist Joe Vickers and drummer Conor Murray. With their 2020 debut Bedroom hailed as a “modern day shoegaze classic” by the NME, the band have since supported both Ride and Mogwai.

Of course, with success comes higher expectations for any follow up album, Jordan admitting that they took a while to get going this time round and even tried out different producers before returning to Bedroom producer Alex Greaves at the Nave recording studios in Leeds. But rather than treading on familiar ground, the band saw this new record as an opportunity to experiment beyond the walls of Bedroom, enriching their sound with new elements such as electronica, sampling and trip hop while still calling in their progressive shoegazey roots. Ryan says

doing the same thing again would be quite boring for us and if we’re bored making the music then what’s everyone else going to think?”

But far from boring, their music’s glimmering soundscapes hypnotise as brutal assaults of incendiary, textured guitar float in and out of focus, the band drifting off into their own “rum-fuelled” reveries during their live performances. Ryan confesses that they do “get kind of lost in it… I mean we’re not pushing alcoholism or anything but we do play after a few tipples. I don’t think any of us are particularly outgoing people when we’re not on stage so it’s a bit of a release, I guess.”

Referring to the larger stages they’ve found themselves on while supporting Mogwai, Jordan tells us they often look at each other rather than the crowd to gauge how it’s going. “It’s really exciting to know that you’ve got three other people on stage who are getting into it as much as you are.” Joe agrees, 

my favourite part of any gig is when you just catch someone in the band’s eye and give them a daft little smile, as if to say ‘how are we getting away with this for a job?”

Although I Don’t Know continues the introspective themes of Bedroom, drawing on their personal experiences of mental health and relationships, Ryan explains that it’s a more ambiguous offering, allowing the listener to interpret the songs in whatever way they wish, in essence becoming less about the personalities of the band more about the listener. 

I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a concept album but it has become thematic accidentally and you can read into it as you want, which is an important thing to us.”

Opening track Alps, written when they were driving through the Swiss Alps with Mogwai, exposes their innovative approach from the outset with ambient dance beats, Ryan explaining that “it felt like a natural opener and is an important track because it’s such a dramatic shift from the first record.” He tells us that everyone in the band is now bringing their own thing to the table, creating a new way of working for them, such as Jordan’s Advertisement One, its euphoric half-lit atmospherics creating the perfect mid-summer wake-up call. It’s their first fully instrumental piece, Jordan revealing that Ryan’s already toyed with the idea of doing an instrumental album, emphasising that they consciously try to create music which is as interesting as any lyrical content it contains. 

One of their favourite live numbers It’s Just A Bit Of Blood also found a natural home on the new album, though some of their long standing fans will know it better as Picky New, which they renamed because, according to Jordon, “it would be a terrible mistake to call a song that!” The song itself recalls Radiohead, Ryan’s fragile angst slamming into a ferocious wall of guitars, Jordan admitting he’s got a bit of a soft spot for the number. 

It’s great to play because it builds on that ‘loud quiet loud’ thing and it’s fun to feel the weight of the noise behind us when it all kicks in. It’s become a staple of how we’re making music now so it seemed like the inevitable next step to make it the first single release from the new album.”  

Joe adds that capturing the slap-around the face moment when it all loads in was definitely the hardest part to get right in the studio. “Getting the loud quiet loud dynamics to feel as big as it did live was tricky. There was a time when I didn’t even see it being on the album but Alex put his finger to it and beefed it up in places and it worked out pretty good in the end.”

So, did they just run out of ideas when it came to the album title or is there some deep meaning to I Don’t Know? Apparently not, according to Conor who seems delighted to tell us “it stems from an old Bob Mortimer sketch where he’s Alistair the Estate Agent showing someone around a property, responding to every question with ‘I don’t know’.” Yep, we know the one and whether he’s being serious or not…I don’t know, but it’s a good enough reason as any!

2023’s been a big year for the band, who’ve moved labels from Sonic Cathedral to Rock Action, and although Jordan admits “the relationship we had with Nat (Cramp, of Sonic Cathedral) was so brilliant because he was the singular voice at Sonic Cathedral and getting stuff done was easy”, he describes the move as “perfect really”, explaining that even with teams of people working for them, Rock Action present themselves very similarly as a label, “focusing on allowing the artist to flourish in the way they want to.” So would they ever consider switching to a major label if given the chance? It’s a resounding no from this bunch, obviously the correct answer, with Joe admitting that although they’ve had offers from bigger labels “none of them ticked all the boxes that Rock Action and Sonic Cathedral did in terms of artistic freedom and just general happiness and I think we’re definitely where we need to be!” 

Glasgow-based independent label Rock Action is owned by the Mogwai guys who’ve “made it incredibly easy for us to meet and get on with the people who work for them” according to Jordan. And with both bands’ musical influences and outputs overlapping, it’s the perfect fit for BDRMM, who seek to make a move into film score composition, something which Mogwai are very familiar with. Ryan’s face lights up at the prospect as he tells us 

that’s the dream, to do a film score. I’d absolutely love it, I’m just so influenced by artists like Jóhann Jóhannsson doing Mandy’s score. I’m such a big film fan and so interested in the textures and soundscapes of film, so hopefully that’s the next step.”

I Don’t Know is out on June 30th and you can catch the guys on their record store tour over the next couple of weeks (dates can be found at 

Further afield they’ve got some European festival dates lined up and in September will be playing the Psych Fest in both Edinburgh and Manchester, all the while dreaming of touring with Slowdive and The Smile

In the meantime, all is not lost for Glastonbury where Conor’s in action this weekend…sadly not behind his drum kit but rather a coffee & waffle stand. Rock ‘n’ roll!

I Don’t Know is out on 30th June on Rock Action

Words and interview: Shirley Mack @musingsbymarie