Shelley Wright is the director of publicity for Modular whose band Tame Impala were nominated for a Best Alternative Album Grammy. Here's her Grammy diary.
Patrik North, the US label manager at Modular, and I were beyond surprised when Tame Impala were nominated for their first Grammy at the end of last year. The band have had a slow-growth, organic career so far, and have connected deeply with critics and fans, but we had zero clue that they were on the radar of the people who make those kinds of decisions. When Patrik called me late one night in December to tell me our boys from Perth had been nominated, I burst into tears with shock, called their manager in Perth and cried with her for a bit, and then jammed their nominated album "Lonerism" hard while I cracked a bottle of champagne. We were off to the Grammys.
Unfortunately, Tame Impala were already committed to the Big Day Out tour in Australia, so they weren’t able to make the trek from Australia for the ceremony. I’d done the Grammys red carpet with Cut Copy in 2012, and was really hoping to get to parade Tame Impala down the carpet too, as it’s an overwhelming but super exhilarating experience, and I wanted them to revel in the weirdness and craziness of it all. Despite their inability to attend, we decided to come out from NYC a few days early to spend some time with their manager Jodie Regan and their commercial radio consultant Karen Glauber, and to take in some of the Grammy activities going on over the weekend.
Thursday night we headed to the Delta event at Soho House to see fellow Antipodean Lorde perform, where we ran into Tom Windish, who had just hours before been inducted into the Billboard Power 100. He told us he had nine events to attend the next evening, and had needed to hire a driver to make it possible.
My ticket to the 56th annual Grammy Awards ceremony. (Photo: Shelley Wright)
It made me feel for the publicists who have multiple artists doing press, events, red carpet, gifting suites, and various other Grammy-related things over the weekend. Their weekend is one very long 72-hour stretch of sore feet, a continually dying phone battery, a constant feeling of needing to be in three places at once, and then if their artist wins any awards, a 6:00 a.m. start on Monday morning sending out press releases and fielding interview requests. Sometimes publicists get a bad rap, but the good ones work so hard, and so uncomplainingly, to help their artists achieve their dreams.
We then jetted to one of the odder musical offerings of the weekend – an annual event hosted by Will.I.Am for his I Am Angel foundation, featuring performances by Bell Biv Devoe, Busta Rhymes, Chaka Khan, Doug E Fresh and Biz Markie. I watched Bell Biv Devoe run through "Poison" before returning to the Ace Hotel to crash for the night.
Friday morning I drafted a “what if” press release – something to send out on Monday if (and it’s a big if) Tame Impala won their category. We didn’t expect a win – they’re up against some very worthy and far more established artists – but if by some stroke of luck they did win, I did not want to leave the celebrations to go to my hotel room and write a press release to send out the next morning.
Friday night we met some people at the Chateau Marmont for dinner and some friendly pre-Grammys rivalry. Kris Chen from XL Recordings, home to Vampire Weekend; Dawn Barger, The National’s long-time manager; and we talk our category – Best Alternative Album. The consensus seems to be that it’s Vampire Weekend’s year to win. They’ve had a stellar year and whilst it would be cool for Tame Impala to get the nod, the Vampire Weekend dudes made an incredible album and they definitely deserve the recognition. We also ran into Alexander Baker from High Rise PR, who handles publicity for Lorde, and there were congratulations all around.
On Sunday morning, The Ace Hotel was a flurry of hair and make-up artists wheeling their kits in and out of the lobby. Cars line the street, waiting to take people to either the red carpet or the regular-person entrance to the Staples Centre. It’s hard not to get excited when it seems like literally everyone around you is in one way or another preparing for the very thing you’re attending.
Karen picked us up and within minutes we arrived. Tame Impala’s category was presented during the pre-telecast, which means getting to the venue at 1pm--four hours before cameras start rolling on the live televised show. The pre-telecast is a slog – almost 100 awards in 3 hours – but total badass Cyndi Lauper nailed it as the host, cussing and joking her way through things. This part of the day can feel a little anticlimactic – the audience is a little restless, the applause for winners can be underwhelming if it’s a category not well represented by the people in the room, and also it’s pretty weird to be in a room full of people in ball gowns and full make-up at 1:00 pm in the afternoon. But some of the speeches were particular endearing (shout out to the self-deprecating guy who won Best Album Notes).
After a couple of hours, it was time for Best Alternative Album. It was a thrill to hear Tame Impala’s name read out as a nominee, and when Vampire Weekend won, at least I got to text Kris and share in his excitement.
The view from our seats before the ceremony started. (Photo: Shelley Wright)
The live telecast is an assault of entertainment – so much happens over the 3 hours that you walk out dazed and have hard a time remembering even half the acts that performed. Pink trapezed, Taylor Swift tossed her hair around, Katy Perry inexplicably brought a horse made of humans on stage, and Kendrick Lamar showed us why he’s fast becoming one of the best rapper alive. I mostly just gave Patrik a running commentary of all the cute things Beyonce and Jay-Z were doing (Rapping Kendrick lyrics to each other! Dancing to Willie Nelson! Holding hands! Downing cognac even though alcohol isn’t allowed on the floor!).
After the show, we headed back to the Ace for the Universal party, where we were joined by friends and finally got to have a drink to celebrate the band’s success. Both Patrik and I have been working with Tame Impala since very beginning of their US career, and their debut full-length album "Innerspeaker" was one of the first releases we put out together at Modular, almost 4 years ago now. We’re a team of just two in the US, and the Grammy weekend was a chance for us to take a moment to celebrate all the things we’ve learned, and look back at how far we’ve come together. We’re infinitely proud of the band, and our work with them, and it was a nice moment for the both of us.