It's a little ironic The Grates had to leave the country to find the things that ground them.

In the process they lost a drummer, found a new one and established their Secret Rituals.

When Pulse talks to energetic frontwoman Patience Hodgson she's enjoying the warm weather back home in Brisbane.

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"We were in New York for winter, then we came home in time for winter so I'm just happy to be warm," she says.

Last year the three-piece packed their bags and headed for the Big Apple.

After releasing Gravity Won't Get You High (2006) and Teeth Lost, Hearts Won (2008), writing the third album was more difficult and required an upheaval.

"We just weren't happy with the music we were writing so we wanted to take ourselves out of our comfort zone," Hodgson says. "Who doesn't want to go to New York?"

In January Alana Skyring who drummed for the band since its beginning in 2004-ish - the three, including guitarist John Patterson, were in high school together and gigged under various names before sticking with The Grates - dropped out of the band to take up baking.

Hodgson doesn't have any hard feelings about Skyring's departure, but says NY played a huge part in it.

"I think it had a massive impact," she says. "When you take yourself out of your comfort zone you realise the things you love and the things you're just doing because it's comfortable."

The Grates were in NY for a year and nine months, Skyring left within the first six. She has since finished her baking course and drummed for Neil and Sharon Finn in The Pajama Club.

"That was enough time to open up a whole new world for us," Hodgson says. "I'm just glad at the end of it we're all doing what we want to do. I'm writing songs and Alana is just able to drum in a band and not have to worry about writing and recording an album."

After recruiting drummer Ben Marshall, The Grates released Secret Rituals, a homage to the routines they needed in order to write new music in a foreign land.

And after all the upheaval, they were glad to see it out.

"I wasn't nervous at all," Hodgson says. "I think I can speak for John as well when I say this. We did the best we could do. We tried to make the best album we could and at the end of the day that's all we could do."

Secret Rituals is a mature step for The Grates who, live, are still jumping around like teenagers.

Songs like Turn Me On and Change show how they've grown up from the days of Trampoline, lyrically and vocally.

The band is now building a recording space in Brisbane that will be within cycling distance.

"You see all those renovators' shows on television where people are trying to build these things and that's us," Hodgson says with girlish enthusiasm. "There's so much work involved."

The recording studio in NY was so close to home, they are trying to recreate a little NY vibe at home in Brisbane. This doesn't discount them venturing off later.

"I'm always open to anything," Hodgson says. "If I need another sabbatical then I'll take it. I have no ties so I can do what ever I need to do at this time in my life."

The Grates play The Northern, Byron Bay on November 16. Tickets $35 www.thenorthern.com.au



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