St. Lucia plays Humphrey's By the Bay in San Diego on Halloween. (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images)
St. Lucia, a Brooklyn musician by way of South Africa named Jean-Philip Grobler, is set to open, with his band, for Two Door Cinema Club at what is, sadly, the last show of the season at Humphreys By the Bay on Halloween. SoundDiego's Dustin Lothspeich tried to get under the electro-pop artist's skin with five questions. -- Ed.
Dustin Lothspeich: How is the current tour going? Any particularly memorable moments or shows?
Jean-Philip Grobler: The tour's been great so far, thanks for asking! I feel like we're getting into the swing of touring and learning how to occupy our time on the road, especially on long drives like from Denver to Calgary. I've been spending a lot of time writing new music on my laptop, which is something I've only really started to do fairly recently because I would always do stuff in my studio with all of my instruments before. This is a good way to use a different part of my brain, though, and be forced to work more like a programmer than an actual musician. Honestly, all of the shows have been a lot of fun, apart from the few times we've had technical issues. One show, Patti [Beranek]'s keyboard decided to transpose itself up a half step, and we couldn't figure out for the life of us how to fix it, so she just didn't play. Those moments are always really stressful for us because we have so much gear onstage, and if anything fails, it throws a huge spanner into the works. Probably the most beautiful drive I've ever done on tour or in my life was from Calgary to Vancouver through the Canadian Rockies. What sucks is that you can't really stop to enjoy it; you just have to pass through, but those are first-world problems.
DL: Let’s talk about the new album, When the Night: It’s your debut – how long has it been in the works? And is there a particular sense of accomplishment now that it’s done?
J-PG: I mean, to me, the album's been in the works my whole life. The first song I wrote that I would consider to be a St. Lucia song, however, was "Closer Than This," which was written in 2008. At the time, what I was doing musically was very different, and so it just felt like an oddity that didn't fit anywhere. Over the next few years, the sound that is now St. Lucia emerged, and suddenly one day I realized that I had "Closer Than This" lying in the back of my digital vault of music, and so it all made sense. I definitely feel a sense of accomplishment now that the album has been done for awhile. I also feel pressure to make whatever the next thing is going to be and to make it something fresh, and for it to feel like a progression, but I'm also conscious of not trying to control it too much and letting it happen as it happens.
DL: When you listen to the album now, do you hear anything you wish you could go back and do differently -- or are you completely happy with it? Are you playing the songs live exactly as they appear on the album or switching things up for shows?
J-PG: I definitely listen to the album and think about what it would be like if I'd done so-and-so thing differently, but I don't "regret" anything or think that things could have been better if they were done a certain way. Everything was done the way it was because of the time that it was done in -- and with whatever resources I had. I think all of those things, whether they're limitations or advantages, feed into what the album becomes, and you have to embrace that as an artist. We start off playing most of the songs more-or-less like they are on record, but then it quickly becomes apparent what we can't achieve live-- or what would feel better being played a certain way live that's different from the record. For example, there's a lot of fading in and out of things in my music, but live it's very hard to achieve fading in and out, so we have to figure out work-arounds.
DL: You’ve been riding quite the buzz wave lately, with the record receiving nearly unanimous acclaim. Has there been any review or comment about the album that particularly struck a chord with you? Has anyone said anything about it that really impacted you? Or do you ignore most of what’s said about it?
J-PG: I definitely pay attention to what's being written about us, but not to an obsessive degree. Of course, I've been incredibly flattered by the amount of love the album has received, but I also know that acclaim and tastes are fleeting, so I try not to pay too much credence or get too emotionally involved with what journalists think of my music. It has been good to see the somewhat darker side of the album, tracks like "Too Close" or "When the Night" getting acceptance when it seems like people think of me as a "summery" or "happy" artist in general.
DL: You grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa, and then moved around to Liverpool and Brooklyn. Does having a multicultural jumping-off point inform your music at all? Do you incorporate anything from your experiences in these different areas of the world into your art?
J-PG: It informs my music without a doubt. I've been very fortunate to not only travel but also to live in some very culturally distinct areas of the world, and I think that that's afforded me a broad perspective on music. Not to say that that's a good or bad thing, but I think I feel less beholden to a "Brooklyn sound" or a "UK sound" or a "South African sound" than people who've spent a majority of their formative music years in any one place, even though I'm influenced by all of those sounds, and more. Anything that is incorporated into my music from any of these places is never intentional or planned. It just happens as my influences cycle through my brain and my moods change.
St. Lucia open for Two Door Cinema Club at Humphreys Concerts By the Bay on Thursday. The show is sold out.