St. Lucia
Too Close

If you’ve been paying attention to the blogosphere for the past few years, you’re probably quite familiar with South African trop-pop front man Jean-Philip Grobler. Charting track after track on Hype Machine, this Brooklyn based front man continually crafts dance inducing electro pop. We had the pleasure of chatting with him for a few minutes before their set in Denver with Two Door Cinema Club.

TMN: Thanks for taking some time to walk with us today. Welcome back to Colorado! How’s the tour with Two Door Cinema Club going so far?

St. Lucia: It’s going good. The long drives have just started. We drove from Chicago to Denver over like, a day and a half, which was intense but nice. I enjoy seeing the countryside and stuff. Yeah, and they’re really nice guys. The crowds have been very welcoming and very nice to us.

TMN: That’s good to hear. So, since we’re an online music publication, and one that feeds into Hype Machine, we’ve noticed your songs are seemingly always charting in the popular section. Do you pay any attention to Hype Machine?

St. Lucia: I do to an extent. It’s stopped being as important to me because I think when you’re first starting out as a band, your song charting on Hype Machine is a huge thing. But it’s also murky waters, like, What does it mean? I definitely do pay attention to it, but it’s stopped mattering to me as much.

TMN: Let’s talk about your musical roots for a little bit. You’re originally from Johannesburg, South Africa. When you were a kid there, you performed with the Drakensberg Choir School. Was this where you really developed your affinity for performing live music, or was this more so something that your parents made you do?

St. Lucia: It was never something my parents forced me to do; it was something I was just attracted to from an early age. My mom told me that I could sing before I could talk. When she was like, cooking or doing something, she would put me in front of the music video channel and I would apparently just like, sing and dance to it. [Laughs] But yeah, I think that definitely had something to do with it. We toured a lot. We did international tours and a whole bunch of stuff. Yeah, doing that I guess on some level made me realize how much I enjoyed performing music.

TMN: Alright, so you moved to New York just a few years ago, Brooklyn to be specific, and started St. Lucia. We have to ask, where’d the band name come from?

I literally closed my eyes, put a pen on a map of South Africa, and the fifth try was St. Lucia. There’s a St. Lucia in South Africa, and I used to go there on vacation as a child. The moment that I put the pen down, it just like, connected all the dots for me: the fact that I used to go [“there”: to St. Lucia] as a child—it was nostalgic, and the music felt nostalgic; and the music had this kind of tropical thing to it. It all just kind of made sense in that moment.

TMN: On a side note, we’d love to see a St. Lucia/Bahamas show. Aside from the awesome posters that would come out of it, we just like both of your guys’ music a lot.

St. Lucia: It’s funny, I discovered Bahamas just the other day from the iTunes festival show that he did. I was blown away by his songs and his music. And his jokes in between songs? Hilarious. I dunno if the Brits got it though because it’s so dry. More dry than British humor.

TMN: You’ve listed out some of your musical inspirations before, listing Fleetwood Mac, Peter Gabriel, and Madonna. Are there any other current artists that are influencing your music?

St. Lucia: Yeah! I mean, man, there are a lot of bands. I’d say the current bands that I guess influenced me in some way were like, M-83, Cut Copy, and before that I was really into Interpol. I was a huge fan and still am of this band Mew from Denmark. All of their music is unbelievable. They’re one of my all-time favorite bands. They’re so under appreciated as well, but understandably in a sense, you know, because it’s obtuse but also poppy. I’m obviously inspired by their music, but it’s more by that approach of doing something that takes you somewhere that you don’t expect but is also accessible and speaks to the heart and emotions as well.

TMN: Your electronic pop sound has such a rich, deep atmospheric sound. Talk to us about what goes into your production when you’re recording a song.

St. Lucia: Pretty much all of my songs I’ll generally come up with, initially, when I’m not doing something music related. It’ll be when I’m walking down the street, or cooking, or doing something that has nothing to do with music—and when I’m not listening to other music.

Then I’ll normally just either record it on my voice recorder, or I’ll go into the studio if I’m close enough to it. It’s normally just train of thought.

Every part of the process, at least initially, is very train of thought, where it’s just like, whatever comes to my mind I’ll do it, I’ll record it, I’ll try it. You know, because sometimes if you think of an idea and you’re like, “Oh no, that’s stupid”, and you never try it, you may have missed something that might have actually been really cool when you recorded it, rather than it just being in your head. So I just record every idea that comes into my head. At some point, there’s just so much going on—like for example, Elevator at one point had like, 250 audio tracks or something, so I was just like, Ok, fuck, I need to consolidate this.

And then there’s a paring-down process. The last sort of part of the process is, I guess, the more kind of crafty part where I’m making more swells into the chorus, like synth swells or reverse symbols, or stuff like that. Most of the process is definitely very intuitive and subconscious, but then there comes a time where it’s like, ok, we’ve made this giant piece of rock and we need to chisel it.

TMN: When the Night just dropped earlier this month on Columbia Records. For those of our readers who haven’t had a chance to check it out just yet, what can people expect from it?

St. Lucia: I think what a lot of people have been saying about it is accurate in that it definitely has a very pronounced, like, tropical feeling to it. It also starts very bright and positive and triumphant—I mean, I think the whole album has a slightly triumphant quality to it, a little bit epic—but it becomes sort of a bit darker and clubbier and dancier toward the end. It’s basically like, if you could imagine a journey from late afternoon into the evening, into the night. That’s how I always think of it.

TMN: You’ve worked with a lot of great artists, from Passion Pit to Atlas Genius to The Knocks. Is there one collaboration you’re particularly proud of?

St. Lucia: I’m very proud of Modern Hearts, even though I only sang on that; I had nothing to do with the writing of it. It’s a great Knocks track. Remix-wise, I really, really like the Passion Pit remix that I did. [Laughs] Not to like, blow my own horn—I’ve been very proud of all the remixes that I’ve done, but the Passion Pit one was a little bit different than a lot of the other ones that I did, so I’m proud of that.

TMN: Do you have a few people in mind of who you’d like to work with in the future?

St. Lucia: I think a lot of the artists that I admire or really like for some reason, they’re all in some way kind of self-sufficient. I feel like for me to produce somebody, I feel like I need to be able to see something in their work that they might be missing. But maybe, in terms of like all the people, I’d love to do something with Trevor Horn. He was part of Buggles, then he produced Frankie Goes to Hollywood… He’s just made some of the best sounding records, ever. So I’d be interested in doing that. I mean, he’s a bit older now, so I don’t know if he’s that into doing that anymore. Lyndsey Buckingham from Fleetwood Mac. Kate Bush would be amazing to do like, a poppier, more recent Kate Bush album.

TMN: Alright, at the end of the interview we like to ask some random questions just to get to know you as a person a little better. Let’s start off by asking what your favorite tropical cocktail is?

St. Lucia: Dark and Stormy

Unfortunately our interview got cut a little bit short, however we had a great time speaking with Jean-Philip, and enjoyed St. Lucia’s live set immensely. If you have a chance to catch any of these tour dates, we highly recommend you do so

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