The best music festival of 2016 is about to begin in a matter of hours. Austin City Limits, held annually in the spacious Zilker Park, celebrates its 15th anniversary this weekend. The coming 10 days will showcase a countless number of our favorite bands and artists from around the globe.
Many of our beloved bands are playing both weekends, but not all. Tomorrow -- and only tomorrow -- Brooklyn-based St. Lucia will take the Miller Lite stage to perform their colorful, tropically-infused, synth-pop sounds.
Led by the brilliant singer and musician Jean-Philip Grobler, St. Lucia first began winning over our hearts with their debut studio album When The Night in 2013. Their catalog of songs is no stranger to our site. I urge you to listen to them all. Earlier this year, the band released their sophomore album, Matter, which was praised by critics and fans.
2016 has been packed with festivals and major appearances for St. Lucia. In addition to playing Bonnaroo, Osheaga, and Firefly Festival, they also made sure to visit Austin earlier this year when they helped headline SXSW’s Spotify House.
It was then that we had a chance to speak with Grobler about Matter, the intriguing artwork that contains the songs, and why you should take this blissful, indiepop band seriously.
What do you love most about festivals?
Festivals just always feel like a little less pressure than your own show. It’s like you’re just flying on the seat of your pants. Nothing is the perfect scenario … but that kind of lends an air, a kind of slight nervousness in a situation, which provides kind of energy -- but it’s just always great to play outdoor shows. Playing to people in the open air is really refreshing.
Let's talk about Matter, starting with the artwork. It is super intricate and ties into the songs on the album. How did this come about?
The artwork was such a rush. I’ve always been really passionate about the representation of our visual world and how that it ties into the music. It represents what’s inside of you, and you look at it and you get a sense for what’s going on within the music itself.
I just wanted it to be a little bit more intricate. Once we started started recording the album, we came up with this concept. Initially, it was like a photo collage and then we decided to make it like a piece of artwork. Over time it sort of developed and had all these little elements and items from our lives-- like the masks that are hanging up on the wall are masks from Patti’s and my apartment.
And you have planets in your hand.
Yeah, they’re planets I own. [Laughing.] I just feel like the music, our music, is a little bit ridiculous in a sense, you know? It’s like a little bit over the top at times. But some of my favorite films or albums had that quality as well, where you have to kind of suspend disbelief a little bit. There’s a little bit of tongue and cheek in it, but it’s serious at the same time. I think that, that album with me lying down with the planets in my hand, that’s so ridiculous! But it’s done with a little bit of a wink. We just wanted to have just something that represented the sound of the album and I’m very happy with it.
What are you most proud of on Matter?
I think in terms of songs I’m most proud of “Winds of Change.”
“Winds of Change” sticks out for me. I had such a specific vision for it, that I could hear in my head. It was just very hard to achieve that as an actual product, like the way it was balanced and everything. We ended up mixing it by scratch five times, and in the end I actually picked like my mix. And then Chris [Zane] took my mix and adjusted it slightly. Even after we’d already mastered the album, I was like, “Mix it!”
We went back and mixed it twice after the album was mastered and it was like crazy. It’s always a bit of a struggle and I’m super proud of how it turned out.
As a fan of your band, I love Matter. Have you been happy with the reception overall?
Yeah, it’s interesting. I’m sure every artist thinks this about themselves, but I feel like we are a little bit almost misunderstood as a band. I feel like you know we’re sort of seen as this fun, poppy, happy kind of band, and people just like label us as this ‘80s throwback, kind-of-thing. Whereas to me, there’s a lot more to our sound. I feel like our fans see that, but I feel like a lot of people don’t see that and labels us as just this shallow kind of thing. I feel like every artist feels that way, like he’s misunderstood in a sense. But yeah, I’ve been happy to an extent about the reception.
What do you wish people knew, about your music, that you feel is kind of misconstrued?
I wish that people understood how seriously we actually take our music. I think it’s like that with any art, you know? I feel like Wes Anderson was kind of unusual for a while, because his films aren’t one hundred percent serious. There’s a little bit of a wink in there. There’s a bit of comedy, but it also communicates something kind of beautiful and serious as well. I think sometimes art like that is the most difficult thing to understand, and it takes time for people to come around to.
I’m just going to keep doing what I do, and hopefully the rest of the world comes around to it at some point.
How you feel you’ve grown since When The Night?
I think restraint is really a good thing, but I think When The Night was a little bit more of a restrained album. I felt like I wasn’t one hundred percent sure yet who I was as an artist. I was kind of holding back a little bit, just because you don’t know how people are going to react to what you’re making. I feel like what we were doing at the time...it had this kind of ‘80s influence and was poppy, but then it also had this kind of other darker side. I just wasn’t sure if people were going to get it, and I feel like with [Matter] I just like threw all those fears aside.
Touring gave me confidence as a performer, and as a band it definitely comes through in the album where it’s very bold and bombastic. I feel like it’s brave in a lot of ways. I feel like we took a lot of risks.
When do you feel like you do your best work?
It’s difficult to say. I feel like sometimes it’s me, by myself, in a room, working out something like at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. Sometimes it’s with other people, and sometimes your best work is actually done in a situation where not everyone’s on the same page, where there’s opposing forces. I think it’s often your best work is done in places where you don’t expect it to be done and where it’s not actually a super glowing experience.
I can’t take credit for the question I saw another journalist ask it, but I think it’s fascinating. How would you describe your music, in words, to a deaf person?
I would just say imagine being enveloped in a multi-colored, super bright ocean of thick sound. That’s how I would describe it.
When are you happiest?
I’d say I’m generally like a pretty happy, pleasant person. I’d say I’m normally happiest when tour finishes, and we can be at home, and we have those like few days without anyone and just kind of have this empty negative space.
I’m happy in that situation because it’s a change of scenery. And then we’ll be at home for a long time, and then we’ve been recording the album. Then we go and we do a short tour or something, and I’m happiest in that situation … [I’m happiest] being comfortable and then suddenly being thrown out of your comfort zone and in this like environment where it’s surprising and fresh to you.
Festival goers can see St. Lucia perform on the Miller Lite Stage, at 5:00 p.m., on Friday, September 30.