Brooklyn-based, South African born, St. Lucia will release his sophomore album MATTER on Friday 29th January.
The first single, Dancing On Glass, had us contemplating big questions that can remain unanswered for a lifetime, however Jean-Philip Grobler made the time to answer some of ours. He revealed himself as a reflective and thoughtful humorist, with style (that can’t be bought – a tragedy, according to St. Lucia). Dancing On Glass was inspired by Hall & Oates and Crowded House. Grobler knows exactly who he is.
TGW: Can you tell us about the inspiration behind Dancing on Glass?
SL: Tim Pagnotta (who I wrote Dancing on Glass with) and I were really fascinated by the idea that everyone does things that are ‘bad’ for us, even though we know that they are bad for us. But the irony is that we often need to do those things even though they might be the very thing that kills us in the end because not doing them at all can represent a very different kid of death. A sort of death of the human spirit, and to not be too attached to your material self. In a way I think that’s why our vices are so appealing to us and so hard to shake off. They speak to a deeper part of ourselves that is unattached to the material world, and by giving them up we are in some way giving up the romantic idea of immortality.
“I was inspired by how Hall & Oates or Crowded House songs can so often seem happy and positive on the surface, but there’s always this undercurrent of something else.”
TGW: By your estimation, how long actually is it ’til we learn that dancing is, in fact, dangerous?
SL: We may and probably never will learn until it’s far too late.
TGW: How high is too low?
SL: The lyric is actually ‘high high is too low’ but I’ll give it to you. The height that is too low is the height of the floor that you’re currently standing on, I would imagine.
TGW: Matter is your second album – it grapples with themes of getting older, battling with insecurity and self-doubt while balancing maturity and ambition. Is it autobiographical, or are you a story teller?
SL: I think that most of my writing up until this point has been autobiographical, even though it’s not necessarily intended that way. I’m just not sure that anyone is really able to write anything or about anything convincingly if they haven’t in some way experienced that feeling or emotion before.
TGW: How do you feel the transformation has been, from playing nearly every instrument yourself on 2013’s When The Night, to engaging with a full band when recording Matter? Do you feel like more of a seasoned artist now?
SL: I like to think that with each day that passes I become a more and more seasoned artist. But with that seasoning comes the inclination to get stuck in my ways and repeat myself.
“Involving other people in what I do is my way of combating [being set in my ways] by injecting new blood and fresh ideas that I wouldn’t have had by myself, into the veins of St. Lucia.”
TGW: Do you find it to easy to delegate, or do you feel fiercely protective?
SL: I definitely don’t find it easy to delegate, but I’ve learned that it’s extremely important. That being said, there are situations where I know that I am the only person willing to go to certain lengths to achieve the kind of perfection I’m after, and in those situations I would never delegate.
TGW: Your music has been described as high energy, artful pop. Who are your biggest music heroes?
SL: Why, thank you whoever described my music! My list of heroes is forever changing and expanding depending on the day and year. That being said, a common theme among my heroes is a willingness to subvert peoples’ expectations of them and to go against the grain, even if going against the grain is actually going against what most people perceive as ‘going against the grain’. So, Kate Bush, Kanye West, David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Grace Jones, Lindsay Buckingham, Radiohead, Pink Floyd etc etc
Live St. Lucia is: Jean-Philip Grobler, Patricia Beranek, Ross Clark, Nick Paul, Dustin Kaufman
TGW: Where were you when you learned that David Bowie had left this earth?
SL: Johannesburg, South Africa. It hurt especially because I think he might have been the biggest influence on our new album. I was also very sad because it really felt like he was on the edge of a career renaissance. But it’s funny and yet tragic but oh-so-Bowie how it sometimes takes that, in order to come back.
TGW: Your music sounds like:
SL: A series of unsettlingly vivid dreams.
TGW: Who do you dream of collaborating with?
SL: There are so many people I’d love to collaborate with. I’d love to collaborate with one of my favourite older artists and help them to rekindle what made them great in the first place, if they’ve somehow lost track of it, or perhaps the public has.
TGW: Do you see the natural connection between music and style?
SL: Oh, absolutely. We all want our entertainers to embody the things that we can’t have or achieve in our lives. The best way to represent that to people is through style.
“The tragedy is that unfortunately style cannot be bought.”
TGW: If Alessandro Michele got in touch and wanted to use your music for a Gucci runway show, what would be your first response?
SL: I’d be like, “sure dude”.
TGW: What are some of your closet favourite songs?
SL: I’m pretty open about my guilty pleasures, because I feel like that is what half of St. Lucia is. There are songs though that I wish I didn’t like as much as I do because maybe they’re by a band or an artist that is perhaps a contemporary of ours and when I hear that song I wish that I’d written it. Right now I’ve really been liking everything The 1975 have released off of their new album. Love Me and UGH!! are both almost too close to INXS for comfort, but they do it so well. Also, the new Justin Bieber songs.
“Bieber songs are kind of like eating McDonalds for the first time. You know it was made in a factory with really bad ingredients but you can’t help but want another Big Mac right now with Supersize Fries & a Coke.”
TGW: What is the newest song that you’re listening to at the moment (on repeat)?
SL: I listen to a lot of Radio Nova (a French radio station) and KCRW Eclectic 24. I just discovered this band called L’Imperatrice on Radio Nova and specifically their song ‘Parfum theremine’, which is disarmingly pretty. I’ve also been loving Jamie Woon‘s song Dedication, which is the last song on his excellent new album Making Time but is so worth waiting for.
TGW: Is Coachella the ultimate festival to play at? If not, what is yours?
SL: Coachella is awesome, but there are so many great festivals to play at for so many different reasons. One that really surprised me was Electric Forest in Michigan. They have this forest with all of these incredible lit up art pieces and things. I can’t even describe it, but it’s like being in some magical future world. Just look up pictures and know that it’s about 500% more beautiful and cool when you’re actually there.
TGW: Which band or artist from your childhood inspired you to become a musician?
SL: Probably Michael Jackson. He was just completely undeniable. I just feel like saying anything about him at this point, is redundant.
TGW: 1989. Taylor Swift or Ryan Adams?
SL: Taylor Swift, but all due respect to Mr. Adams.
TGW: When you return to New York now, do you feel like are you coming home?
SL: I’m gonna say half yes. When I leave South Africa I feel like I’m both leaving home and going home to New York.
TGW: What is your current style obsession?
“I’m really into monochrome at the moment. I just like how clean it looks. There came a point at what I’d like to call ‘peak tropical’ where we realised that us all wearing tropical prints on stage looked a little messy.”
And so over time we just started toning it down a bit and going for a more neutral and eventually, pretty much monochrome palette. I’m also really into the Danish mens fashion house called Soulland, who helped us design the cover for Matter.
TGW: What are some song lyrics that have stuck with you?
SL: ‘Drowning in the sea of love, where everyone would love to drown.’ – Sara by Fleetwood Mac
‘Coz love’s such an old fashioned word, and love dares you to care for the people on the edge of the night, and love dares you to change our way of caring about ourselves, this is our last dance, this is ourselves, under pressure.’ – Under Pressure by Queen & David Bowie:
TGW: Some people believe that being happy can stifle creativity. What’s your experience?
SL: That’s a very interesting question, and I’ve actually thought about that a lot over the last couple of years. I’m a generally pretty happy person, but there were a few years where I went through some pretty intense depression. Like, days where I basically couldn’t get out of bed. I forced myself to not go on medication and got through it myself but there were some scary moments there. I think in many ways going through stuff like that in life makes you appreciate it when things are good, and I definitely appreciate every day that I don’t have to go through what I went through then, but going through it taught me a lot about myself. Fortunately I decided to listen to what my-self was trying to tell me and not deaden it with medication. I’m not sure that happiness stifles creativity though. I think that maybe if you’ve only ever been happy and satisfied then maybe there’s not much for you to express that you really feel like you need to get out of you, but who am I to say? There are so many colours to life. I also think the idea of the struggling unhappy artist is so etched in our brains and is so persuasive and romantic that we can’t get away from it, or can’t attribute value to art unless it came from someone who cut their own ear off. I’m not really sure one way or the other, but I do think unhappiness is of incredible value to the human experience either way.
TGW: What’s your warm up ritual just before you walk on stage?
SL: Annoying to everyone except me. I can sound like I’m farting out of my mouth and the next moment sound like a siren and then look like I’m having a fit because my mouth is so stretched open. Not a pretty sight but of significant comedic value.
TGW: What’s next for you?
SL: Lots of touring. Lots of promo. This is interview #5 that I’m doing tonight. Not to diminish this experience which I’ve actually very much enjoyed, and I appreciate you asking such good and thoughtful questions. I’m also hoping to be making a lot more music. Thank you, I’m off to bed 🙂