“The sound of the band is my personality in oratory form,” explains St. Lucia singer Jean-Philip Grobler. “Everything I’m influenced by and all the artists I have listened to in the ’80s, ’90s or 2000s is filtered through my memory and taste. It’s not in any way premeditated or planned. It’s more like this is what is going to come out of me, and where it ends up is my taste.
“For me, I’ve embraced the things that were guilty pleasures for me like Phil Collins or things that had a novelty about them, and realizing that this is part of my music personality, and shouldn’t restrict myself in any way, and stop trying to be cool. A lot of people talk about how music is therapy for them, and that’s true. But also my music develops as I develop as a human and that was a huge personal moment for me to develop my own personality and accept all the parts of my personality that other people think are cheesy. I choose to embrace those parts because otherwise I’ll always be chasing my tail. I think it takes a lot less effort to live a life when you’re not trying to stop yourself from doing things and embracing the positives.”
Also for Grobler, that meant learning how to believe in himself and persevere in the turbulent world of music.
“You’re either gonna be too young or too old for anything in life,” explains Grobler. “We’re definitely not the youngest anymore and we have been around for a while, and you could be like, ‘I’m gonna quit now because I don’t have a number one hit,’ but you gotta keep doing what your dream is because you’re either gonna be too old or too young. It’s better to believe in what you do because any career will have elements of spite and battle to it. But it’s important that what you do brings you joy and satisfaction.”
Grobler will bring all the things that make him who he is and more when St. Lucia plays a homecoming show in Brooklyn on Nov. 16. For Grobler, the journey to a loud, joyful and energetic career in music began in South Africa, where he grew up. Instead of going to Washington Crossing or the Liberty Bell for school field trips like your average NJ kid, students in South Africa would go on safaris. Grobler loved the beauty and nature of South Africa, but couldn’t stare too long; he had choir practice two hours a day.
“It instilled some level of discipline in me,” says Grobler about the choir lessons. “But also I was developing my love for music with bands like Radiohead. I wanted to discover how to have a band and a musical career. Being part of the choir gave me joy, and I loved performing in front of an audience.”
Grobler would eventually get to play in front of people on a daily basis with his band St. Lucia, and they came up in the aughts around the same time as MGMT, Cut Copy, Cults and other bands of that nature.
“What was really amazing about that time was it really felt like a good time for us to come out in the world,” says Grobler. “People were really embracing that guilty pleasure aspect to the music. I read a few interviews about MGMT and how they created their sound, and they said, ‘It started off as a joke,’ and they were making, to them, terrible pop music, but it caught on. There were so many great artists in that time period who were embracing pop music, but also having a unique sound as well. That time gave us the license to do what we do.
“There was also Vampire Weekend, and before them I didn’t really appreciate the music of my home country or continent. In a way they kind of reintroduced me to it, and showed me that this could be brought into a pop context or an indie context and be cool.”
St. Lucia was also a part of the time period when indie music experimented with synths and electric sounds. In 2013, they released their first album called When The Night, which included their hit song “Elevate.”
“It makes sense to me that ‘Elevate’ is one of our biggest,” says Grobler. “I feel like ‘Elevate’ was the perfect vision for what we were trying to do originally for St. Lucia, which is having nostalgia and there’s happiness but also sadness. There’s all these sounds that come from these old synths and it evokes a sound memory for people who grew up in that time. One of my favorite songs ever is ‘Karma Police’ by Radiohead because it switches in the middle, and ‘Elevate’ has a really good switch in the way the rhythm switches midway through the song. It feels really good to play live, and it still feels good after all of this time.’’
Not only will concert-goers in Brooklyn hear ‘Elevate,’ they will also hear new songs from St. Lucia’s newest album Utopia, which was released in October. Grobler feels like it’s the band’s best work yet.
“To me Utopia feels like the most focused record we have ever made,” Grobler explains. “All of those songs feel so good to play live. Ideally we would love to play all the songs from that record every night, but that would mean we wouldn’t be able to play the songs from the other tracks.”
St Lucia will be playing at Brooklyn Steel in Brooklyn on Nov. 16. Ticket information can be found here.