Categories
CULTURE ARCHIVES MUSIC ARCHIVES NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES

How Kanye West, Bowie, and the Streets of New York Influenced St. Lucia’s ‘Matter’

While St. Lucia may have started out like any other indie act from Brooklyn, the band’s debut album, When the Night, took them down a path of mainstream success that set them apart from many of the artists who have cut their teeth in the city. The band — fronted by Jean Philip Grobler — went from playing gigs at Cameo Gallery and Santos Party House to performing the festival circuit, but New York really did play a significant part in St. Lucia’s story. “We were very much a resident New York band, and I think New York in the way it is and was has always influenced our sound a lot,” says Grobler. 

Following the second wave of electropop bands like Passion Pit and Neon Indian, St. Lucia surfaced with anthemic choruses, catchy pop hooks, and live shows tailor-made for dancing. Hailing from South Africa, Grobler grew up singing in a boys’ choir, something that contributed to the layered vocals on singles like “Elevate” and “Closer Than This.” “Basically, the last record was made in my studio in the almost perfect situation where I had all my instruments around me — my life was very domestic, in a way,” says Grobler. “I was in New York all the time, and my studio was three blocks away from my apartment.”

After releasing their first album, St. Lucia spent a lot of time on tour and had to give up their studio. “I realized if I didn’t want to take five years to write my next record, I had to embrace writing on the road,” Grobler explains. 

Though St. Lucia’s music thus far has been rooted in pop, their latest record, Matter, was influenced by St. Lucia’s time spent living in the States, exploring the country and American music. Grobler unexpectedly found inspiration in hip-hop this time around. “I’ve never been a massive hip-hop fan, just because it was just not a part of my culture growing up,” explains Grobler. “Living in the States has made me really grow into liking hip-hop. I think Kanye West was a huge influence on this record — how epic, huge, and uncompromising his music is.” Because he was unafraid of changing his sound, David Bowie had a profound influence on Grobler’s songwriting. “When we were on the road in our spare time, I thought we should listen to some artists’ catalogs that I haven’t spent listening to, and I listened to all of his records in order,” Grobler recalls. “At times when I was afraid of changing the sound or direction, [his music] helped take the fear away.”

With Matter, there were a lot of differences in the way St. Lucia approached making the record. For Grobler, it was a lyrically contemplative experience of growing older, watching his parents get older, and uprooting his life to spend a ton of time on the road. “I think as you get older those things start to weigh on your mind a bit more,” says Grobler. “I think when you’re in your twenties, you’re living in the moment all the time.”

The first single on Matter, “Dancing on Glass,” is an obvious pop track that fans of St. Lucia might expect from the band, but one of the standouts is a song called “Help Me Run Away,” which Grobler wrote with Jack Antonoff. “[The song] is a tribute to America and psychoanalyzing my reasons for being in this country,” he explains. “Like, I’m here running away from my responsibilities that I have back in South Africa and the secrets in my past, whatever they might be.”

For now, St. Lucia are staying put — at least for this week, when they play their upcoming NYC gigs, which take place at Baby’s All Right on January 29 and Webster Hall on January 30. They’re going back to some of the venues that helped them get on the map and amass a mainstream following. For Grobler and Co., music has been their livelihood, and the success is something they’re grateful for. “I’d like St. Lucia to be around for a really long time, but St. Lucia may evolve into something else or there might be a different musical project that comes along,” says Grobler. “Music is something I always wanted to do — for better or for worse, it’s my passion.”

St. Lucia play Baby’s All Right January 29 and Webster Hall January 30. Both shows are sold out, but check secondary markets for tickets.

Categories
Bars Best Of FOOD ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES VOICE CHOICES ARCHIVES

Best Music Venue (Small)

It didn’t take long for Baby’s All Right to become the city’s go-to venue for artists on the rise. Zachary Mexico and Billy Jones opened the Williamsburg club in October 2013. As small independent venues in the neighborhood fell prey to corporate vultures and vertiginous rent hikes, Baby’s has become the preeminent Brooklyn space to catch burgeoning local acts, much-hyped touring artists, and the occasional heavy-hitter enjoying a reprieve from bigger, more impersonal stages. Ric Leichtung, talent buyer extraordinaire at Baby’s, explains the place’s rapid ascent: “Scrappy venues along the waterfront put Williamsburg on the map, and they all closed shortly after Baby’s opened. Concertgoers matured and welcomed a venue that did not smell or sound like garbage but still had that Cheers vibe where everyone knows your name.” This level of success for a small operation doesn’t happen through happenstance or dumb luck — in New York, bands always have options, and Baby’s has cultivated a reputation as a club that treats its artists kindly and its patrons warmly, a rare enough animal in the touring world. 146 Broadway, Brooklyn 11211, 718-599-5800, babysallright.com

Readers’ Choice: Irving Plaza

Categories
Bars FOOD ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES VOICE CHOICES ARCHIVES Where To

Howlin’ Rain

Ethan Miller of Howlin’ Rain turns toward the acoustic-confessional mode on his latest album, ­Mansion Songs. His starting-from-scratch reinvention follows a handful of delirious electric albums, including The Russian Wilds, a Dostoevskian epic of a record. Expect Miller’s loud and soft sides to mingle tonight. Chris Forsyth and Solar Motel Band play ye olde double-guitar acid rock with punkish passion (think Quicksilver Messenger Service meets Television). Together, Forsyth and fellow guitarist Nick Mellevoi heave and sway and ultimately transcend their influences. The Golden Grass open, and patrons 21 and older are welcome to attend.

Sat., April 18, 8 p.m., 2015

Categories
Bars FOOD ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES VOICE CHOICES ARCHIVES Where To

Julian Lynch

Ridgewood, New Jersey, native Julian Lynch got his start crafting lo-fi tunes with the likes of Real Estate and Ducktails before embarking on his own four-track quest while getting his Ph.D. in ethnomusicology at the University of Wisconsin. The result of his solo offerings is bedroom pop magic: His latest, and best, solo work is 2013’s Lines, an all-encompassing, dreamy haze of an album that showcases Lynch’s scholarly musical knowledge and knack for exploratory pop. Live, the music takes on an enveloping, transcendent power — expect to walk away in a lo-fi daze. Weyes Blood, Open Tower, Cassie Ramone, and Jacob Gorchov (DJ set) open the show, which is open to everyone 18 and older.

Sun., Jan. 4, 8 p.m., 2015

Categories
Bars FOOD ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES VOICE CHOICES ARCHIVES Where To

Operators

The ever-prolific Dan Boeckner, of Wolf Parade, Divine Fits, and Handsome Furs fame, kept his latest project, Operators, under wraps for some time. But in August, the group — featuring Boeckner, Divine Fits drummer Sam Brown, and keyboardist Devojka — stepped out with its first recordings, EP1, one of the most surprising (and under-recognized) pop albums of the year. The throwback synthpop is an undeniably dancey and hook-heavy treat. Hints of Boeckner’s time in Divine Fits make their way into “Cruel,” a standout dance track sure to be one of the highlights of Operators’ live set.

Mon., Jan. 5, 8 p.m., 2015

Categories
Bars FOOD ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES VOICE CHOICES ARCHIVES Where To

FAT CHANCE

The sort of perfectly pitched anger artists that only England can produce, FWF compresses a generation’s worth of indie-rock spleen into a skinny white container guaranteed to go boom. Last year’s Champagne Holocaust sounds like the misbegotten spawn of the Mekons, Gun Club, and Oasis’s loneliest collective hangover. Their live shows are challenging, saliva-spewing affairs that threaten to ride off the rails at the drop of a trouser.

Sat., Dec. 13, 8 p.m., 2014

Categories
Bars FOOD ARCHIVES Neighborhoods NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES VOICE CHOICES ARCHIVES Where To

PLAYING THE ODDS

With Global Welcome Ambassador Taylor Swift high above, looking down on us from one of two Tribeca lofts, it’s easy to lose faith in the New York music scene, or any residual edginess lingering therein. But the Brooklyn Rock Lottery is here to prove, once again, that this city is still home to the real deal, creatively speaking. Today, members of 25 hand-picked bands including the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Au Revoir Simone, Crocodiles, Parquet Courts, and St. Lucia will take the challenge. They’ll be divvied up, via a random lottery, into five groups, given 12 hours to write and rehearse five new songs (limited to one cover), and will perform their handiwork for you, the live audience, later tonight. Come hear your local acts test their chops after a hard day’s work — all proceeds go toward the Harmony Program, which provides after-school music education to NYC’s underserved communities.

Sat., Dec. 6, 9 p.m., 2014

Categories
Bars CULTURE ARCHIVES FOOD ARCHIVES Living MUSIC ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES VOICE CHOICES ARCHIVES Where To

Oumar Konate

This young Bamako guitarist takes the tradition of players like Ali Farka Touré and Amadou Bagayoko to a grittier place on his impressive new Addoh (Tears). Recorded during Mali’s 2012-13 political crisis, Konate sings for peace, tranquility, and the love of a good woman. Traditional instrumentalists and the Debo Band horn section, who may or may not be among tonight’s advertised “special guests”, accompany him.

Sat., Oct. 11, 11:59 p.m., 2014

Categories
Bars FOOD ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES VOICE CHOICES ARCHIVES Where To

White Fence+King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard

Psych rockers with a wicked sense of humor, the King Gizzard septet are the reason to sacrifice your gray matter to this evening of demented retro-mutation. Suffice to say that when they sing “I’m in your mind fuzz,” they ain’t kidding. SoCal fellow traveler Tim Presley, like his occasional collaborator Ty Segall, has a taste for the lo-fi guitar hallucinations of yore. Also: Juan Wauters.

Mon., Oct. 13, 8 p.m., 2014

Categories
Bars CULTURE ARCHIVES FOOD ARCHIVES Living MUSIC ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES VOICE CHOICES ARCHIVES Where To

Ilovemakonnen

Imagine, if you will, that David Bowie and Lil B had a baby. That baby would be iLoveMakonnen, the hottest name in rap right now. The Atlanta rapper/singer emerged this summer with his hit “Tuesday,” and after it took over the internet, Drake jumped on its remix, offering his own spin on how to get the club goin’ up. Makonnen’s music is a weird alt-blend of progressive r&b that stays true to its ATL trap roots. Plus, it’s catchy as hell, with every hook getting inevitably stuck in your head for the rest of the night. Come for “Tuesday,” but stay for the deep cuts, like “Sarah,” “Maneuvering” or “Tonight,” and let your new friend Makonnen teach you how to whip it.

Thu., Sept. 25, 9 p.m., 2014