Ian Sweet, Lexie
261 Driggs Ave.
Brooklyn, NY, 11222
Doors 8:00 PM / Show 9:00 PM
This event is all ages
Life has been a whirl for Girlpool since the release of their acclaimed 2015 debut Before the World Was Big. Shortly before the record came out, Harmony Tividad and Cleo Tucker relocated from their hometown of Los Angeles all the way across the country to Philadelphia, where they quickly became embedded in the local D.I.Y. scene. “Before BTWWB, I was just out of high school, living in my old neighborhood,” recalls Cleo Tucker. “Then we started touring in a way we’d never done before. I really started to experience the duality that was beginning to exist in my life: tour/not on tour.” After a chaotic and informative year spent floating around the East Coast, both bandmates moved home to California at the start of 2017. Girlpool have been seemingly everywhere at once, exploring all the world’s offerings with open minds and notebooks. All the lessons they learned, about the earth and about themselves, are gathered together in their sophomore record and ANTI- debut, Powerplant.
Over 10 days in August 2016, Girlpool holed up at Los Angeles’ comp-ny studios to record and mix Powerplant with Drew Fischer. For the first time, Harmony and Cleo were joined by a third performer, drummer Miles Wintner, a friend who easily meshed with the tightknit duo. The decision to add percussion came as a natural decision for Harmony and Cleo; “Cleo and I just were driving down the New Jersey turnpike when she mentioned that it might be exciting to expand our sound for the new songs,” says Harmony. “The songs we were writing had the potential of getting really climactic,” adds Cleo. “I think percussion adds a new part of the musical dynamic that we want to explore.”Girlpool’s eagerness to evolve should come as no surprise; in the same way that there were little traces of their self-titled EP on BTWWB, on Powerplant, the pair shed their old skins with more eagerness than before. “In some ways I feel more courageous and mature and in other ways I feel smaller and softer, sometimes even more fragile than ever,” says Harmony, adding that while the inner self is always changing, ultimately the end is a closer self-truth.
The 12 tracks that compose Powerplant grow and burn with greater fire than the duo have possessed heretofore. Both bandmates were heavily inspired by Elliott Smith, the Cranberries, the Cocteau Twins, Brian Eno, Arthur Russell, and Graham Nash; the influence of each appear in the record’s deliberate and intricate guitar work (“Fast Dust,” “She Goes By”) as well as its embrace of dissonant noise (“Corner Store,” “Soup”). Though they were living apart for most of the writing process, the pair still managed to write all but four songs together, another testament to their dedication to Girlpool and each other. Now 21 and 20, Harmony and Cleo confront projections, despondency, apathy, romanticization, love, and heartbreak with a more devastating emotional pragmatism than before. “Looking pretty at the wall is my mistake in love installed/While the moth doesn’t talk but in the dress the holes you saw,” they sing on opener “123,” perfectly refracting the truth. More humorous (but still heavily symbolic) lines are delivered with equal poignancy, like Harmony’s disclaimer on “It Gets More Blue,” “The nihilist tells you that nothing is true/I said I faked global warming just to get close to you.”
Both bandmates believe that radical vulnerability and honesty are essential to discovering oneself. “I see vulnerable softness as a place where the honest self can come forward,” Cleo explains, saying that on Powerplant Girlpool aimed for sincere expression. “As a society I feel that we perceive softness and vulnerability as traits that are ‘weak,’ and people emotionally disconnect themselves in order to avoid going through everything they feel,” Harmony adds. “I think what is most important right now is empathy, and in order to have empathy we must first feel what we, ourselves, feel.” Perhaps what really makes Powerplant a home run is that Girlpool understand exactly how to use their incisive lyrics, soft textures, hushed harmonies, and soaring hooks for maximum emotional impact. In these moments, when Harmony and Cleo’s voices join together to deliver transcendent transmissions straight from their hearts, Girlpool become a league of their own.
“I have a way of loving too many things to take on just one shape,” Jilian Medford sings over and over again on the title track of the Brooklyn-based band IAN SWEET’s debut album, Shapeshifter, repeating it like a mantra. This is Medford’s thesis statement, a narrator to carry us through Shapeshifter, which is above all else a meditation on loneliness and displacement. It’s about losing love and your sense of self in the process, about grabbing at the little things in life that bring joy when nothing else is going according to plan. It’s also an ode to the bandmates, and the friends, that see you through.
IAN SWEET started in 2014 with a string of text messages. Medford was a few days away from embarking on her first tour when the driver and drummer she recruited cancelled. Medford sent IAN SWEET drummer Tim Cheney -- whom she barely knew -- a series of desperate messages, asking if he knew how to drum and whether or not he would be willing to take two weeks off of life to go on tour. Cheney responded soon after with a simple: “Yes.”
Medford and Cheney’s friendship evolved from their time spent on the road into something that she describes as intuitive, telepathic. At the time, Medford had been performing solo under the moniker IAN -- in honor of the nickname her skater friends gave her in high school -- and put out a self-recorded EP titled Have You Ever Loved Anything This Much. That year, she and Cheney enlisted bassist Damien Scalise, and IAN SWEET became a trio. Medford describes Cheney and Scalise as polar opposites that compliment one another; two charged forces that she mediates, forming a platonic balance that brought Medford stability at a time when she didn’t have any.
While she was writing Shapeshifter, Medford’s life was in turmoil. She ended an emotionally abusive relationship in Boston, graduated from Berklee College of Music, and briefly moved home to the San Fernando Valley, thinking she would stay there. Medford was unsure of the band’s future and suffering from a severe, undiagnosed panic disorder. When she returned to Boston to record the album in July of 2015 alongside Cheney and Scalise, Medford was reminded of everything she’d hoped to escape after graduation. She felt stagnant; trudging through a quicksand made up of heartbreak and severe depression, a process she references on Shapeshifter stand-out “Slime Time Live.”
That’s one of many lighthearted, nostalgic references on the album that subvert the pain beneath. Like its title suggests, most of the songs on Shapeshifter don’t settle in a particular scene so much as they delve into a sensibility. Whether Medford’s singing about Slime Time Live, eating ice cream in bed on “All Skaters Go To Heaven,” or honoring her favorite athlete Michael Jordan on “#23,” Medford displaces loneliness by falling in love with the small things that make her happy; like skateboarding, basketball, candy, and her preferred footwear: Crocs.
Accompanied by Cheney and Scalise’s playful instrumentation, Shapeshifter becomes a celebratory purging, an album that finds humor in self-deprecation and vice. IAN SWEET’s debut interrogates capital-e Existence through a candy-coated lens, their mathy precision scaffolding the chaos of Medford’s personal neurosis and turning those anxieties into something hook-laden and relatable.
And though the narrative of Shapeshifter clings to an ex-lover, the yearning felt on this album isn’t directed at a particular individual so much as it’s turned inward.
“You know the feeling. When you really like someone, you forget to do anything for yourself, you forget all of the things that gave you your shape,” Medford says. “The things that form your absolute.”
On Shapeshifter, IAN SWEET prove that there is no one absolute; just the ease that comes with knowing everything will be OK as long as you hold tight to the pocket-sized things in life that bring happiness while you watch the rest of your world fall apart in slow-motion.