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Watch & Listen
The music Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad release as Girlpool occupies a transient space. Their constant evolution makes it perfectly impossible to articulate exactly where their project falls within the contemporary musical canon; this is one of the many reasons Girlpool’s music is so captivating.
Never before has a group’s maturation been so transparently attached to the maturation of its members. This is due in large part to the fact that Girlpool came into existence exactly when Girlpool was supposed to come into existence: at the most prolific stage of the digital revolution. Both online and in the flesh, Tividad and Tucker practice radical openness to the point where it may even engender discomfort; this is exactly the point where it becomes clear why theirs’ is such a special project: they accept the possibility of discomfort—Chaos—and show you how to figure out why you might feel it. This is achieved through their ability to empathize as best friends and partners in creation, with the intention of making music that provokes.
They met in November of 2013, and released their self-titled EP just 3 months later. Both were playing in multiple bands at the time. Harmony was 18. Cleo was 17.
The growth they have fostered in one another over the years explains the project’s disparate discography; each record is a photograph of Girlpool, growing over time. Their roots are a certain shade of punk—organized chaos dressed as earworms. “Where You Sink,” one of the first singles off their upcoming record, What Chaos Is Imaginary, gives you an idea of how much things have changed since 2014.
It’s not all good.
“I was experiencing a lot of mental health issues,” says Tividad of the title. “That song comes from a place of being disconnected from reality. The world is so complicated. It's hard to believe in magic, or that anything exists.” Notice the order: magic, then the principle existence of things. A peak into Harmony.
Though it is the 3rd track on Girlpool’s newest record, “Where You Sink” was written at a time when the two were living in different states on the East Coast. It proved to be a period of immense change for the both of them; each focused—more than they ever had before—on their solo music.
“Before, we would build our songs together with four hands, from the ground up,” says Tucker, referring to the songwriting process that produced the debut EP and 2015’s critically acclaimed follow-up, Before The World Was Big. “Our songs used to be intertwined in a different way. We brought our separate experiences to the songs that we crafted together, we valued understanding that they were multidimensional.”
Their solo work consistently breathes new life into Girlpool. The two have since become comfortable with the process being more independent, more fluid. They both take part in the production and arrangement of the music, but they’ve strayed from beginning hand in hand in every instance. They connect somewhere along the way, working together when it feels right.
Discussing the new process, Harmony says, “It’s helped me find validity in parts of my writing I found to be unapproachable. I thought my stream-of-consciousness was unsophisticated.” There’s probably a great pun available re: shedding self-consciousness to release a more sophisticated stream-of-consciousness. In any case, What Chaos is Imaginary—the record and the song—is what the stream looks like when self-consciousness is shed.
Where Harmony embraces chaos, Cleo organizes it. “It’s hard for me to feel completion without achieving a vision that I have. I’ll imagine the kind of climate I want to create inside a song,” says Cleo of his process. “Once I fall in love with the direction, it’s getting there that can take time.” Finishing a song may take time and even prove to be difficult for him at times, but the product is invariably polished. Considering the near-perfect balance in the songs on What Chaos is Imaginary, their dynamic makes sense. “It took a really long time to record this record. It feels like a photograph of a very transitional time.”
What Chaos is Imaginary is a collection of songs unlike any Girlpool songs you’ve ever heard, exactly what Powerplant was to Before The World Was Big. For the first time, it is clear who wrote what song. 2019 will see drum machines and synthesizers and beautiful/new harmonies and huge guitars and at least one orchestral breakdown by a string octet.
“It was invigorating playing stripped down and raw when Girlpool began. As we change, what gets us there is going to change too.”
It’s hard to imagine what might follow What Chaos is Imaginary.Girlpool’s growth has a steady momentum forward, towards something greater with every stride that they take. By the time the record comes out, they’ll be far from here, wherever here is.
Lindsey Jordan is on the brink of something huge, and she’s only just graduated high school. Her voice rises and falls with electricity throughout Lush, her debut album as Snail Mail, spinning with bold excitement and new beginnings at every turn.
“Is there any better feeling than coming clean?” sings the eighteen-year-old guitarist and songwriter halfway through the sprawling anthem that is “Pristine,” the album’s first single. You can’t help but agree with her. It’s a hook that immediately sticks in your head—and a question she seems to be grappling with throughout the record’s 10-songs of crystalline guitar pop.
Throughout Lush, Jordan’s clear and powerful voice, acute sense of pacing, and razor-sharp writing cut through the chaos and messiness of growing up: the passing trends, the awkward house parties, the sick-to-your-stomach crushes and the heart wrenching breakups. Jordan’s most masterful skill is in crafting tension, working with muted melodrama that builds and never quite breaks, stretching out over moody rockers and soft-burning hooks, making for visceral slow-releases that stick under the skin.
Lush feels at times like an emotional rollercoaster, only fitting for Jordan’s explosive, dynamic personality. Growing up in Baltimore suburb Ellicot City, Jordan began her classical guitar training at age five, and a decade later wrote her first audacious songs as Snail Mail. Around that time, Jordan started frequenting local shows in Baltimore, where she formed close friendships within the local scene, the impetus for her to form a band. By the time she was sixteen, she had already released her debut EP, Habit, on local punk label Sister Polygon Records.
In the time that’s elapsed since Habit, Jordan has graduated high school, toured the country, opened for the likes of Girlpool and Waxahatchee as well as selling out her own headline shows, and participated in a round-table discussion for the New York Times about women in punk—giving her time to reflect and refine her songwriting process by using tempered pacings and alternate tunings to create a jawdropping debut both thoughtful and cathartic. Recorded with producer Jake Aron and engineer Johnny Schenke, with contributions from touring bandmates drummer Ray Brown and bassist Alex Bass as well, Lush sounds cinematic, yet still perfectly homemade.
The songs on Lush often come close to the five-minute mark, making them long enough to get lost in. The album’s more gauzy and meditative songs play out like ideal end-of-the-night soundtracks, the kind that might score a 3am conversation or a long drive home, from the finger-picking of “Speaking Terms” to the subtle, sweeping harmonies and French horn on “Deep Sea.” It only makes sense that Jordan wrote these songs late at night during a time when she was obsessively reading Eileen Myles and listening to a lot of slowcore and folk songwriters.
“Heat Wave” is one of the album’s most devastating moments, a song that wallows in a crumbling mid-summer relationship. “I broke it off, called out of my shift, and just cried in my bathtub and wrote this song,” Jordan recalls. “I was just so desperate to just get the way I was feeling out onto paper so that I could just have it and be done with it. It was almost kind of painful. It was like puking onto paper, and crying, ‘This girl hurt my feelings!’ Towards the end of writing the record, I became better at dealing with my emotions.”
Jordan’s personal crown jewel of the album, “Let’s Find an Out,” puts her childhood classical guitar training on display. It’s a road song of sorts, a nod to feeling young and disoriented on her first ever tour: “I’d gotten knocked around a lot by the process. I was scared. It’s sort of this love song about another person who is going through the same thing.” “You’re always coming back a little older / but it looks alright on you,” she belts over her intricate playing, on one of the album’s most pensive and gorgeous moments. Lucky for us all, she doesn’t sound scared anymore.