These days the term “pop music” conjures up images of country music munchkins and glitter-soaked club avatars with tracks produced by people with names like Neo, Morpheus or Scott Blackula. But just a few years ago the term meant catchy, well written and produced music of just about any genre. But just in time for nice weather, St. Lucia is here to redefine micro-genre tags and rescue “pop” from four-letter-word status among certain people. The group might be named after a sleepy sub-tropical refuge for lovers, but their music is peppy and alive. Let’s let Jean-Philip Grobler take us away to his land of sun & fun.
What do you think of the state of pop music today?
I think it’s pretty similar to how it’s always been. There are different tiers of pop music. There’s music that’s soulless and just made to sell records and then there’s some really good pop music. I don’t know if it’s just a product of living in New York, but I’m really tired of this extreme indie scene. But I feel like there is a good pop revival happening now with bands embracing things that previously seemed like guilty pleasures. The pendulum feels like it’s swinging in the opposite direction.
I think you prove that ‘pop’ doesn’t have to be a bad word necessarily. What’s the association with your namesake island?
Basically, I’m really bad at coming up with project names and all the bands I’ve ever had I’ve always battled with it. With this, I had been writing music for almost a year when I finally decided to look at a map and do that thing where you close your eyes and put a pen somewhere. So after the fifth try it landed on St. Lucia in South Africa.
The fifth try? Sounds like kismet! How did you migrate from South Africa—home of the Krugerrand—to New York, home of the cougar?
New York was never actually a place that I saw myself living or ending up. I was more fascinated by the idea of living in Europe, somewhere on the Mediterranean. I started doing freelance work with a music house called The Lodge and they offered to move me over here. And if someone offers to move you over to New York… you can’t really say no to that.
Where do your get your inspiration from?
A lot of different places. Sometimes visual things like movies. I’m a huge fan of the Japanese animator Miyazaki and Fellini; I love Amarcord. And then musically I’m inspired by people who tread that line between being weird and being poppy at the same time. I’m really inspired by Kanye West. His music is almost just a constant train of thought. Sometimes it doesn’t work, but sometimes it’s just incredible.
Most of your songs are quite catchy, but “All Eyes on You” hit me immediately the first time I heard it at CMJ and it’s been on repeat since then. What do you think it is about that song that people respond to?
I’m not sure. To me what’s appealing about the song is that it feels like a montage. It gives you a warm feeling where you can almost see the good times edited together from some movie when you hear it.
What goals do you have for St. Lucia? Would you like to do a bigger more immersive show with a bigger band? An orchestra? A choir?? A medical Björk app???
I’d love to expand, but in a good way. Ideally I’d love to have a huge band with five backing singers and a brass section, but it’s yet to be seen whether that’s doable at the moment.
You’re a bit of a career songwriter—a Brill Building guy for the 21st century. Do you think your time at The Lodge helped you out in that respect?
Definitely. There were a lot of days where you’d have to write two thirty second pieces of music; write, record and master the whole thing in a day. Or do a whole four-minute song in a day. But being forced to do that and get it done really helps you out. And I realized that my style was a mixture of a lot of different genres… which is exactly what pop music is.
“Got It Wrong” is out now on Neon Gold.