Girlpool (Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad) hit the road earlier this month in support of their new record, What Chaos Is Imaginary. The LP has been out since February 1st (grab a copy here if you don’t have one already), and I recently got caught up with Cleo over the phone to talk about this latest batch of songs, from the writing process to how the tunes are being translated in a live setting on this tour. If you’re in NYC, you can catch the band tonight at Music Hall of Williamsburg, tomorrow night at Bowery Ballroom and/or Saturday night at Asbury Lanes, or see ’em further south in Philly on Friday night at Underground Arts and/or Sunday night at DC’s Black Cat. In the meantime, internet-eavesdrop on our full chat right here, right now:
So how are you preparing for these upcoming dates? They’re pretty full-on, yeah?
We’re sleeping at home every night until the 9th, because those shows are kind of in the LA area. It hasn’t dawned on me that we’re leaving so soon, but we are. We’ve been practicing a lot.
Are you taking a van around?
Yeah, we have a van. I actually just took it to the dealership this morning. It’s just been a nightmare, because they find a new thing that costs a million dollars every fifteen minutes. I’ve been getting those phone calls.
No! That’s the worst! Well, that aside, it’s very exciting that you’ll be hitting the road soon enough, and also that you’ll be playing songs off the new record! The response to it has been great from what I’ve seen so far, and I’m just curious to know if you pay attention to that at all?
It’s funny, because every time I see my parents they’re like, “How’s the feedback? Is it doing well?” And I honestly have no idea at all. It’s cool that you say that, but it’s kind of like, you put it out and it’s like, “Alright, I hope people like it.”
It seems like you’re both very invested in being very honest. Do you feel that that makes it easier to sort of block out the outside response, and/or to write the songs in the first place?
I don’t know what it would be like if I had a different relationship to it, so I don’t know if it’s easier or harder or whatever. But I definitely know that Harmony and I both write songs as a method of catharsis, and when we need to we do, you know?
Right. In terms of working apart from each other for a lot of this, how do you feel your personal process changed or grew with the added bit of distance?
A lot of these songs are really old, so it’s kind of hard to totally remember, but I think Harmony and I didn’t even discuss it; we were just sending each other songs that we were working on, and playing them together, even playing solo shows on the East Coast when we lived there. Not even as a Girlpool thing, just as friends. I think witnessing that time for both of us, kind of side by side, we both have pretty intimate relationships with all of these songs, even though we didn’t write the words or song structures together. But I think it’s really good that we have spent time working on our own muscles as far as songwriting goes.
How has your relationship changed to some of the older songs? Do you find that any of them have taken on any sort of deeper meaning for you, or even maybe don’t mean as much to you anymore?
Yeah, definitely. There’s this weird layer of nostalgia on a lot of them, and then sometimes when I’m playing it doesn’t feel nostalgic at all, it feels like a totally new song about a thing I’m experiencing, like even experienced that day or that morning. A new relationship that I’m in or whatever. So it’s cool how they grow alongside you, or sometimes can exist as something you can tap back into and use as a vehicle for reflection and processing.
Absolutely. Now, (and I know you just mentioned you don’t pay so much attention to the feedback, but…) people have been saying that this record feels like you’ve become adults. What is your feeling about hearing that kind of statement, either about the music or your own personal growth? Do you feel like grown-ups? (Because I’m thirty-one and I don’t feel like a grown-up.)
I think we’re older than we were when we did our last record, and I guess yeah, we’re young people, so maybe people are like, “Wow, they’re older now.” I mean…I guess so. It doesn’t really feel like you pass this threshold of youth or something; I think you just kind of continuously age and mature, more experiences and more of all of it, I guess. More of the not knowing, really. But yeah.
Yeah, I just thought it was interesting that people associated it with the sound of the record. I mean, I guess I can see what they’re saying, but I guess I don’t associate maturity with sound so much.
I think it has to do with money. I think that if it sounds more expensive, people probably think that time and success and age or whatever will reflect a more proper-sounding album. More full or produced or something. And then they’re like, “Wow, they’re taking things more seriously.” Some weird capitalism shit, probably.
Probably very true. And getting back to how you two always seem to have been very dedicated to honest songwriting, it seems that both of you are very willing to sit in places of discomfort, or places that are very raw, for the sake of honesty. I know that’s sort of the goal for a lot of talented creatives, but to me it seems very apparent that it comes naturally to both of you. Does that openness ever scare you, though?
I think it’s just not something that we’re trying on as a challenge to make a project together. It’s just innate that we share with each other and encourage honesty. I guess I surround myself with people like that, who are active in unpacking fear and aren’t in some kind of complacent safety space or something. I guess it’s just kind of a lifestyle. It’s also my age and the people I grew up with and my experience, and also where I grew up. Probably everything in between, too. I will say that I think life gets tricky and difficult, and sometimes you can’t really feel it all lightly, but I wouldn’t say this specifically is something that stresses me out. It’s just sort of something that I do, that we do.
Right. And where would you say your creative flow is with one another right now? Are you writing anything at the moment? Or even if not, do you feel you’ve hit some sort of formula or stride in terms of the way you interact with one another creatively?
Well, right now we’re especially just working on the live set before tour, but we both record music and share it with each other and brainstorm for the next stuff that we’ll work on together. But yeah, most of our energy and focus has been going towards the live show.
What can you tell me about the live setup this go-round with some of these very full-sounding songs? How will you translate that on stage?
It’s a five-piece on this tour, and we’re using some programmed drumming sounds. We’ve got a synth player, drummer, two guitar players and a bassist, so that’s what it’ll be like.
And do you get to meet a lot of your fans when you’re out there on the road? Either before or after gigs, or just in general?
Yeah, that’s always really fun!
What’s been the most fun or maybe even moving interaction you’ve had with a fan recently?
People message me sometimes on Instagram asking advice and stuff, and that’s really sweet.
What’s your attitude towards being present on social media? How do you determine how to engage or interact with your audience?
If I have a lot of energy, or I feel able to engage in an emotional conversation, then I will. But I think we have to protect ourselves, give it when we can but not give it when we can’t, because what you end up giving isn’t even very fruitful, and then you can neglect your own needs. So I think it’s just kind of an intuitive emotion.
Totally. And this is a less serious question, but how was it to have that giant billboard up of your faces? Is that still up?
[Laughs] It was really weird. It’s not up anymore, which has actually been relieving, because I kind of hang out in that area, and my friends would always make fun of me. I’d be like, “Oh, do you want to meet me at this spot?” I actually really like some of the spots over there, but we’d go there and I’d be like, “God fucking dammit.” They’d always make the joke that I purposefully brought them out there to subtly walk past it.
[Laughs] I’ve not had that experience personally (maybe one day), but yeah, don’t necessarily envy you there! Alright, and so finally, after you’re done with tour, what else do you guys have going on? Where will the main focus be redirected?
I think we just have some Europe plans, and then we’re working on new music. Some music video stuff, too.