We caught up with Brooklyn-based musician St. Lucia — also known as Jean-Philip Grobler — right before the band heads out for a headlining tour. He filled us in on his new album ‘Matter’, why collaborating with Jack Antonoff changed his perspective on the recording process, and how he and his wife-slash-bandmate bike over the Williamsburg Bridge to their own concerts!
Johannesburg-born Jean-Philip Grobler has quite the pedigree. He’s remixed tracks for Passion Pit, Foster the People and Charli XCX, but after signing to Neon Gold Records in 2012, he put his project St. Lucia on the map with 2013’s When the Night. His second studio album was released this year, and it’s bursting with party anthems with ’80s/house touches. Here’s what Jean had to say on the matter (sorry)!
Did working with Jack Antonoff on Matter change your perspective on collaborating?
Collaborations aren’t always the easiest thing for me. I have such a specific way of working. If I’m thrown out of that or lose control, I struggle a little bit. With Jack, I’d never worked with another person who’s an artist the same way I’m an artist. It was refreshing – there was no pressure. Just having fun. It was such an enjoyable experience. It was like a little whirlwind, and we suddenly had this song [“Help Me Run Away”] that everyone loves.
Your wife, Patti Beranek, is also a member of the band. What’s the timeline there?
The band started a little earlier than when we got married; I’d been developing music for years. We gradually started involving some people. When we got married, that was before we were about to do our first international thing. We literally got married and flew to Australia. It was like a honeymoon with four other guys. It was a little bit of a strain in our relationship, but we’ve stuck with it and we’re happy with the morale in the band and the crew.
You’re very active with your crowds. Has there been an incident where a jump or move has gone wrong?
All the time. Some stages have been the slipperiest stage for whatever reason. All of my moves rely on the fact that my feet can hit the ground and stay stuck. We did a show recently where — [pauses to ask Patti in the background] Do you remember which one I slipped around? Oh, she’s saying the Australian thing was not a honeymoon. Patti’s waiting for a honeymoon. [Laughs] We’ll take it one day in 10 years.
Anyway, there’s been a couple times where I’ve been sliding around everywhere. I do stupid shit like falling on my back and try to jump up. I try to jump up and almost break my back.
One time in Kansas City, I did a crazy jerky move and threw my back out. I was convinced that I’d completely f*cked my back up, we had three songs left and had to cut it short. I became like a sick man. Fortunately, within two days, my back was fine.
Do you prefer playing shows in New York since you live here?
I love playing New York shows. We’ll take a cab, or Patti and I will bike to the venue. We live in South Williamsburg by the bike entrance on the bridge. It’s so easy to get into the city. When we played Webster Hall, we biked there. That’s how we roll these days.
Do you have a favorite track on album?
It vacillates between “Home” and “The Winds of Change”. Those are the two songs I had to fight for — “Home” doesn’t really have a chorus, it’s kind of a developing, rolling song. Apart from great pop songs, I aspire to write songs that keep you engaged without having these obvious songwriting tricks, they move you in a different way. I had a very specific production vision for it, it’s quite unique in many ways. And it’s my favorite chorus on the album. It takes a while to get to the chorus. I feel very proud of it.
What’s next for you?
I’m already deep into the next record! I’ve been interested in working with Lindsey Buckingham from Fleetwood Mac. I’ve also toyed with the idea of working with a poet of some sort, someone good with words, to see what it’s like to write music to actual, already-existing words. I’ve also been thinking about film scoring.
Check out St. Lucia’s site for tour dates here!