The unsettling and precocious Norwich duo freak out Bristol.
THE BEST BREAKTHROUGH ACT NOMINEES AND EXPERIMENTAL POP DUO MESS WITH PEOPLE’S HEADS IN THE WEST COUNTRY.
LET’S EAT GRANDMA THE OLD BOOKSHOP, BRISTOL MONDAY, 24 OCTOBER, 2016
Seemingly decked out using an interiordesign moodboard of skulls, stuffed weasels, bits of old steam engine and polished Victorian plumbing, Bristol’s The Old Bookshop would appear to be the perfect setting for Let’s Eat Grandma’s weird, Wiccan pop hybrid. Released in June, the 17- year-old Norwich duo’s debut album, I Gemini, chews up Day-Glo pop, gnarled folk, hip-hop and avant-garde ambience and regurgitates it all with an otherworldly flourish reminiscent of Kate Bush and Björk. Combine that with their age, waist-length hair and surreal in-jokes and the pair are often cast more like nefarious tree sprites than two teenagers with a keen imagination and knowing sense of humour. It’s something they enjoy running with for their own amusement. “Especially because of our age people can’t quite grasp the fact that we might be able to make a joke at the same time as having serious songs,” notes Jenny Hollingworth, sat under a canopy of rusted dockyard chains. “Rather than think, ‘Oh, they’ve been mates for a long time, everybody has in-jokes,’ people are like, ‘The girls are possessed by the devil! This is how they communicate with each other!’” “Yes, very creepy. That’s us,” deadpans bandmate Rosa Walton. “I think it’s good fun to mess with people, to be honest,” adds Hollingworth with a smile. “Maybe that is the darker side to this band.” As the audience – a mix of the curious, converted and, wonderfully, Walton’s actual grandma – gather round in hushed anticipation, the girls emerge swathed in blue light, hair falling over their faces like the VCRdwelling ghoul from horror flick The Ring. Clearly, The Midwich Cuckoos vibe isn’t something they’re in a massive hurry to shake off. It can be genuinely unsettling at times. Long passages of ominously oscillating drones are rife and when they play the spooked, Wicker Manlike recorder parts from Chocolate Sludge Cake you half expect Christopher Lee’s Lord Summerisle to dance out from behind the curtain. Yet any sense of a heavy atmosphere is punctured by the pair occasionally breaking out in giggles or, more often, a track unexpectedly swerving off into a completely different place. What’s remarkable about Walton and Hollingworth isn’t so much their mannered oddness, but just how inventive they are in the space of a single song. What starts like a medieval madrigal can suddenly erupt into a breakbeat and accompanying rap. When an instrumental passage veers too close to an overlong dirge it’s swiftly lifted by layers of captivating
counter melodies, while the duo grab mandolins, wind instruments and a stone to place on the keyboard known affectionately as “Steven the drone stone” to radically alter a song’s trajectory. It’s hard to know what to expect from one moment to the next, to the extent that when the pair’s gear packs up at one point and they silently huddle round their laptop, faces lit up by the screen, it’s not entirely clear whether this is part of the performance or not. Only when Rapunzel’s richly gothic piano arpeggios break into baby-voiced wailing are the walls between intriguing and irritating really breached. As the set winds towards its close, they preview a new song, Cool And Collected. While it fits musically into their earlier song’s idiosyncratic patchwork, lyrically it moves away from nonsensical magic surrealism towards addressing the more everyday anxieties of adolescence and becoming an adult. Seeing as much of I Gemini was written when they were only 13, surely they must have given some thought to their next album? “Who knows, maybe,” notes Hollingworth with a raise of the eyebrow. Walton leans her head in towards her friend’s temple: “We might well be plotting now between our brains, but we don’t speak about it.” Whether it’s by telepathy or more conventional means, whatever Let’s Eat Grandma cook up next promises to be interesting.
“PEOPLE ARE LIKE, ‘THE GIRLS ARE POSSESSED BY THE DEVIL!’” JENNY HOLLINGWORTH
Deep Six Textbook
Eat Shiitake Mushrooms/ Chocolate Sludge Cake
Cool And Collected
Donnie Darko Sink Rosa Walton, all smiles before that tricky recorder solo. Let’s Eat Grandma’s Rosa Walton (left) and Jenny Hollingworth: “genuinely unsettling.”
Er, OK… it’s Q’s round, is it?