Cre­ative match lets the mu­sic flow

Moves both big and small keep Girlpool’s close-knit duo in a state of ex­plo­ration.

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By Devon Maloney

Sit­ting with her band mate Cleo Tucker on the back pa­tio of a cof­feeshop in Sil­ver Lake, Girlpool’s Har­mony Tivi­dad re­mem­bers the jar­ring con­trast when the acous­tic pop duo ar­rived in Philadel­phia af­ter up­root­ing their lives in their na­tive L.A.

“It was 9 de­grees,” re­calls Tivi­dad, 19, sip­ping a soy chai latte. What would make them make such a change — and in Jan­uary, no less?

“Let’s see,” says Tucker, 18, mo­men­tar­ily lost in thought. “It was just sort of like a nat­u­ral ‘I grew up here, I want to see the world’ feel­ing.”

If that sounds pre­cious, you’ve prob­a­bly never heard a Girlpool song. Named for a par­tic­u­larly ex­is­ten­tial chap­ter in Kurt Von­negut’s “Cat’s Cra­dle,” the duo’s first

full-length al­bum, “Be­fore the World Was Big,” out on Wi­chita Record­ings, is a vo­cif­er­ously vul­ner­a­ble ef­fort that ref lects on child­hood (“I just miss how it felt stand­ing next to you / Wear­ing match­ing dresses be­fore the world was big”) while reckoning with the un­cer­tainty of the fu­ture (“I was taught what to be­lieve / Now I’m only cer­tain that no one is free”).

Match­ing spare acous­tic gui­tar and bass with sharp, un­re­lent­ing har­monies, the record fea­tures the uniquely charm­ing sound Girlpool has crafted over the last two years: equal parts rad­i­cal and sen­ti­men­tal, loud and quiet — or, in their words, “in­ten­tion­ally warm and soft.” It’s a sound that matches the sunny, unf linch­ing out­look of their fledg­ling band, and their live per­for­mances, whether in a theater or at a house, of­ten feel as in­ti­mate as a sleep­over.

“We’re both very de­lib­er­ate peo­ple,” says Tivi­dad. “We had dis­cussed pretty thor­oughly, also, what we wanted to [sound] like ... and were both re­ally in­ter­ested in mak­ing mu­sic that we felt was so ex­posed that there was no [deny­ing what we meant].”

The be­gin­nings of Girlpool, on the other hand, were far more ar­bi­trary. Tucker, who grew up in an “art-fa­natic house­hold” in “West­wood-ish,” and Tivi­dad (the daugh­ter of lo­cal jazz mu­si­cian Vince Tivi­dad) met by chance one night in 2013 at one of L.A.’s most sto­ried DIY venues — the Smell.

There, the two dis­cov­ered a like-minded cre­ative com­mu­nity whose ethos, they say, gave Girlpool — and their re­la­tion­ship — its defin­ing char­ac­ter: “To cre­ate freely and be open and kind.”

“We dis­cuss each thought, feel­ing [and] line so thor­oughly,” says Tivi­dad. “There’s a cer­tain un­der­stand­ing and em­pa­thy that we have for each other. An abil­ity to em­pathize with a feel­ing that’s so dif­fer­ent than how I would han­dle some­thing or how Cleo would han­dle some­thing.”

“I think [our] friend­ship is re­ally what al­lows the mu­sic to hold that weight of truth.”

Last fall, they re­leased a self-ti­tled EP whose seven songs run the the­matic gamut from the per­sonal to the po­lit­i­cal. Their de­but at­tracted the at­ten­tion of for­mer Rilo Ki­ley front­woman Jenny Lewis, who in­vited the teenagers to open for her on sev­eral East Coast dates in sup­port of her most re­cent solo LP.

Pair those tour dates with some of their own, as well as the way­ward feel­ings that in­spired most of the songs on “Big,” and you’ve got a recipe for change.

“We felt like do­ing some­thing that was gonna shake things up for us,” says Tucker. “And we felt com­fort­able in Philly, we knew bands there. It just felt right.”

In­stead of slap­ping a few tracks onto the back of the EP and call­ing it an al­bum, the pair in­stead crafted “Big” as its own com­plete pack­age. Eight of the songs were writ­ten in Los An­ge­les and two once Tucker and Tivi­dad landed in Philadel­phia, where the al­bum was recorded in the home stu­dio of Kyle Gil­bride (of Girlpool’s la­bel mates, Swearin’) upon their ar­rival. The duo didn’t even find their own hous­ing un­til the al­bum was fin­ished three weeks later.

The re­sult is a concise record that bris­tles with the crack­ling, wist­ful en­ergy of change and ap­proach­ing adult­hood. As for whether they’ll ever re­turn to their home­town, that’s a bit harder to pre­dict as the two find more and more places where they be­long.

“I kinda feel like I’m a part of ev­ery­thing, a lit­tle of ev­ery­thing,” says Tivi­dad. “Even in other cities I don’t live in, I’m a lit­tle of this too.”

“As we keep trav­el­ing and ex­plor­ing,” says Tucker, “we’ve sort of be­gun to re­al­ize that lo­ca­tions all have just in­fi­nite def­i­ni­tions.”

Kirk McKoy Los An­ge­les Times


Har­mony Tivi­dad, left, and Cleo Tucker have just re­leased their first full-length al­bum.

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