St. Lucia, the band, sits in for a session
This summer if you were lucky enough to be at the Solé East for a stellar series of concerts this July and August, you caught some very good bands in some very beautiful, intimate setting. One of those bands, in fact the one that kicked off the whole shebang, was St. Lucia. A band who is not named after the St. Lucia you think they are named after even if the tag on this story probably brings up a related story about a certain Caribbean island. But our friends at Saturday Session Wine lent a hand when it came to finding some bands to grace the stage poolside at Solé and called their friends in the band St. Lucia, who played a surfy set that had hips swaying and beachballs bouncing.
With summer in the rearview, we had the chance to look back with the band’s singer and founder Jean-Philip Grobler, who was kind enough to humor our questions about the origin of the band name even if he’s probably more than a little tired of answering it. Next time maybe he and his wife slash bandmate slash baby mama Patricia Beranek can call their band something easier for Americans like S’mores or Sauvignon.
We also covered kids, crudité, and the Sunday scaries, which can be a thing after Saturday night even when your Saturday is not a real actual Saturday.
What are the feelings you get just before a performance and just after?
It really depends on the situation, and my general mental state at the time. Mostly it’s a mix of excitement and a little bit of nerves, but sometimes I get really nervous before a show, especially if we haven’t played together in a while. But I’ve learned to embrace whatever I’m feeling at the time and integrate that into the show and be honest about it if the moment calls for it. I think it’s cool if every show is a little bit different and has its own flavour, even if it’s occasionally a shit flavour.
What’s the biggest crowd you ever played? The smallest?
The biggest is probably Coachella, when we played the main stage at around 5 p.m. The smallest was probably at some point on our co-headline tour with Charli XCX back in the day in like 2012 or someting, most likely the show we did in Philadelphia where I think five people came. Philly was a really tough town for us for a long time but it’s become good.
How do you compare the two?
Well, sometimes you have a really great and fun show in front of 5 people and sometimes you don’t, and the same can be true of the big shows. I think on that first Coachella show we did (weekend 1) we had loads of technical problems, but the whole world was watching, as well as 75 000 people in the audience and so you just have to put on a brave face and do your show while simultaneously trying to communicate to your crew that your in-ear-monitors stopped working.
Who doesn’t want to bring light to the people in some sort of way?
How did the band get its name?
Closing my eyes and putting a pen down on a map of South Africa and eventually after a few tries landing on St. Lucia. Yes, we are not named after the Caribbean island. There is more than one St. Lucia in the world. But in that moment that name made the whole aesthetic I was working on at the time make sense and seemed almost like a good mission statement. It’s like that idea of a ’St. Lucia’-esque place in most people’s minds is sorta what we go for, if we go for anything. A place of escape. A place that feels exotic and exciting. Also the association with the actual Saint of Light feels like a good association to me. Who doesn’t want to bring light to the people in some sort of way? Whether we can actually do it or not is another question but aspiring to that is a noble thing, I would have thought. We get a decent amount of messages from people from the island of St. Lucia who are angry that we have stolen the name of their land. While I give the fullest respect quotient to their beautiful land—which I have never frequented but plan to in the future—, we are in fact not named after it. We are named more after a sort-of archetype of the idea of a St. Lucia like place that exists in people’s minds.
Pre-show ritual people would be surprised by?
This is the question I spent the most time pondering before answering because I always feel like I need to give some kind of crazy answer. It feel like people are expecting me to say the unexpected: We consume raw bat-meat and drink yack’s urine before a show. This is not the case, of course. We are a cliché, to some degree, and while we are aware of it perhaps, trying to avoid the cliché seems in itself a cliché, too. So yes, alcohol is often consumed by a few or all depending on the night. Other things may occasionally be consumed by some. Perhaps someone will dip a raw carrot into the ranch dressing container and put it in their mouths and chew and make a mental note to A. definitely don’t get that vegetable with ranch dip set again or B. definitely specifically ask for that exact vegetable with ranch dip set again. I normally do extremely annoying vocal warm-ups, but over the years I’ve kinda realized that the more I can make the night before a show just feel like any old night where nothing special is gonna happen the less nerves I have and the better my instrument, which is my whole body, performs. I hope that was a somewhat surprising, interesting and enjoyable answer to read.
Perhaps someone will dip a raw carrot into the ranch dressing container and put it in their mouths and chew.
What’s your favorite type of session?
Again, it really depends on my mood. Sometimes I love to be alone and just doing my thing, but that’s only if I’m feeling inspired and feel like I have something good that I’m working on that I feel excited about. Recently I’ve really been loving doing our full band sessions where we sorta figure out arrangements on the spot. It’s interesting to me though how the way you feel about a session at the time doesn’t always translate into whether what you’re doing is good or not. I’ve had many experiences where I was working alone and felt like everything I was writing was crap or whatever and eventually left the studio in a huff, but then that thing I was working on becomes one of the key tracks on a record. Or we’re recording as a band and having a ton of fun, but then the thing we recorded never turns into anything that we’re seriously considering for a record. So, I suppose I’ve learned to just work whether I’m feeling good or not and everything sorta averages out in the end, and it’s more about the hours than feeling specifically inspired in that moment, as unromantic as that sounds.
Favorite day of the week?
Days of the week essentially mean nothing to me because most of the people I’m intimately involved with work outside of the traditional 9–5 Monday to Friday work environment. But there is a certain ’Saturday’ feeling I get sometimes that could happen on any day where I spend the whole day with my family or friends cooking or going to the park or just in general revelry. I remember waking up when I was a kid on a—real actual—Saturday and smelling the grass being mowed and just feeling like the world was full of possibilities. Often this Saturday-feeling day lands on a day-off on tour or on a day after we get back from tour. But often when it’s on tour it’s mixed with the Sunday feeling which has a little bit of melancholy to it because the next day you have to go back to work, even though I love my work…most of the time.
What’s the feeling you hope people take away from your music?
I really want my music to make people feel good about the world. This is obviously tough these days because it seems like most people are convinced that we’re in some kind of apocalypse and so a guy standing on the corner telling you that the world is beautiful and romantic sounds like some kind of crazed cult member dressed in white. Of course, I acknowledge the challenges we face and that I’ve benefitted from a certain amount of privilege in my life and so my perspective is skewed—aren’t all our perspectives skewed?—but there is a lot of real evidence that things are getting better in certain ways and not worse. Go read some Steven Pinker.
Of course certain things are getting worse. But I’m not here to have my feet planted in ‘reality,’ I’m here to hopefully provide inspiration so people can go out and make real changes and make the world a better place, even if it means just being nice to the person making you a flat white in the morning.
When do you feel most at ease and chill?
I try to keep a habit of writing a journal and meditating in the morning, which can sometimes be difficult having a kid, but I like to see it as part of my work and so I build it into my work time. I normally feel most at ease and chill right after doing that, but sometimes I honestly come out of it wanting to kill everyone and quit the music biz, haha. But it’s been interesting to me over the years of going in and out of doing this how my purpose for the day becomes clearer after writing for half and hour and sitting in silence for 20. I really think self reflection is massively important and that our world would run a lot more smoothly if more people did it. Not naming names.
Let’s talk Montauk. How does Montauk feel as a fit for you and your vibe?
I mean, Montauk is just an absolutely beautiful place and we love being out there when we get to go and play shows. To be perfectly honest though we don’t really get to go THAT often apart from the couple of weekends when we have shows in the summer, but hopefully that’ll change in the future. It’s funny because I grew up in South Africa and the image we got fed of NYC was not of a place that has access to beautiful beaches, and in some ways that’s still how I think of the City even though obviously the opposite is true. When I’m here I’m often in town and doing work-related things and going to the beach means going to far-flung locales. But yes, give me a good Montauk day any day.
What do you like to do when you get out to Montauk?
Honestly just going to the beach and hanging there is our fave thing to do. As I’m sure has been communicated to the reader’s brain through the ages, having a kid can be tiring and full-on, and so any moment where we can just lie on a deck chair / the sand and read a book / stare into the distance / listen to the waves is a moment we will embrace with the full capacity of our embracing mechanisms.