By Emerald contributor Hannah Steinkopf-Frank
Harmony Tividad, one half of the L.A. indie-rock band Girlpool, was sitting in the Brooklyn warehouse she called home, writing a song in her loft and crying as a harsh summer storm raged outside. She had just returned from Philadelphia to see a romantic interest, only to be blown off because he “had to do laundry with his roommates.” Back in New York, she wondered if she would ever feel a sense of fulfillment with someone.
While Girlpool catapulted into the indie-music scene with its 2015 debut album, “Before the World Was Big,” the group started as a high school friendship turned creative project between Tividad (bass) and Cleo Tucker (guitar). They met at the Los Angeles all-ages club The Smell and have been writing empathetic, confessional songs since, with Tividad and Tucker’s harmonizing vocals complemented only by jangly guitar melodies and drudging bass lines. Girlpool’s music has lost none of the vulnerability that made it so approachable and relatable on “Powerplant,” even with higher production levels and additional instruments (particularly drums).
On the brink of the album’s release, the Emerald spoke with Tividad and Tucker as they prepared for a national tour.
Emerald: Since you recorded “Powerplant” last August, do you feel like you’re in a different phase now than you were when you were writing the album? Do the songs still feel relevant?
Cleo Tucker: They definitely feel relevant to me still. Some of them were written really recently. Even [for] some of the older ones, I have a fondness in my heart. But I love these songs. I really feel close to these songs. I’m excited to play them a lot.
E: Do you often get emotional during the writing process?
Harmony Tividad: I feel sometimes the emotional outpour is subtler, and then later you’re like, ‘Wow I really just distributed some intense stuff that I didn’t know was as intense as it was.’ I feel like it’s always coming from kind of an intense place, at least in my experience.
E: Why do you think your songwriting process is so collaborative?
Tucker: Harmony and I both just feel so much fulfillment writing music together and have sort of grown, whether we’re in the same city or not, through communicating and writing music and sharing what we’ve been working on together in this really intimate, vulnerable space with each other. It feels really fulfilling. I don’t know why, but it just is.
E: What is it like hearing fans say your music has changed their lives?
Tividad: People have said that. It’s really great and kind to hear and see people’s eyes when they talk about a song that moved them or helped them. It almost feels like, ‘Oh my god. How did something that I made just for myself [affect others]?’ I don’t have children, but I just can imagine that it’s like [when] an old person, a stranger, would tell me years after my child moved out of my home that my child helped them cross the street or something. I can’t even take credit for my child because it’s not mine anymore. They just did a good deed. I love that, and I admire them, but I wasn’t the person who helped the stranger.
E: Can you talk about the music video for “It Gets More Blue” that recently came out?
Tividad: I had been dwelling on a video idea because we were just going to release it as a single, but I felt like it would be cool to have a visual component to it. I was watching [the work of] my friend Amalia [Irons] who directed it. She uses Super 8 film and is an amazing filmmaker. I thought, ‘It would be so funny if Cleo was dressed as a sailor and we were a couple. That would be really funny’ because people are always asking if we’re dating. So I thought it would be a silly thing to play with. In the song, it’s talking about the arsonist who says ‘it gets more blue’ and then the video is about the ocean getting more blue. There is this component of contrast with the elements, which is kind of funny.
E: Why do you think people assume you’re a couple?
Tucker: Because we’re cute.
Tividad: Because we would be a cute couple.
E: What is inspiring you right now?
Tividad: It’s Mount Eerie and Phil Elverum’s music right now that’s been really special. I saw him play last week, and it was really beautiful. He’s just such an inspiring artist and human being who is really unbelievable. It’s insane.
Tucker: I’m really inspired by Stephen Steinbrink. He has been playing shows with us in Girlpool. I love his music. I love his general way of creating music. He’s great. I just have been thinking a lot about the way Stephen goes about music.
E: Do you write on the road?
Tucker: I have written on the road. I like to journal on the road, like more written word on the road. We have written stuff [on the road]. It’s kind of hard honestly. For me, it requires so much presence and energy to perform. During the days, in the car, I’m sort of still reeling from the show.
E: What do you like about performing?
Tucker: I just love to play so much. It’s one of the many things about making music because time is a part of music. To be able to experience a piece is a different kind of experience than writing it. I love that part of that. I love it. Tour is really great. It was so fun. It’s the writing balance that’s hard.
E: What’s in the future for Girlpool?
Tividad: We really just want to be making things continuously and just feel good: create things and feel excited about them.
Girlpool will perform at Mississippi Studios in Portland on May 25. Tickets are available here.
Follow Hannah on Twitter: @HSteinkopfFrank