St. Lucia on the Love of Fans: "We Don't Take it for Granted for a Second"
St. Lucia. Totally not an island.
Coastline Festival is storming into town this Sunday with some mega-names in indie pop. Passion Pit, Matt & Kim, and the Joy Formidable stand out in the lineup, but it's also sprinkled with up-and-coming genre climbers that you might not know yet. Chances are that St. Lucia makes that list. St. Lucia, the stage name of Jean-Philip Grobler, is in a hyper-growth stage. With a brand new album and talk show dates booked, all signs are pointing at Grobler for his time in the indie limelight.
But the St. Lucia crew certainly has their own story. Grobler is originally from Johannesberg, South Africa, a place that spawned his interest in music and gave him professional training while enrolled at a choir school. The Drakensberg Boys Choir School traveled the world and ignited Grobler's transition into St. Lucia. After finally taking up real estate in New York, Grobler is back to traveling in a big way. His grueling touring schedule is a continuation of his nomadic lifestyle and actually quite enjoyable with his wife, Patti, by his side. Before the festival this weekend, we chatted with Grobler about how music effected his upbringing, what makes New York so enticing, and whether or not you will get a chance to say "hey" to him after the show.
New Times: Growing up in South Africa, what kind of music were you exposed to and which had the biggest influence?
Jean-Philip Grobler: It's hard to tell you because there was a lot. I'd say that I was exposed to what any normal child from the UK or the US was exposed to in the '80s, but then with South African music in there as well. That includes native South African music as well as South African pop music. When I was growing up, apartheid was still in effect and there was a strong leaning towards the very clean pop and non-subversive music coming from the States and the UK. Then when I went to the Drakensberg Boys Choir School, I was exposed to a lot more African music as well as classical. I'm not sure which of all of those things influenced me the most. I'd like to think that they all have a place in my music in some way.
You have traveled far and wide. Is there anywhere you would like to visit that you haven't yet?
I really hope we get to go to South America one day. And to see more of Central America. We went to Mexico City for a couple of days for the Corona Capital festival last year, which was amazing but far too short.
What do you like to do when you get to a new city if you have some time before a show?
My favorite way to explore a new city is through the food. The guys in the band all have their own ways, but for Patti and I, it's definitely through the food. So if we have some time, I like to look for a good place to eat that in some way illustrates the local food culture. I think you can learn a lot about people or a place through the food they eat.
After a show, do you try to meet some fans or just go on to the next one?
We pretty much always go out to our merch area after shows to meet the people who like our music. Of course, there are some shows where you basically have to leave right after your set to make it to the next show, but whenever we can we do it. It's a incredible privilege for people to like the music you're making, and we don't take it for granted for a second.
You identify with New York a lot. Do you consider it your home now?
I absolutely identify with New York in a lot of ways, but mainly in the way that it's so diverse and is almost not a place because it has nearly everything in it. I've never been to a city that literally seems to embody the entire planet within its borders, and so it suits me and the life that I've had moving around a lot. I'm not sure that I would consider it home yet. I think I would only consider it home once I have a whole family that lives there with me. My idea of home is very fragmented, because my family still lives in South Africa and Patti's family still lives in Germany.
What about New York makes it the perfect place to be a creative musician?
I'm not sure that it's the perfect place to be a creative musician, but it definitely has a lot going for it. One of the things that I really fed off of when I moved to the city was that it seemed like the musicians in the city are willing to work harder than any other musicians I've seen anywhere else. It actually really intimidated me for a while. Because rent is so crazy, and life in general is very expensive, you have to work double as hard to make your career in music work, and even then, there are so many other musicians competing with you. If you can make it through the hum, having had to deal with that can work in your favor because you've developed a great work ethic.
The new album, When The Night, just dropped. If someone never heard of St. Lucia, how would you describe the sounds on the record to them?
I would say that it's a pretty strongly '80s influenced tropical-pop album that has quite a few psychedelic or non-linear elements. It's also quite strongly nostalgic and has a feeling of melancholia running throughout, as well as being quite lush and romantic.
How stoked are you to be a part of the Coastline Festival lineup? It's stacked!
We're very pleased to be a part of the festival! Loads of great bands, and we get to play in Florida where it's actually still warm.
Coastline Festival, Sunday, November 10, at Cruzan Amphitheatre, 601-7 Sansbury's Way, West Palm Beach. Tickets available at coastlinefestival.com.
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