Next Wave #616: Girlpool

Spare yet charming lo-fi alt-pop…

Two musicians who met at Los Angeles venue The Smell, Girlpool was, perhaps, inevitable. After all, Clea Tucker (guitar) and Harmony Dividad (bass) shared the same influences, would attend the same shows and knew the same people.

On the other hand, Girlpool is almost entirely unexpected. With no drums – no one was initially available – theirs is a sound almost shockingly spare. Yet within this, the duo is able to conjure all manner of atmospheres, recalling the unkempt early cuts of Beat Happening, the poetic whims of Minutemen and even the stark humour of Jonathan Richman.

As Cleo explains, it’s a music born from open communication, inspired by events both external and internal: “Harmony and I both really wanted to create honest, vulnerable music that would simply be written because we felt a certain way, because we felt an impact of anything else around us.”

She adds: “We both had talked about how much we love Conor Oberst’s many projects, and were discussing how we wanted to create something genuine and real and raw creatively, to be true to ourselves. That’s what we needed to create together, at that point.”

Recorded in their friend’s front room, the pair’s debut, eponymous EP was initially released as a cassette. Gaining a cult following first in LA, then across America’s DIY underground, it came to the attention of Wichita Recordings, who subsequently gave it a UK release on CD and vinyl.

“Harmony and I have the need to write constantly together, so it’s pretty natural for us,” Cleo explains. “We do write a lot of songs but it can take us a long time to write one. We can sit for three or four hours straight and write a song, but we do it a lot. It’s kind of necessary for us.” Harmony adds, simply: “We seek catharsis constantly, through playing music and creating.”

Currently working on their debut full-length, Girlpool have been able to take their music over the Atlantic. On the phone to Clash from a Parisian soundcheck, the duo admits to being intrigued by the reaction their music is receiving.

“I think a lot of people were like… people who would make judgements because we were trying to do our thing,” Cleo states. “Then there were people who were super into our thing because it was different. Everyone has their own opinion.”

Despite their travels, though, Girlpool retain a fondness for – and draw influences from – the Los Angeles scene that spawned them. “I would say [we’re inspired by] seeing other bands be honest and being inspired by their honesty,” admits Harmony. “And I think, the honesty and awareness in our friendship inspired us to be honest within our music, because that’s something Harmony and I really value, is our self-honesty.”

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WHAT: Spare yet charming lo-fi alt-pop

WHERE: Los Angeles

THREE SONGS: ‘Blah Blah Blah’, ‘Plants & Worms’ (video, above), ‘This Place’

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Words: Robin Murray
Photo: Alice Baxley

Girlpool online. 'Girlpool' is out now on Wichita.

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