Girlpool is a musical duo, originally from LA, now based in Philadelphia consisting of Cleo Tucker (guitar) and Harmony Tividad (bass). I got a chance to sit down with them before their first Toronto show at the Garrison touring for the debut LP, Before The World Was Big.
You could sense that Cleo and Harmony had a deep musical connection and a great friendship based on communication and understanding of one another’s emotions. It felt like they really were in it just for the music and their goal was to share their understandings of their feelings, life and experiences with others.
AMBY: Growing up has music always been a part of your life and how did you start Girlpool?
Harmony: Yes it has, We met at The Smell, going to a lot of shows in LA. We were both playing in different bands, just really involved and really loved music and had a lot of similar interest in bands. We would end up going to a lot of the same shows; we just started jamming and Girlpool begun.
AMBY: Is touring what you expected it to be, and what are your favorite and not so favorite parts of it?
Cleo: Touring is super cool and difficult and awesome and enlightening. My favorite part about it is exploring newness and feeling new emotions. Its really interesting to find pockets of community in different places that you’ve never really thought existed.
Harmony: Its kind of like a science experiment wherever you go because you’re bringing your energy which is kind of like when acids and bases react together and I feel like that’s what touring is like. Every place is a different science experiment where you don’t know how you are going to feel in that environment, you don’t know how the environment is going to feel with you around. Its like self-exploration through that experiment everyday. Some days are really amazing and feel like “wow I really understand myself” and you feel super centered. Other days you can feel disassociated and crazy.
Cleo: What I have learned from touring is that I have the control in the way that I want to feel, I can enter a new space that I have never been before and have the intention of making it a positive feeling and altering it myself. Its like mood swings and mind sets and working with yourself.
AMBY: What don’t you like about touring?
Harmony: I smell weird a lot.
AMBY and Girlpool: [laughs]
Cleo: It’s cool but hard. One of the things I like is that its something to meditate on, doing something over and over again where you are driving to a place and then playing a show.
Harmony: Its like the goal everyday, you know what your intention is. It’s also hard missing people but what’s powerful is that you get to see a lot of people you haven’t seen in a long time. Its cool because sometimes you feel disconnected from certain things but at the same time your re connecting to a lot of other things.
AMBY: How long have you guys been touring for?
Cleo: Our first tour was the summer of summer 2014 so its still quite new to us. Every tour is different and Harmony and I have sort of figured out methods that feel more comfortable to us.
AMBY: What was it like growing up in LA and how do you think that has influenced your music?
Cleo: Harmony and I talk about how we think absolutely everything influences what we write about because we are both really heavily observant and absorbent. We don’t know any different than growing up in LA because we know what we know.
Harmony: Inevitably it shaped a lot of what we write about. An infinite =number of things can affect our music of which LA was one of them because we grew up there. I feel like what’s crazy about the world, life and creating anything is that everything is just constantly affecting each other and we are just constantly interacting on conscious or subconscious levels and adapting to the changes that we don’t even understand.
Cleo: Its funny because location is one thing amongst a million of other things
Harmony: Ya, its just physical, where your brain or any other part of you can be. Its completely something you cant tangibly place, its really interesting to think about.
Cleo: I always talk about this thing where you’re feeling weird, living in one place and feel like you have to get out of there. You move and you still feel weird, you wonder why but the think is that you are going to feel weird no matter where you are.
Harmony: There is a thing Hannah Arrant says about how everything is based on your relationship with yourself. Your relationship with others, with the environment and so on starts with the relationship you have with yourself. I think that is really important, powerful and true because how your relationship with yourself is affects how you handle relationships with others
Cleo: That’s sort of what I meant, on tour I have control over how I am going to feel because your relationship with yourself dictates how your evening is going to be.
AMBY: How have the crowds in all these different cities you have toured changed, or are they almost the same?
Cleo: Ya, I mean I would hate to generalize a city based on one experience but defiantly for the most part. Its difficult to not have your perceptions of one place be an experience
AMBY: Have you been to Toronto before?
Cleo: No we haven’t.
Harmony: Its really pretty.
AMBY: Who are some of your musical influences?
Cleo: We are super influenced by our friends.
Harmony: A lot of today was actually spent listening to our friends’ music.
AMBY: Any bands in particular?
Cleo: There’s a lot, one project is called Wizard’s Apprentice that we both really like.
Harmony: We don’t know her, but we love her music. Others are Quarterbacks, Frankie Cosmos, Alex G, Stephen Steinbrink, Fraternal Twins, Trace Mountains, A Starry Cat, Hello Shark…
Cleo: A lot of these bands are more east coast, we met them just playing shows.
Harmony: I fell like its so crazy and I am so honored and grateful to be surrounded by so many creative people that I can deeply feel inspired by. So much of our time is spent listening to our friends’ music. We also like a lot of indie rock…I guess, I don’t know what else to call it really. We love the Breeders, The Pixies, Neutral Milk Hotel, Bright Eyes, Elliot Smith, Dear Norah…
Cleo: Dear Norah is one of our favorite bands.
Harmony: We have been listening to so much Nirvana.
AMBY: If you were doing something other than music, what would you be doing after high school?
Cleo: I don’t know, its hard to say. We both intended on going to college. Harmony went to school first semester, I graduated and applied to college but deferred it because I wanted to tour for a year but then I decided I didn’t want to go. I guess we would just be studying and exploring if we weren’t doing music.
AMBY: Back to your album “Before the World was Big”, what does the name mean to you and how does it relate to your life right now?
Harmony: I feel like “Before the World was Big” is a constant feeling, something you are constantly reaching for. It’s a new understanding of your environment. To me “Before the World was Big” is the constant desire for growth and a search for that feeling of better understanding yourself.
Cleo: I similarly feel that way, its the feeling where your pocket is full and a yearning to have a full pocket which goes up and down. Once you have a full pocket, it doesn’t necessarily stay.
Harmony: What’s interesting is that in retrospect you think that you didn’t know anything back then, thinking you are silly. Its this constant cycle of thinking you didn’t understand. We are constantly romanticizing things in the past.
AMBY: How do you keep the balance between your friendship and professional musical relationship?
Girlpool: There’s no difference.
Harmony: I don’t think we even have a professional music relationship. There is nothing cold or abrasive about what me and Cleo do together. Everything we do is very intense and personal.
AMBY: What’s your song writing process like?
Cleo: Its an extremely intense collaborative experience. We usually play for a bit and start talking about a feeling either one of us has which we then explore further.
Harmony: We mutually understand the feeling
Cleo: We wrestle with it until we enter a state of mind where we can attend to each other in a really sensitive way and make sure we understand each viewpoint. We try to merge our understandings of that feeling.
Harmony: Its like creating a new vessel of existence.
Cleo: Its just like a lot of exploring our thoughts together for a long time until we reach a place where we both feel like fulfilled with one or two lines.
AMBY: Does the music come first or is it lyrics?
Harmony: It can go either way, its just whatever feels right and however it flows in its own natural body of existence.
Cleo: Its an organic experience.
Harmony: Its like if a river were to be created, that’s how it feels.
AMBY and Girlpool: [laughs]
Cleo: We haven’t eaten in like six hours so we are on another level right now.
Harmony: I feel like we are really trippy right now. We are always like this but this is definitely a little bit of a next level experience.
AMBY: I cant stop listening to the first track called Ideal World on your new album “Before the World was Big”. I love the simplicity of the music and the truth in the lyrics. How did that song come to be?
Cleo: It was one of the first song where we sat down, practiced and exercised this writing practice but totally naturally and organically.
Harmony: I cant remember the exact situations we were talking about…
Cleo: At that period we were both still in school feeling pressure of expectation, not just in school but just within being alive
Harmony: the song came about form the feeling of recognizing what he world is telling you and recognizing what you think about it.
Cleo: Also recognizing that you have the power to steer your direction…
Harmony: and to be consciences of your environment and what exterior factors are dictating your inner or outer self.
AMBY: What is your ideal world?
Harmony: I think it changes moment to moment.
Cleo: Its what you want in the moment.
Harmony: Its just the present, I think. Whatever you want the present to be and when the present clicks with yourself in the best way is my ideal world. I think its this constantly evolving search. I feel like its hard because to make anything the ideal of anything is just too much.
Cleo: You cant recognize what is ideal when you have not experienced what is not.
Harmony: Your perception on your environment is always different. You can also go back to something you experienced five years ago and think it was less than ideal but in the moment you may have been super stoked. It’s the same thing of understanding the past, present and the future.
AMBY: How did you two get into playing music?
Harmony: We’ve both always been into music. Cleo started playing guitar when she was young, I started taking choir classes when I was young and we have just both been super passionate about it.
AMBY: I saw on your Instagram that you recorded a song on the road in Idaho called “Your Heart”, it sounds like it could totally fit on your record “Before the World was Big.” What was the recording process like on the road?
Cleo: Harmony was driving and I have this app on my phone. We used the Apple headphone mike and used Lisa Frank stickers to stick the Apple mike into the guitar sound hole. She was driving; I was in the passenger seat. I recorded the guitar part and singing part into the mike. We switched drivers and then Harmony recorded her singing part.
Harmony: I recorded the synth on the Casio SK1 which I took with me from LA. We were mixing it together, pumping it into the car speakers. Cleo is just like “ok do that!” and I said “ok blah blah blah, “ it went on like that until we finished.
Cleo: It was super fun because I have never written a song while moving and I was talking to somebody about how cool that was because I always remember where we wrote a song and it was cool to remember that we recorded this while we were actually traveling.
Harmony: Ya it was really cool and fun. We just had the verse and melody and just played around with it until we were happy with it.
AMBY: Last question! If you could curate your own music festival, where would you hold it and who would you choose to headline with you?
Cleo: I heard that there is a restaurant that serves everything on sweet Hawaiian bread which is my favorite kind of bread, so I would hold it there with…..
Harmony: Tom Petty!
AMBY and Girlpool: [laughs]
Thank you Girlpool, for giving us your answers!
Interview by Mashal Khan | @mmmmashy