We caught up with Jean-Philip Grobler, frontman of Brooklyn-based band St. Lucia, who talks about how the band’s ’80s-inspired, synth pop-infused, experimental sound translates onto the live stage.
THIS WAS ST. LUCIA’S FIRST HEADLINING TOUR IN TEXAS—AND ITS FIRST TIME PERFORMING AT AUSTIN CITY LIMITS THIS WEEKEND! WHAT WAS THAT FEELING LIKE?
Well, Dustin, our drummer, is from Houston, so he showed us around a bit when we were there last (I think we supported Ellie Goulding and maybe Foster the People there). We’ve done South By Southwest (SXSW) in Austin many times, and it was great coming through there; we’ve always really liked the vibe. We’ve never done ACL for some reason, but we were super psyched because we’ve been fortunate to spend a lot of time in Austin and were able to see so many parts of it; most times we’ve done SXSW we’ve stayed close-ish to downtown, but then last time we stayed a little outside the city and it was just so beautiful. I found this forest part, got lost running on Greenbelt and finally was able to go to [barbecue restaurant] The Salt Lick because I’d never been.
HAVING BEEN ON ON TOUR SO OFTEN, YOU MUST BE SOMEWHAT OF AN EXPERT IN TRAVELING “LIGHT” OR MAXIMIZING YOUR SUITCASE SPACE. ARE YOU THE “LESS IS MORE” TYPE OR THE “MORE-IS-MORE” TYPE WHEN IT COMES TO PACKING FOR AN EXTENDED TIME ON THE ROAD?
It really depended on the tour. We were fortunate because this one ended right before it really started getting cold, so we weren’t hitting as many cold patches. When you had to take both your winter coat and your shorts, then it became difficult. But it was important to somewhat pack light … I always regretted over-packing, but I also regretted under-packing. It’s about not having too many plain white T-shirts, but more than one or two, because inevitably those would immediately get stained with coffee or something! I had to take so much stuff with me because when we played shows I sweated so much, so afterwards my clothes were just done. We didn’t have [the ability to do] laundry at every show so you had to be picky, but not too frugal.
SPEAKING OF SHOWS, WHAT COULD FANS EXPECT FROM YOUR PAST PERFORMANCES AT TREES IN DALLAS AND AT WHITE OAK MUSIC HALL IN HOUSTON, AS WELL AS PREVIOUS SETS AT YOUR PAST AUSTIN CITY LIMITS AND YOUR PAST 2016 TOUR DATES?
This was the first tour where we really tried to make every night different in some way, so we might have played a cover we hadn’t played before, or a song acoustically or put songs in a completely different order.
We played Toto’s “Africa” on this tour and everyone asked for us to play it again. Even though we wanted to do that, we also didn’t want to be “known” for that. For example, Radiohead never plays “Creep.” I think they’ve only played it once the last 20 years, but it made it really special for the audience that saw it. It was cool to do things like that—shake things up and make yourself vulnerable.
You could expect a very-very high-energy live show … I was out of breath multiple times and ran around like crazy during some songs. It was a lot of fun changing things up.
YOU MENTIONED YOU LIKE NEW ORLEANS. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE PART ABOUT STOPPING IN THE CRESCENT CITY?
I think it was my favorite city in states besides New York (where my wife, who’s also in the band, and I live), but it was hard to describe. It gave this worldly charm—a mix of Europe, South America, and North America. There was an amazing cultural rub that happened there and there was so much energy, the food was unbelievable and the people were so friendly, yet there was this dark undercurrent you encountered at night. Whenever we could play in New Orleans, it was a treat.
Editor’s Note: The band performed at Trees in Dallas’ live music capital, Deep Ellum, and at White Oak Music Hall in Houston. Both shows featured support from Sofi Tukker, which Grobler described as “post-exotica-lounge house.”