Have you ever had a best friend? You spend all day together at school, but still need to chat on the phone all evening. You like the same music and films, you discuss boys or girls you fancy and your hopes for the future. You share everything.
This sort of friendship is the steady foundation that LA born band Girlpool is built on. These best friends formed a band a couple of years ago when teenagers Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad hit it off at a gig. Since then they have relocated to Philadelphia, released an album, and have received plenty of press for some rather explicit songs (sample lyric: “It’s not enough to watch a movie/Eat me out to American Beauty”).
As the duo amble on stage at the Hare & Hounds they don’t have the air of upstart teenage rock stars. They look like they might be in the middle of a country hike, or perhaps a clowning workshop; I’m talking dungarees, stripes, sensible shoes and cardigans. But this, along with an involved conversation with a girl in the audience about haircare, just serves to create a relaxed atmosphere. It’s like you’re hanging out with a couple of mates and they’re playing you a few songs that they’ve been working on.
With just two of them in the band, Girlpool keep themselves musically straightforward, utilising just a bass, guitar and vocals. Embracing the Punk spirit, simple single note guitar lines are replicated in the bass, with rarely more than three chords in a song. But despite the simplicity, the music isn’t unrefined; each word and note is thoughtful and considered. With such limited musical accompaniment,the lyrics and melodies are foregrounded. The songs explore all the big themes: love, gender, aging, racism… There’s a melancholy throughout, for example, in ‘Cherry Picking’, “Cos lovers turn to strangers/ Everyone always has to go”.
One of the most interesting songs is their album’s title track, ‘Before the World was Big’. As usual, most of the guitar part is played one note at a time, and it’s quietly hypnotic. The words explore the unsettling transition from childhood to adulthood; the streets in your neighbourhood you’ve walked, “one hundred, one million, billion, trillion times…” are haunted with memories, and they seem different now, because you are different. The song thoughtfully captures a wistful mourning for the routine and safety of childhood, mixed with excitement for what’s ahead.
The strength of Girlpool lies in the friendship between Tucker and Tividad. This is a best friend relationship externalised and channeled into a band. The result is a complete clarity of vision; they sing and play in unison because they have the same experiences and the same things to say.
Alas, all of us who have had a childhood best friend know that these relationships are too intense to last. They gradually become less important as real life – jobs, university, relationships – kicks in. Hopefully, for Girlpool, embarking on tours around the world and making records, real life isn’t going to kick in for another few albums at least.
For more on Girlpool, visit http://girlpoolmusic.com/
For more from the Hare & Hounds, visit http://hareandhoundskingsheath.co.uk/