Combine a pair of voices that harmonize in perfect discord, a crowd full of enthusiastic, open-eared fans, and the cozy colored lamps and Christmas lights of Art House, and you get the beautiful cacophony of last Thursday night’s Girlpool show. Girlpool played their screeching, awesome set to a crowd of about 120 people, which filled up the space lined with couches, a piano, and tulip-shaped lamps.
The two members of the band, Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad, both sport short, bluntly cut bangs and an eclectic mix of floral dresses and striped t-shirts. They met at The Smell, a downtown Los Angeles concert venue billed as all-ages, D.I.Y., and alcohol and drug-free.
Harmony and Cleo sing in unison, splitting at times into vocal harmonies. Their voices are accompanied by a bass (played by Harmony) and a guitar (played by Cleo), which sometimes explode into ear-splitting riffs; at one point, one of them broke an amp during the last chord of a song.
None of Girlpool’s tracks are what one would call pleasing to the ear. The first term that comes to mind is “rough around the edges,” but it’s an understatement: Their music is harsh and jarring all the way through. This theme even extends to their lyrics. “I heard you had a slut mouth” is my personal favorite, and it’s emblematic of their lyrical aesthetic.
Take away the negative connotations of the words “shriek” and “screech,” and you would have a description Girlpool’s music. Their harsh, raw voices express honesty and authenticity, and their lyrics vaguely resemble a teenage girl’s diary (see: “You leave me crying in the fucking rain / I want you”). It’s an emotionally charged combo.
Even so, there’s an air of coolness about them, a pride in their melodrama. I turned to the guy next to me and asked him what he thought of the concert, to which he responded, “Totally rad,” echoing the vintage, rebellious angst that their music expresses.
Art House was the perfect environment for such an incendiary performance. The space is small enough that you can feel each chord in your body, and the lack of a raised stage brought the audience even closer to the potency of their music.
Girlpool’s goal, it would seem, is to violate everything your ears are expecting. In addition to their clashing chords, their tracks end abruptly; it’s like driving on a rocky, pothole-covered road that ends with a cliff. The tempo of their songs is also slow, which generates tension with the intensity that their dissonance creates.
It’s difficult to fit Girlpool’s tracks in a specific category of music. A couple of music blogs have dubbed it “Americana,” but it’s closer to stripped-down indie folk with some rock influence. Their self-titled EP, produced by Wichita, came out in November, and their international tour started on Jan. 28 and will continue through May. Told Slant, Fraternal Twin, Alex G, and Teen Suicide appeared with them in their first two performances, and their next two shows, according to their Facebook page, boast “free cake for every creature.”
Girlpool continues to revel in the ugliness of reality in their most recent video, “Chinatown.” The song is the title track of their next album, which will be released in March and is available for pre-order now. In the video, the band members play on a carousel, drink giant bottles of seltzer, and kiss a plastic Winnie-the-Pooh statue, all in shaky, unedited cuts. The camera zooms in and out erratically, as if the person holding it is fiddling with the camera’s functions. It cuts to and from the band hanging out with their friends, exploring odd stores in LA’s Chinatown, playing little jokes on people in the street, and performing in rooms not unlike Art House. Sometimes, they simply smile and wave for the camera.
While just as dissonant as their other tracks, “Chinatown” is a little softer and a little more nostalgic. The music video feels as if they gave a friend a camera and told hir to follow them around as they lived their daily lives. While it denies us the shiny production effects that make pop music videos glamorous and attractive, it evokes charm and appeal simply by showing the reality of two band members’ lives.
Spencer Brown ’18 described Girlpool’s performance as “sweet cacophonous melodies”; their dissonance creates a powerful sound. Their refusal to conform to any expectations we hold for music made this Thursday night a performance to remember.