Published May 15, 2017Last year, Harmony Tividad and Cleo Tucker, the duo behind much-hyped Los Angeles band Girlpool, recorded their second album, Powerplant, not knowing what would become of it. "At times, we felt like just putting it on YouTube," Tucker tells Exclaim! They eventually decided to release the record with prestigious Epitaph imprint ANTI-, citing an ethos that felt in line with their own: "chill and personable and kind," according to Tucker.
This is not a band driven by a need to reach as many ears as possible, or dominate the airwaves, or sell out Madison Square Garden; these are perfectly fine benchmarks to aspire to, but they're evidently parenthetical for Tucker and Tividad. Theirs is a craft driven by a need to express; their music is a by-product necessitated by that need. "I've always written words aggressively, and need to, deeply," Tividad relates earnestly. "Music is a tool for me to be able to sing the words. What comes first is the desire to sing the words I'm writing. The music is there to accommodate that hunger."
That hunger has already led the young duo from coast to coast. After growing up in L.A., Tividad, who's 21, moved east to Philadelphia. Tucker, 20, stayed in Los Angeles for a short period post-high school before joining her bandmate on the East coast. "We both hadn't lived anywhere other than Los Angeles," Tucker says. "We were really fascinated with branching out and stretching ourselves." These changes are telegraphed across Powerplant, a record as ambitious and grand as it is quiet and shifty.
Tividad has mentioned before that she wishes she could hold herself back sometimes from "being myself… but it's hard to not fully exist." She's plaintive and unsure when asked why she'd wish to hold herself back. She laments that sometimes her personality has "forced me to alienate myself, or forced others to view me in a way that is alien." It's symptomatic, perhaps, of others' discomfort with honesty, a trait that Girlpool embodies so nakedly and unreservedly. "It just kind of created a lot of emotional turmoil for myself growing up, that I not necessarily wouldn't want to have experienced, but definitely was emotionally uncomfortable at times."
The name Powerplant is the synthesis of all of this. "It reflected this idea that there's an assembly line to everything in life," she explains. "There's always this sort of cycle that we find ourselves repeating, or find ourselves trying to avoid repeating." It also highlights the industrialized nature of the arts: "People fiscally benefiting from your creative output is a trippy idea to grapple with," Tividad reasons grimly.
Girlpool are searching for enlightenment and understanding in a time that appears to offer only a cursory iteration of both. They're pushing past facades and listicles to theorize and discuss and joke and get sad and express and sing. Honestly.