St. Lucia strips down with an acoustic EP and tour

St. Lucia strips down with an acoustic EP and tour
click to enlarge St. Lucia - PHOTO: SHERVIN LAINEZ
  • Photo: Shervin Lainez
  • St. Lucia
With their April release, Acoustic Vol. 1, shimmery synth-driven band St. Lucia is showing a different side of itself. The seven track EP, entirely acoustic, features hits like “Elevate,” “All Eyes on You,” two versions of “Love Somebody,” and a cover of The 1975’s “TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME.” For most of the songs, what you hear sounds exactly what the band sounded like while recording in the studio.

The acoustic EP and accompanying tour is the loosest and most open the band has been to date. While chatting with Jean-Phillip Grobler, St. Lucia founding member and singer/songwriter, his excitement for the new project was palpable through the phone. He peppered sentences with “really really good” and “very enjoyable.” This new venture not only reignites the St. Lucia fandom but presents the opportunity to draw in an entirely new crowd of acoustic music lovers.

Before the May 7 start of St. Lucia's tour, Pittsburgh City Paper talked with Grobler about everything acoustic. St. Lucia makes a stop at the Rex Theater Sat., May 18.

So why did St. Lucia decide to create an acoustic EP?
It’s kind of a long story, but the short story is that we wanted to do something different. For a long time, we’ve been asked to do acoustic sets either for private shows or radio things and we actually hated it. It was like the worst! But then on this album, we started doing little acoustic things for radio and stuff, and we really started enjoying it, and just kind of let go a little bit.

It felt refreshing because our actual shows are such huge beasts. We have all this gear, so much lighting and everything. It’s a little difficult to be spontaneous in that context and in this context we’re pairing everything down to its essentials, it’s a lot easier to be spontaneous and have fun. We wanted to capture that a little bit.

And also for people to be able to discover our music via different routes. There’s a lot of playlists and stuff on Spotify now that are “Acoustic Songs” and this and that. It’s not a bad way to introduce yourself to other listeners or fans.

How did you go about choosing songs? You have two versions of “Love Somebody” and cover The 1975 song “TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME.”
There was not a real reason, it was more like “Let’s pick a couple songs from each album.” There was no real ideal plan going into the studio. It was like, “Okay, it’ll probably be good to do ‘Elevate,’ ‘All Eyes on You,’” and we just selected the songs and we went in, and we had two days in the studio, and we just started from scratch. We just kind of threw some ideas around and everything came together very quickly and very easily. We all played together in the same room at the same time – all the vocals were tracked at the same time. There’s a couple of little overdubs, but in general, you’re just hearing what we did in the room at the time.

What did it feel like doing the stripped-down versions in the studio?
It was very enjoyable, it just felt like being hugged. It felt really good. Hearing the songs from different angles – people say a good song should work in a lot of different contexts, it should work from the chords in the melody to a super orchestrated version – this showcases the songs. They’re songs I’ve very very proud of that we’ve written through the years. It felt really really good and really nice to be able to play it with the band in that context.

A lot of people [make music] that way these days, it’s the original way people would do it. Everyone would just play in a room, and now everything is like separated out and recorded separately and often it's like one person recording everything. That’s actually how St. Lucia started; I did everything myself. But yeah it just feels nice! It’s like hanging out with friends.

click to enlarge St. Lucia - PHOTO: SHERVIN LAINEZ
  • Photo: Shervin Lainez
  • St. Lucia

How are you preparing for the acoustic tour?
We’re been rehearsing for the past few days in Seattle because that’s where the tour’s starting. I’m so lucky to have such great musicians in my band, and obviously to have Patti [Beranek, his bandmate and wife], we know each other so well at this point that it was really really easy to pull everything together. We can just sort of give each other a look, and we just know what has to happen in this section and were stopping now, or were extending it.

When fans come to see you, will you be playing all of Acoustic Vol. 1, or will you be throwing in some other surprise acoustic songs?
The setlist is going to be pretty different every night. I don’t even know if each show is going to have a setlist going into it. I think we want to just have it as loose and open and free as possible.

So we’ll probably be doing most of the songs from the acoustic EP, and then we have a bunch of other different ideas and little mash-ups and things, which I think will be fun.

For this tour you are performing at smaller venues then you usually play at, how does that feel going from big stage shows to a more intimate setting?
I’m really excited about it. One of the things that I think happens, the bigger you go, a lot of artists comment on this when they stop playing stadiums and stuff, that like – I mean we're not at the point yet where we’re playing stadiums – but it starts to feel like there’s a little bit of a separation from the audience. Especially because in general for our shows we use these things called in-ear monitors … Like in A Star Is Born there's this whole thing where Bradley Cooper’s character doesn’t want to use these headphones, these in-ear monitors, because he feels disconnected, that’s kind of exactly what happens.

There are benefits to it, you can hear things clearer, but I think when you play smaller venues, and you’re not using in-ear monitors, it's kind of like this experience where everyone feels very together. We can hear the audience; we can converse with them. I’m personally very excited to do it. I think there’s a reason why LCD Soundsystem has done like 14-night residencies at Brooklyn Steel rather than playing Madison Square Garden again. There’s more of a connection with the audience and the band in a smaller venue; it always feels special in some way.

Yeah, I’m sure your fans will really enjoy it.
I hope so! It’s basically an experiment. We’re going really acoustic, like it’s really acoustic. We’ll see how it goes but we’re really excited, it feels good.