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Girlpool soften the edges of punk rock

by Nora Smolonsky October 6, 2015
Girlpool soften the edges of punk rock

The duo writes lyrics from a space of real life experience and vulnerability

Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad are Los Angeles natives residing in Philadelphia, making D.I.Y introspective punk rock music as Girlpool. With nothing but a guitar and a bass, their raw punk aesthetic accentuates the purity and honesty expressed in their lyrics. Girlpool has been steadily gaining recognition since the release of their first album Girlpool in 2014. This year, they released their second record Before The World Was Big on Wichita Recordings. Despite their increasing popularity, for Tucker and Tividad, the industrial aspect of making music is a mere footnote; “we’ve only focused on the creative aspect in our relationship. [Making music together] just felt really good between both of us,” said Tividad.

Photo by Allyssa Yohana.

Photo by Allyssa Yohana.

With lyrics that feel as if they are taken out of a diary, Tividad said that more than anything, the writing process is about understanding their inner selves. “It’s usually just a conversation about what we’re feeling, and where we’re coming from, and what we need to say and how we need to say it to feel really well represented and understood,” she said. Each song divulges inner experience and relishes in emotional life, allowing the listener to enter the magical world of Tucker and Tividad for two or three minutes. But this is an unintentional side effect of Girlpool’s philosophy to write honestly and from a place of vulnerability. “There’s no right way [to write music], but we feel good when we write together if we are very open with each other and it feels really real,” said  Tucker.

On the track “Chinatown” on Before the World Was Big, Girlpool sings about relationships and the slow transition into adulthood with a heartbreaking honesty that is rare in contemporary punk. Joining their voices together in a powerful harmony they sing, “I’m still looking for sureness in the way I say my name/I am nervous for tomorrow and today,” over a simple riff. Girlpool’s openness invites the listener into their heads for a moment.

Photo by Alice Baxley.

Photo by Alice Baxley.

The band’s policy of purely expressing their vulnerability leaves a lot open to interpretation by the listener. Tividad has a clear perspective on sharing music with a wider audience and said that “with all art, it’s a subjective experience where it depends on the listener. Whoever is listening to or viewing the art perceives it based on their own context and experiences, projecting however much they need to project.”

Drawing inspiration from their inner lives means the listening experience will transform those songs into something greater than the thing itself. “I think what’s really beautiful is we can put something into the world and have it mean one thing to us—and know that that’s what our intention was for ourselves with that piece—but what others perceive is completely their own to perceive however they would like to. Every understanding of something is beautiful because it’s your projection,” said Tividad, adding that their art and the project of making meaning is not just a collaboration between herself and Tucker, but between Girlpool and the listener.

“We’re really excited that people like [the music] and we can continue doing it this way,” said Tucker. “We’ve been touring a lot and the shows have been progressively larger and pretty positive and cool. That’s been really trippy to witness because it wasn’t too long ago that we were just handing this little cassette out that we self-released.” But despite their growing fan base, Tividad and Tucker believe that their music will remain unaffected by the number of people listening. “Making music, and being with each other, and writing, and being in our world is like sitting on a train, and everything else regarding reaction and delivery and repercussions is sort of just what’s happening on the outside of the train, and we’re just passing it,” Tucker said. “Regardless of what’s going on outside of us, we’re still the same essentially,” Tividad added.

Though they address the political-personal aspects of life such as slut-shaming, gender, and finding your voice, any message that can be attributed to the songs are imposed after the writing process. “We only write music with the intention of speaking on whatever we’re feeling. There’s no preconceived plan as to what our agenda is in terms of ideas to express or explore, other than something we think or feel in that moment,” Tividad said.

By acknowledging the constant presence of categorical limitations society will project onto them, Girlpool is able to make music unhindered by expectation and intention. “I just feel like a Cleo and Harmony-run band. I think that everything that society’s ever attached to my existence has affected the way that I’m treated every day, whether I’m playing music or at a convenience store. Everyone’s under the influence of how they’re supposed to treat you, no matter who or what you are,” said Tucker. But by writing strictly for themselves, Tividad and Tucker are able to subvert the boxes other people may put them in, making music that is simply beautiful.

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