St.Lucia Is Getting Personal With ‘Hyperion’
Jean-Philip Grobler has a lot to say about his band’s music, but there’s a catch: he wants to hold onto a certain degree of mystery. It’s not a desire made out of shyness or selfishness—rather, he’s putting the power of interpretation into the hands of his listeners. It’s up to them to complete the creative process, and, like a fine wine, “it takes time to digest the music and figure out what it’s all about.”
With the release of St.Lucia’s latest record, Hyperion, there’s never been a more appropriate time to talk about the role of mystery within Grobler’s music. And this album was no walk in the park—on the contrary, with the decision to be completely self-sufficient, not relying on exterior writers or collaborators, Hyperion quickly became a project more personal than most, and a product of the band’s interior and exterior reflection. Getting super personal while holding onto mystery might sound like an oxymoron, but St.Lucia perfects the balancing act. Listen to the new album below, and keep scrolling for more from Grobler on self-understanding, new interpretations, and the “complete rediscovery process” that was Hyperion.
It’s release day! How are you feeling?
Good! We’re very excited to go on tour. People hearing the songs live, it’s almost like opening a bottle of wine—you air it and it brings it to life in some way. I always feel like our records have a good life after their release. It takes time to digest them and figure out what it’s all about, so that’ll be good.
What kind of headspace were you in when you were making it? What was that process like?
It was pretty tough, actually. I feel like I was kind of, more than any other record, I was really sort of questioning what it is I’m trying to say, in the music world. Especially having a kid now, what I want to project to him, too. The way people in the pop world make music these days is, they go to LA, write with a bunch of different people, and end up with all of these songs after a day. And we had a couple of bad writing session experiences, and I just decided I wanted to be self-reliant with it, make it myself, with our band and people who we’re close with, rather than just writing with people who can guarantee a sure-fire hit. Just trying to be an actual artist rather than just a face to a project. And then obviously just thinking about the crazy stuff going on in the world—there’s one song on the album called “Gun”, which is loosely about gun control, but also about the abuse of power; it’s sort of a metaphor for power, and whether you use that for good or for bad. So it’s very much that mindset: trying to do something real and that feels connected to the world and to myself.
So going out on your own a bit and not thinking about hit singles as much—does that put more pressure on you, or less, since you’re not worried about ratings and rank?
I think it’s more, in a sense—everyone around me, even myself, it took a long time to convince them that the material I had was good. A lot of people, especially with labels and stuff, if you write with someone who already has a hit, they’re more likely to trust that the next one will be a hit. You know what I mean? So because I was doing everything by myself, I think it just took awhile for me to convince everyone that it was good, even though it was a bit untraditional and less obvious. So there was a little more pressure in that way.
And going back to that process, did it take a while for you to re-introduce yourself to being so self-reliant?
Oh yeah, definitely. I feel like every record is a complete rediscovery process. There’s so many different parts in making it; an initial idea phase, then trying to catch up what you envision with reality, and then editing and finishing stages and then you go on tour. So it’s a completely new journey every time. It’s definitely challenging. I learn so much about myself, but then I also learn all the ways in which I haven’t changed.
And then do you feel like you get to know those familiar parts of yourself and the new parts you maybe hadn’t discovered yet?
Yeah, for sure. With every record I’m trying something new, so it almost feels like a process of elimination, finding out what does and doesn’t work. And I don’t know if you ever get to the point where you’re 100 percent certain, because you always want to be open to trying new things and not close yourself off, but definitely with this one it felt really good to just rely on ourselves. It feels like a little more of an honest representation of who we are.
Is there a catharsis that comes with being so true and authentic to yourself?
For sure. But it’s a slow, revealing process. You’re going through it, it’s hard, and you don’t know exactly what you’re trying to say, and then at some point, everything sort of congeals, and you start to see. When I write lyrics I don’t say to myself, “Oh, I’m going to write about this now,” I just let the words come out. At first everything seems sort of random, but as I work through the songs, the meaning sort of reveals itself. And the longer it takes, the more you start to understand what it all means.
What is it like going through that process, coming to that understanding, and then releasing the music and having the people who listen to it come up with totally new interpretations?
I love that. It’s the best. I think that’s why I prefer it to be a little more mysterious, because then there’s room for other people’s interpretations. In a way that’s the beauty of art: it can send a message, but it almost connects to something inside the person. It’s the spark that ignites something inside of you. It’s not telling you to think a specific way. I know people think of us as like a positive, uplifting band, but I want to land somewhere in between melancholy and happy, where the message isn’t necessarily on either end, it’s somewhere in the middle, and you can take it either way.
And I mean we’re all just so complex, it wouldn’t make sense to make an album about the human experience and only have it send one message.
Stay tuned to Milk for more first listens.