If you type the name St. Lucia into an Internet search, you are greeted with breathtaking pictures and beckoning invites from the small South African town that bares its name. Should you further investigate, you will notice a link to a band with a presence that is bigger than South Africa itself. This is St. Lucia, the moniker for the five-piece Brooklyn band headed by Jean Philip Grobler. Initially, I thought he was just that guy who sang in that Modern Hearts remix with the Knocks, but his brilliance is far greater than that.
When this relatively unknown group hit the stage this summer for the Governors Ball music festival on New York’s Randall Island, the sky was abysmal and the weather threatened hurricane force. At four o’ clock, five brightly clad people hit the stage, all smiles and high energy. Their 45-minute set shook the festival and left the question of ‘who are they?’ lingering on the crowds’ mind. It was a magnetic performance, and despite that rain soaking my brain, I knew that St. Lucia were not your average trop-pop band. They put on such a show, that Grobler’s ritualistic post performance move is “grab the nearest dry towel and dry my sweaty body.”
He is native to the exotic South Africa, with an international upbringing that most can only dream about. His love of music and song landed him in the Drakensberg Boys Choir School, and then onto Liverpool for studies. He calls New York home, alongside band mate and partner Patti Beranek. The rest of the band came together through a chain reaction of introductions.
When asked about their band name, Grobler says “…I just closed my eyes, and put a pen on the map of South Africa. The fifth try was St. Lucia and the name pulled everything together, and suddenly everything made sense.”
They recently opened for Two Door Cinema Club on a North American tour, after playing a few festivals this past summer. I was lucky enough to catch them in both New York and in Victoria for Rifflandia. Shortly after the festivals, they released their first full-length album When The Night, which is a profound entanglement of emotion from Grobler.
“The music that hits me most deeply, in general, has a sense of conflict between positive and negative emotion, in their most basic form: happy and sad. This conflict creates a certain rub, a certain electricity within the music that makes me feel it [the music] very deeply.”
To call When The Night a triumph would be grossly understating the album. From the first tropical wave of sound that crashes upon us, we are taken on Grobler’s complex journey through love, strife, then finally victory. Each song is an essential part of this album, each bringing its own deeply reflective tour of the heart. Songs like “All Eyes On You,” which is one of the favourites from the earlier EP, makes you wish your lover could describe you in such a manner. Once you pick yourself off the floor, you’re hit with “Too Close,” a track with a mesmerizing synth build-up that relentlessly jabs at you for the whole six minutes and eight seconds.
St. Lucia is one of those bands that require a second listen, and then maybe even a third, to fully grasp what you’re experiencing. They will entice you with their catchy drumbeats and melodic harmonies, but capture your heart with their heartfelt insight. Oh, and if you’re a fan of perfectly placed cowbell, then St. Lucia is your band.
Catch St. Lucia at Venue on February 1st. Trust me, you won’t want to miss this.
By Kristie Sparksman