Girlpool strips it down, builds music out of friendship and honesty
The Los Angeles punk duo keeps it turbulent, intimate and real
Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad have this habit of talking over one another in conversation—finishing the other’s sentences thoughtfully. Sometimes, though, it ends in a riot of laughs, too.
The guitarist and bassist do something similar (without the laughs) for their band Girlpool.
The Los Angeles-based two-piece, which performs in Sacramento on Friday, October 30, makes music that’s at once primitive with a stripped-down punk aesthetic but also smart, challenging and, even, charming. Tucker plays guitar, Tividad bass. Both sing—usually at the same time, sometimes in harmony, sometimes not.
The pair met on the music scene in L.A., seeing each other several times a week at local DIY shows where they’d talk music and politics. Those talks eventually led to Girlpool’s 2013 formation while Tividad was in college and Tucker still a senior in high school.
“One night—a school night—I was kind of freaking out in my bedroom doing homework and I called Harmony. We were both feeling electric, inspired to start something together … just the two of us,” Tucker said during a recent call from the road as the band headed to a gig. They’d put the call on speakerphone and took turns talking, dovetailing over each other’s answers.
The result was a 2014 self-titled EP first released via Bandcamp in 2014, and later on Wichita Recordings. On the EP songs such as “Blah Blah Blah” and “American Beauty” are disarmingly raw, but also jangly and catchy as hell. Narratives follow a similar thread with startling, intimate lyrics that touch on slut-shaming, sexual assault and oral sex.
Girlpool’s new record, Before the World Was Big, marks a shift with a more deliberate pace that takes the emphasis off fun, toe-tapping choruses and puts it more squarely on the band’s storytelling and conversational singing pattern.
In January, filmmaker Cory McConnell released Things Are OK, a documentary on the band. In the film, the two discuss the “honest and turbulent” nature of their friendship.
“The word has a certain connotation, but Harmony and I embrace the turbulence in ourselves and encourage each other to embrace our own turbulence,” Tucker said.
Tividad agreed. “I’d say we’re completely real with each other, for lack of a better word. If one of us has an idea, we handle it in a way that’s empathetic and sensitive. It’s not arguing, but rather debating and conversation.”
It’s that realness—a tangible sense of authenticity—that’s helped earn Girlpool an ever-growing fan base. Since its inception, the band’s gone from playing house parties and small punk shows to performing in larger venues.
Sometimes the bigger space—and attention—can be unsettling.
“I really want to be as close to people when we’re playing as possible,” Tividad said. “DIY shows are so powerful in that way—a transformative experience. It’s really important for us to have a connection to the audience, to be playing off of each other.”
Then again, Tucker added, playing live is about the moment, wherever and whenever that moment takes place. And, occasionally, those moments just aren’t going to happen. Again with the realness.
“Sometimes I feel incredibly powerful and totally there [on stage],” Tucker said. “And sometimes things aren’t there and that’s part of it too—and that can be in a room with six people or 60.”