photo by Kacie Tomita
Every once in a while a band like Girlpool comes around — and when they do, you better sit down and listen to what they have to say. Whether it’s lyrics about embracing vulnerability or the fact that the band is made up of best friends 21-year-old Harmony Tividad and 20-year-old Cleo Tucker (who always sing together), the project is just one of many outfits birthed at legendary LA punk institution, The Smell. That said, what started out as a fascinatingly unsettling, folk-leaning project has blossomed into a visceral, scuzzy indie-pop effort with their sophomore album, Powerplant. However, they haven’t lost the unnerving anxiety and rawness that made the project so beautiful to begin with. So in honor of their new record, Teen Vogue called Cleo and Harmony to talk moving apart, the privilege of occupying certain spaces, and how the DIY scene has played into it all.
Teen Vogue: Let’s go back to the beginning, why don’t you tell me how Girlpool came to be?
Harmony Tividad: Well, we met at the school. We have a bunch of mutual friends and were playing music and just kind of became really close friends. We were playing in separate bands, but our bands would play together all the time, and we started to feel like, “Why don’t we start playing music together?” So we started to try that and then eventually it just grew into what it is today.
TV: Cool. So fast-forwarding, what do you have going on currently? I know you already mentioned some more music aside from Powerplant in the works? Cleo Tucker: Yeah, well we just finished Powerplant, and we had been working on videos up until recently. That’s been fun, but we have a lot of songs that we haven’t recorded yet. Harmony and I have been navigating the sound of it and experimenting with recording. We both moved back home to LA so we’re finally in the same place again. [But other than that], we’ve been rehearsing for the Powerplant tour and working on new recordings together.
We had this short period of time with like on separate explorations for six or seven months — where Harmony and I were living in different cities that were only like two hours apart. So we saw each other a lot and were even working on Powerplant at times together — just sending memos and stuff back and forth. And then we’d meet up and play music. We were always in communication constantly, no matter where we are. But we just kind of needed to live apart to test out some different vibes individually.
*TV:*I’m just imagining band practice over Skype. But moving on, let’s talk a little bit about the themes you wanted to address with this upcoming album.
HT: For us, I feel like there are topics that we are always kind of trying to address. But I feel like it’s kind of in the music and to overtly name some would be selling the songs short almost.
CT: I feel like the record kind of captures this moment of time in Harmony and I’s lives where it was right after the Before the World Was Big Tour and we were on tour for the first time. Yeah, it was our first time touring like that ever. And living in different places. I think it’s a really good capture of where Harmony and I both individually stood at that time together.
TV: That’s true, tour is a big step! That said, I feel like you always have to deal with some kind of bullsh*t on your first tour, you know? But also just being young people, out there for the first time, is hard — always being underestimated by the world at large and whatever. Have you noticed that? And how do you guys try to combat this?
CT: To be honest, I feel like I live an extremely privileged life. I’ve definitely experienced moments where I feel underestimated by somebody before, but if feel like great in my life.
HT: I feel like it depends. Usually I don’t really spend much time around other people. Like I don’t really go out, and when I do I feel like I kind of mainly interact with people that I really feel connected to. So when I do feel [like I’m being condescended to or underestimated] I try to avoid that person. It’s silly, but I don’t know. I just feel like I try to avoid anything that could bring that feeling to me, because it feels really bad. And I hate that anyone has to experience that.
TV: Yeah, that’s fair. Like why put yourself through that? Is that something you consciously resolved to do this year — to sort of take care of yourself by putting yourself and your feelings first?
CT: That is definitely a new development in my life, yes. Like, I don’t feel like it’s [was a set decision that] “No, I’m not gonna be underestimated anymore.” I feel like Harmony and I have actually just always had the mentality of taking care of things thoroughly for ourselves when we need to. And if it feels bad, do not do it, you know?
We don’t surround ourselves with it. I think that that’s really important to recognize. That you have the ability and the control to own your own autonomy and remove yourself from toxicity and unhealthy environments. And [the ability to do so is such] an important part of being a human.
HT: Or to even just emotionally remove yourself from toxic situations too.
TV: Totally, but at the same time that’s definitely a privilege that a lot of people may not have?
CT: Definitely. And that’s kind of why I also feel strange speaking on whether others feel underestimated, because I think that we have the privilege to surround ourselves in places that feel good.
TV: Right. And it’s like you guys came up through the DIY scene, which is such a supportive place, but how has that really affected the band’s trajectory?
HT: I feel like getting into DIY was a really powerful moment for me personally because the community spaces that I found really were welcoming and open. And gave me the feeling that my economy was whole and extended to the world around me. And I could make work and bring people together who’s work inspired me. And that was really, made me feel, very free and liberated. When I was a teenager who felt pretty limited by school and higher education and trying to get into college and stuff, finding DIY opened my eyes to the fact that there’s other outlets in the world where people interact and do things. There’s not just this simple system exists, but there’s other systems that exist or are existing.
CT: No, I totally agree. DIY was the first time in my life where I felt really safe to share vulnerable parts of me to people that I had admiration for and loved their work to. And felt like there was this oasis of artistic excitement in high school that was beautiful.
TV: Do you remember the first time you really felt at home, or like amongst you peers?
CT: Oh God. We would go [to The Smell in LA] like literally every weekend. We would be there playing in band and going to shows. Honestly, when I was a kid and going there a lot, and all of our friends would be there and we’d all be singing songs that we all loved together. Yeah. That was like a giant feeling of magic.
TV: What sort of advice would you give to young people trying to break into the music scene? Or even just get their voices out there.
HT: I think the main thing is just to stay true to you and let that empower you, and be around people that empower you and listen and [know] what is important.
CT: Yeah. I agree. And I feel like that would be wonderful if we could prep that statement for young women spelled with a Y instead of an E. Like, [that terminology is] is inclusive of people who are female-bodied.
HT: [Or like people who], no matter what you were assessed at birth, you identify with being a woman, [we want to include them].