When you hear the name St. Lucia, you most likely think of an island — the sun shining above, and the vibrant blue water glistening below. Winter break is over, the countdown to spring break has already begun and summer seems ever so far away. Visualizing yourself relaxing on an island is one of the best ways to keep functioning until the warmth of summer finally frees you from your frozen stresses. However, your island daydream is incomplete without soothing sounds to excite your soul. And that’s where St. Lucia comes in!
Brooklyn-based band St. Lucia can help you relieve your stresses and fill the soundless voids of your island daydream. Formed in 2011 by singer-songwriter Jean-Philip Grobler, St. Lucia radiates soothing synth-pop, ‘80s-influenced music. Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Grobler was a member of the Drakensberg Boys Choir School, where he got the opportunity to tour and perform around Europe, Australia and Japan. Grobler later attended music school in England, and then brought his talents to New York City, forming the band St. Lucia.
St. Lucia’s full-length debut album, When the Night, is the perfect soundtrack for your summertime nostalgia. Let the heart-pounding beats of “Elevate” transport you through the beautiful spectrum of emotions felt during those hazy summer months, everything from melancholy to bliss. Then float away with the soft rhythms of “Wait for Love,” as they take you on an optimistic journey and remind you to follow your every summertime desire. Regardless of which songs you listen to, “When the Night” will ignite the passion within you and lift your spirits, just like the summertime does.
Listen to “When the Night” and allow it to immerse you in the warmth of summertime, filling your island daydream with a soothing combination of vocals and instrumentals, which are as soothing as the island’s shining sun and vibrant blue water.
Benazir Wehelie: What is the story behind the name “St. Lucia?”
Jean-Philip Grobler: I was at a point with developing the project where I had about six or seven close-to-finished songs all with a similar aesthetic, and I felt it was time to put a name on the project. After trying for a while to come up with something, to no avail, I took a map of South Africa out and decided to do the thing where you close your eyes and put a pen down wherever. On the fifth try, I landed on St. Lucia, and all of the pieces fell into place. Everything that came to mind when I thought of the name St. Lucia was everything that the music evoked, a sense of somewhere exotic, somewhere warm, romantic, that you have some nostalgic memories attached to.
BW: How would you describe the year St. Lucia had in 2013 and what does 2014 look like for the band?
JPG: I’d say 2013 was really successful, but it wasn’t without its challenges, and no year could be. 2014 will be a year of tons of touring, but also hopefully a year of a lot of good new music.
BW: Describe your creative process: who or what is your inspiration when writing songs and producing music?
JPG: My creative process is mostly intuitive. I try not to get too in the way of the music by thinking too much about it, so I just go with whatever idea comes into my head until I have a clearer picture of what it is that’s being created. The songwriting and production/arranging process happens hand-in-hand.
BW: You have remixed songs for other artists (Foster the People, Atlas Genius) and other artists have remixed songs for you (Passion Pit, CHVRCHES). Past or present, which artist would you (have) like(d) to collaborate with?
JPG: I think it would be amazing to do something with an artist from Africa, or just a world music artist in general. Someone like William Onyeabor, who unfortunately doesn’t make music anymore because he became a born-again Christian. I’d like to collaborate with someone who offers some kind of counterpoint to my musical ideas, rather than reinforces them.
BW: The ‘80s are a major influence on your music. What are some of your favorite songs or albums from the ‘80s?
JPG: Albums like Fleetwood Mac’s Tango in the Night, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Phil Collins’ No Jacket Required, Talking Heads’ Remain in Light, Kate Bush’s The Hounds of Love, Peter Gabriel’s So, Roxy Music’s Avalon, I could go on. I also love some of the guilty pleasures though, like Miami Sound Machine’s Conga, Lionel Richie’s All Night Long, etc., etc.
BW: “All Eyes on You” has been featured on a Taco Bell and Victoria’s Secret commercial, and “September” has been featured on the FIFA soundtrack. What are some of your must-have foods, clothes, and games while on tour?
JPG: I know it’s boring, but we generally try to stay pretty healthy when we’re on tour. When you’re spending hours in the van with people day after day, there’s always some kind of flu or something going around, and so you really have to be taking in as many nutrients as possible. So we generally try to eat that way, but of course you have to enjoy the food from different cities and places, and that’s one of the great joys of touring. In terms of clothes, I generally wear fairly normal stuff during the day, and save all of my crazy outfits for the shows. With games, it really depends on the day. Sometimes we’ll have a deck of cards with us, but I sometimes check out some of the new games on the App Store for my iPhone. Recently I’ve been spending a lot more time on my computer writing new music though.
BW: You are from South Africa, but now live in New York. What have been your most memorable moments in South Africa and New York?
JPG: This could turn into a really long answer, but I’ll try to keep it short. One of the most memorable moments for me growing up, and I didn’t realize the significance of it at the time, was having the choir I was in flown up to the top of a mountain in the Drakensberg to perform for Nelson Mandela on the South African Air Forces’ 75th anniversary. Performing at the start of the first game of the 1995 Rugby World Cup was amazing too (the World Cup that the story of the film “Invictus” was about). In New York, one of the most memorable moments was the first time we sold out Music Hall of Williamsburg at the end of 2012, and my parents flew over from South Africa to see us. They arrived from the airport just in time for the show, and it was the first time either of them had seen me perform in 10 years, so it was pretty emotional.
BW: The songs from your album, When the Night, have a lot to do with the idea of night. Describe your perfect night: where would you go and what would you do?
JPG: It would completely depend on what mood I was in on that particular night. For a more relaxed night, like if we just got back from tour, I’d just love to spend it with Patti [Grobler’s wife and band member] at home making dinner and watching a movie on the sofa. For a night out, again, I’d love to have a great meal with some friends, and family, if it’s possible, and then go dancing for hours. This last New Year’s Eve that we spent performing in Anguilla was one of the closest to perfect nights I’ve ever experienced.
BW: One of the songs on your album is called “Elevate.” Who in your life uplifts you and encourages you to pursue your goals?
JPG: Both my mom and dad and sister really inspire me and believe in me, and have always encouraged me to live my dreams. I have them to thank for most of what I’ve achieved. Patti, my wife who also plays keyboards in the band, is also an amazing support and partner in all that I’ve been doing. I couldn’t have achieved anything that I’ve achieved without all of these people, and I could probably name you at least 10 more people.
BW: Complete the sentence: When the night _____.
JPG: When the night blank.
— By Benazir Wehelie