HUP had a natter with Penelope and Robin of Wellington existential folk band Grawlixes. They have just released a new LP ' Love You To Death', and are about to embark on a twelve-date tour of the country.
Kia ora Grawlixes, tell us who you are and how you came to be!
Robin: Grawlixes is Penelope Esplin (accordion, vox), Robin Cederman (guitar, vox), Hikurangi
Schaverien-Kaa (drums) Emma Minor (bass) and Alex Vaatstra (violin). Penelope and I formed Grawlixes back in Dunedin when we were dating and living together in a two bedroom flat above the octagon. Now we live separately in the suburbs of Wellington, but the band lives on.
Tell us how Grawlixes songs are usually formed.
Robin: I usually come up with an initial draft for a song on my acoustic or keyboard, and then Penelope and I will nut out the final details together, especially for the songs she sings.
Congratulations on the release of the new LP! Where did you record it?
Robin: We recorded ‘Love You To Death’ at The Surgery, (in Wellington), with Lee Prebble. It was amazing and expensive in equal measure. Lee is a total wizard and a lovely supportive presence in the studio. We learned a huge amount, and definitely became better musicians in the process. Tip: practice along to a metronome ahead of recording!
(Ed: It was obviously worth it, as album opener, the beautiful 'Honey Bees' has charted at number one on NZ Student Radio Network charts.)
How does this LP compare to your previous work, do you feel the songwriting has changed, maybe the content or the way of working?
Penelope: I think this record is quite a big departure from our previous work. For the first album, we wrote a lot of love songs, being a couple and madly in love. And we wrote in our living room sporadically, when the mood called for it (which was honestly most days, as it was the thing we both loved to do). But towards the end of our relationship, it got a lot harder to enjoy being around each other. We were fighting a lot and honestly kind of hating each other (as a lot of the songs on the second album reflect). It was hard for either of us to make the decision to break up, knowing it could mean the end of the band, so we stayed together longer than we should have, which is funny looking back now.
We had to completely take a break from each other for 6 months, to establish a better way of interacting. During that time, we each individually wrote the crux of the break up songs for the album, to purge ourselves of our demons in a way. We decided to bring in a band as well to break bad habits. We have to write songs differently now. We usually message each other song clips and suggest rewrites virtually.
Sometimes we will tack on a songwriting session onto a practice, but it's better for us not to be in a room together alone for too long. One of the reasons we stayed together in a musical partnership is because we write great songs and are very compatible and creative musically. And we tend to have the same vision for videos too. It's just almost everything else we disagree on.
The tour is fairly extensive, is this the biggest tour you've done to date?
Penelope: Yes this is the biggest NZ tour we've organised to date. We organised a 10 date tour around NZ in 2017 and toured with French for Rabbits around Europe for 3 months in 2015 (but we were not the organisers for that one luckily). It was an incredible experience, without any of the stress of being an organiser.
Do you look forward to touring or is it a bit of a grind?
Penelope: Personally I find touring a very mixed experience. I love the interactions with the audience and being on stage performing. I love having time with the band as well, having chats. And I love the driving - seeing the beautiful countryside. But I find the sleep deprivation pretty taxing.
What have you been listening to lately, and is there anything you've heard that has really stopped you in your tracks?
Robin: I’m listening to the new albums by Faye Webster, Tyler, the Creator and black midi. All are very special in their own ways. black midi always amazes me when I first hear it because there’s so much intricacy and I really struggle to imagine how they even write their songs.
Penelope: Adrianne Lenker - Simulation Swarm. The guitar playing and vocal melody in the breakdown is simply incredible. Her lyrics don't initially stand out, but her lyrics are divine I think she might be one of the best songwriters of our generation
When did you think 'I can be in a band' for the first time and how did that turn out?
Robin: My first band was a high school rock band called Blue Rivets (named after the screensaver). We did a couple of school assemblies, and a talent contest where I performed a triumphant flute solo (years ahead of the Lizzo curve ha). We didn’t place.
A few light-hearted questions to give us a glimpse behind the Grawlixes curtain...
Who is the best cook in the band?
Robin: Penelope would have to be the best cook in the band. She can cook a whole range of amazing goodies.
Which of the Grawlixes is the sportiest?
Penelope: Robin or Emma, they do yoga. I plan to do yoga, then I don't.
And the least likely to get arrested?
Robin: Emma would have to be the least likely to get arrested because she is a very sensible young woman.
Any memorable shows you're willing to share with us, good or bad?!
Robin : Our worst ever show was during a previous national tour when we played at Titirangi on a horrible stormy night and nobody came, except for this one guy on psychedelics who paid us $50 and had the time of his life. Sadly, the owner called off the performance after a few songs, and spent the next half hour making us feel guilty about the turnout despite him not promoting the show. Here’s hoping that never happens again!
If you could organise a show anywhere in the world, where would it be, what 3 bands would be playing, and what are we drinking?
Penelope: That's a really good question. Probably Switzerland, with Radiohead, Moses Sumney or Lianne La Havas and Sabrina Claudio. I've never seen any of those bands live but they're on my bucket list. I would say Adrianne Lenker, but I watched so many of her live videos on YouTube, I probably don't need to anymore.
Catch Grawlixes on tour throughout July and August, click HERE to grab yourself a ticket!