under the spell of mesmerizing teen psych-pop duo let’s eat grandma
"It's like a time capsule from when we were 13 and 14," says Rosa Walton about I, Gemini, the debut album from Let's Eat Grandma. The British duo, comprised of Walton and best friend Jenny Hollingworth (both 17), creates mesmerizing pop music that shifts from playful and psychedelic to gothic, sinister, and downright strange. They started recording I, Gemini during high school breaks in Norwich, while they were studying for their exams, and completed it this year, in a studio that was once a nuclear fallout shelter.
The girls became best friends in early childhood, bonding over a shared creative universe of wordplay and make-believe. And they still possess an almost otherworldly appeal that manifests itself in their tantalizing, expansive sound. Each of the record's ten tracks represents a unique constellation within a genre-defying soundscape of guitars, drums, keyboard, glockenspiel, harmonica, and recorder, all accompanied by their identical intertwining vocals. "There is something strange in my mind / and there is something weird in my head," sings Walton on "Rapunzel," which feels like the start of a dark baroque fairy tale. The house-infused thump of "Eat Shiitake Mushrooms" lends hip-hop and pop-flavored grooves. And "Sleep Song" is a psychedelic circus of overlapping voices, concluding with a chorus of screams that sounds like the end of a twisted nursery story. It's a track that, like the rest of the album, teeters between dreams and consciousness.
We spoke with Rosa and Jenny about strange hobbies and self-discovery.
How did you start making music?
Jenny: It might seem like, "How do you go from meeting somebody to creating mad music with them?" But I think it's like with any friendship, it starts out being a gradual thing. We went from children sharing a creative world into making music with that creative world. I guess it was the same as a lot of childhood friendships, except I suppose [a lot of people] don't write about them.
Do you remember when you first started playing music together?
Rosa: We used to do duets on our recorders because that was the first instrument we learned.
Can you recall the first song you wrote together?
Rosa: I can't...
Jenny: It was a while ago. When we started writing, it was never with the intention of creating anything in particular. When you're younger and you start making things, you're less self-conscious. As we get older we start to question everything. When you're young, you just make stuff and it turns out weird because you're not worried about what everyone else thinks.
How did these tracks come together?
Jenny: They were written as separate tracks. We didn't want to create something that represented just one part of ourselves. We wanted to make something that covered the whole spectrum of everything that we were interested in.
It was very organic then.
Rosa: We used to have like three songs and then chop and change bits.
Jenny: Yeah, we'd get fed up with one thing and move on to the next.
What was the recording process like?
Rosa: We did it in between school, because we were studying for our GCSE [exams]. It took probably three or four weeks.
What can you tell me about how you create together?
Jenny: The only thing that stays constant is that it's always just us. The rest is always changing. We don't think, "That works, so let's do it again," because then you never end up with anything that's unique. It's a process of always trying to find new ways to do things.
What musical influences did you have early on?
Rosa: We listened to a lot of K-pop when we were growing up.
Jenny: All of the really big groups, like Girl's Day and all that.
Rosa: We made up a dance to "Touch Me" by Ivy.
This album comes out on Friday. How do you feel about that?
Jenny: We're excited. It's interesting for us because it's a chapter within our lives that's being mapped out, so we'll be able to look back and remember how we felt at that age. But we're looking forward to doing new stuff as well.
I like how eerie some of your songs are. Did you read a lot of fairy tales growing up?
Jenny: A lot of our references to fairy tales are more about how people write about fairy tales. People often make them sound really sweet and lovely. And because we were just reaching our early teens when we were writing the album, we had that realization about all the dark stuff that actually goes on behind the stories. The original stories were about murder and all this nasty stuff.
Did you consider any names besides Let's Eat Grandma?
Rosa: I think it's kind of stuck now.
Why did you pick it?
Jenny: We have some rather dark hobbies.
What kind of hobbies?
Rosa: I don't think we should discuss them. Too dark.
What do you hope people take from this album?
Jenny: We want people to question the way that they look at certain things.
Do you feel different after this experience?
Rosa: I think that when you write music, it really does help you organize how you feel about things.
Jenny: The process of writing is the process of self-discovery. Sometimes you don't realize what you think about things, then you go back and listen to your music and think, "Oh, that's what this song is about." The best thing about making an album is that you can look back and say, "That's exactly what I was like when I was this age." It's something you can't get out of a diary, because it's fully fledged songs.
What do you want to do next?
Jenny: World dominate [laughs] and I don't just mean with music.
"I, Gemini" is out on June 17 via Transgressive Records.
Text J.L. Siriuk
Photography Francesca Allen