Photography Charlotte Patmore

let's eat grandma are teen veterans of inventive pop songs

Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth's new album, 'I'm All Ears,' is a complex, playful pop record featuring contributions from SOPHIE — and a purring cat.

by Salvatore Maicki
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Jun 29 2018, 3:36pm

Photography Charlotte Patmore

Despite all of the voyages conjured in their music, Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth aren’t ready for a vacation quite yet. It’s been just two years since the duo released their debut album as Let’s Eat Grandma, I, Gemini, and today their second, I’m All Ears, is out in the world. “We didn’t take any time off at all. We wrote this album over the last summer while we were still touring the last album,” explains Walton. “We would spend our weeks writing and our weekends at festivals.” “There’s a lot of talk about traveling on the record because me and Rosa are always on the train. We live on the train.” laughs Hollingworth.

Walton and Hollingworth met in first school when they were just four years old, bonding over the coloring table and instantly becoming close friends. At 13, they were booking gigs all across Norwich, and by 14, they were writing what would become I, Gemini. That debut was a whimsical romp in self-described sludgepop that elevated the duo to enigmatic indie curiosities.

Now 19, there’s a world of difference between the girls who once wrote a song titled “Eat Shiitake Mushrooms” and the girls cycling through press rounds for their sophomore record, destined to go down as one of the most imaginative pop releases of the year. ‘It’s really intense this time around. We sort of know how it works a bit more, so we’re a bit less thrown in the deep end with all of that,” says Hollingworth. “I don’t think we felt the pressure as much when we were writing the record, but people were listening so that definitely changed the process.”

If I, Gemini was, as its opening track “Deep Six Textbook” suggested, a work of elaborate ballpoint notebook scrawlings, then I’m All Ears is the color that spills outside of the lines. It’s a boundlessly iridescent magenta, with lyrics that remain decisive as they are playful, and sticky hooks that reward multiple listens. “A lot of the tracks are influenced by minimalism and the way that melody works in minimalism,” says Walton. “There’s a lot of layered melodies and riffs that build and loop. We got really into old analog synths.”

The record opens with lead single “Hot Pink,” a stark declaration of femininity with a sledgehammer chorus. It’s one of two album cuts that were made in collaboration with SOPHIE and The Horrors’ Faris Badwan. “We were all in the studio together, and it was one of those situations you wouldn’t expect, with all of those people in the same room at once, but it really worked.”

“We’ve always admired SOPHIE so much, and we really wanted to work with her,” they gush. “And even though we’ve spent time in the studio with her, she’s still a mystery. She’s got this bank of beats on her computer that she just reaches into. You just always want to find out more about her.”

Make no mistake; all noteworthy collaborators aside, the sound of Let’s Eat Grandma is one entirely of Walton and Hollingworth’s creation. This is never more apparent than during their live performances, as they corral an impressive range of instrumentation between the two of them. There are handclap routines, sax solos, and there might even be a medieval lute thrown into the mix. In many ways, I’m All Ears follows that sonic blueprint. “We used a lot of the same instruments from the first record, just in a different way. It’s still got sax, cello, and xylophone on it,” says Hollingworth.

For minimalists, the girls take rather maximal approaches to sound, but each texture feels more distinctive this time around. “Every instrument is used in a more deliberate way on this record as opposed to just whacking as many as we could into one song.” Walton adds, before remembering. “Oh, and there’s cowbells too, of course. And Mark tree. And recorder!” There’s also a purring guest spot from the cat that lounged in the studio where the album was made. “He was quite a big feature during our time there, so we thought he needed a place on the record.”

If there’s an overarching theme to I’m All Ears, Hollingworth and Walton wish for listeners to uncover it themselves. “We didn’t actively conceptualize the second record so much as it kind of came together through the things we picked up subconsciously,” they say. “We want to leave a lot of the record up for interpretation.” For all its embellishments and winding paths, at its core, it’s simply a great pop record. At this point, committing to the genre is a mission statement in itself. “We want to broaden what people view as pop. Even though there’s so many styles on the record, we would describe it as a pop album. We should stop being so stuck up about pop music and get our heads out of our asses. Everyone loves pop music... whether they like it or not.”

“I’m All Ears” is out today via Transgressive.