There is nothing more multi-faceted than pop music.
It can thickly coarse through the heaviest of heads leaving you with a sense of pleasure and fulfilment. It’s also often considered an empty format for the masses to feast upon while the muso-types guffaw at its simplistic nature, but when all’s said and done, does anything quite push the boundaries like pop music? Well, after one listen to the new offering from Let’s Eat Grandma, you’ll be hard-pressed to disagree.
Norfolk-teenagers Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth really do not abide by any apparent laws of pop, nor music. What they do is create whatever sounds right to them, utilising the influences appear around them, amalgamating into a sound that feels impenetrable. And now, with their second album I’m All Ears they’ve taken things one step further.
In person, the duo are as you’d expect; extensions of each other, friends that fell into the hands of a beast that could have quite easily chewed them up and spat them out. But under the hand of nurturing indie label Transgressive (Bloc Party, Foals, Songhoy Blues), the pair have enchanted and perplexed, becoming a fast-talking point and subject to the many-a scrutinous eye and ear for their indefinable sound.
”I think it sounds like we’ve written it in a really clever way but honestly, I just love pop music. And that’s why I like writing catchy stuff…nothing else to it really…” Hollingworth tell me, matter-of-factly with a wry smile on her face. The allusion of an apparent grander idea means you feel like you need to unpack Let’s Eat Grandma when the real truth is there’s not much more to it than two minds who are unsullied by anything outside of their two persons.
On their debut, 2016’s I, Gemini, the duo allowed us spectators into said warped world of pulsating, moving and obtuse noises. Never truly revealing what’s what, and leaving us all guessing, perfectly orchestrating their story, intentional or not, they had, and still have, us hooked. If you ever caught them live around this time you’d be witness to a constant flow of instruments changing hands, ideas bouncing and it feels utterly organic - which is quite possibly the best term to describe Let’s Eat Grandma.
They’re an amalgamation of the lives they’ve lived, both together, and apart, never forfeiting any idea of insincerity - which is where chapter two of their story comes into play. Offering new insight into their wicked little world, while simultaneously giving us even more to contemplate. I’m All Ears - where even the title itself feels like a game that’s being played against us listeners - ebbs and flows with the tide. Even similarly in the fashion of day to night, it changes to fit the landscape and breaks away as fast it appears.
From the dark and brooding thunderous sounds of "Hot Pink" to the airy assuredness of "It’s Not Just Me" and "Falling Into Me", the three-headed pop-attack at the beginning of the album signals a change in world. One that, on the surface, appears to be finally letting us further in but it’s all taken away as the album progresses, or as Walton puts it, smiling, “It’s like starting with the pop songs and then going out into space.”
Taking inspiration from all walks of life, films (Donnie Darko) to imagery and dreams; “I’m really into making mood boards” Hollingworth reveals with a shy laugh. “Just for fun…” While Walton touches upon a more psychological influence; “…and I guess, conversations that we have with people, our friends…”
"I feel like everyone we meet finds us really confusing and hard" - Jenny Hollingworth
If there’s one thing you should know about the pair, it’s that they’re incredibly switched on. Often people jump to refute the intellect of younger artists on the basis of them simply not having lived enough, but both Walton and Hollingworth can see far beyond the plain of 'normal' life. They take what they need, and have a way of making the rest fall into place for them.
"I feel like everyone we meet finds us really confusing and hard…[like] 'how did they work it out, how did they come up with…what?!’ And to me, it just makes total sense.” Hollingworth says with a bright look of disbelief.
Having to explain themselves comes with the territory of being, dare we say, different. But the fact that I’m All Ears touches upon a more blatant use of pop means the confusion from
"Doing interviews is something that takes a while to get used to,” Hollingworth offers on the far-from-exotic side of being a blossoming band.", "and even though I love performing, I wouldn’t say I was the most outgoing in the sense that I really like being on a public platform with what I say. It can be pressure, and it can be quite tiring to make sure you're saying the right things over a lot of interviews.”
Walton continues. “Sometimes people read things, and they take it really seriously what you’ve said, but sometimes I just chat bullshit,” She says through a peal of laughter. “And it doesn’t really make sense, and I know that, and it should be taken with a pinch of salt, but when you’re in an interview, you’re quoted, [and] it’s not taken with a pinch of salt!”
“I think I prefer spoken interviews because you can get more into subjects because it follows more of a conversation, but it’s also really hard to control what you’ve said. In a conversation you just naturally come out with bullshit a lot of the time, and then people write it up, and you’re like, ‘I said that?! Like what?'"
"It’s…” Hollingworth starts before withdrawing slightly. “...I don’t mind people getting to know us through our music, rather than necessarily through what we say…" Walton swiftly agrees, giggling. “Because that’s the best way to do it because it’s like exactly what we’ve chosen to put across.”
"People are like, 'are you worried you’re going to be influenced by other people', but I just don’t really care. I just genuinely don’t give a shit!” giggles Hollingworth. “Do you know what I mean?” She looks to Walton again for confirmation: "At the end of the day music matters to me, but people in my life matter more. It’s probably; people I care about, then music, and then wider people’s opinions.”
Since signing and releasing I, Gemini, their world has incorporated a lot more focus on areas that may lay waste to the creativity that flows so smoothly through them, most notably to Hollingworth, social media.
"I hate it! Honestly, I literally hate it," she says suddenly becoming animated. “I hate reading the posts, they stress me out, like, have you picked the right emoji? It doesn’t actually matter! some things you do have to let go of, because at the end of the day they don’t really matter that much.”
It should come as no surprise that even with the help and confidence of their label, the pair can struggle to keep the atmosphere of their world alive when it comes to having the necessary support of others, something Hollingworth earnestly admits: "There can already be so much pressure, even when you just go to a shoot and people try and get you to do certain things, and in a certain way. They try and get you to wear certain clothes. It’s already so much hard work to try and do stuff like that, and get your artistic vision across.”
"I think the one thing is, when you’ve got a lot of work to do, like, you’ve got shows to plan, you’ve got artists to work with, and you’ve got photo shoots and more music to write, I think it can be overwhelming to make sure that you have control over everything…”
Walton interjects “…especially when we’re perfectionists, and we’re trying to do everything to the highest level possible.”
An entirely understandable point given that the more overt and complex the music may seem, the broader vision can be just as fragile andn require tending to as much as the core focus. Luckily for the duo, they still have one place they can return to when they need to step out of the searing pressures of the music industry.
"In Norwich there’s kind of space to do your own thing, and create things, and mess about because in London there’s so much competition and such a high energy and drive for everything." - Jenny Hollingworth
Originating from Norwich, and meeting in nursery at the tender age of four, their world has pretty much always constituted of each other. Still living at home, they duo are able to leave behind the incongruous (to them) fast-paced London and music industry. While Norwich, to most, is a familiar name, both Let’s Eat Grandma, and this writer, have experienced the real feeling of both isolation and opportunity that the city brings.
"I always feel solidarity with people are from Norwich, or anywhere near because I feel like…you talk about it, and loads of people never go…it’s never on the way to anywhere…” Hollingworth says.
There’s an argument to be made that the Let’s Eat Grandma we know and love could’ve been sullied had they been from any city that offered any semblance of connection to the industry they now inhabit.
"There’s kind of space to do your own thing, and create things, and mess about because in London there’s so much competition and such a high energy and drive for everything. You feel like artists don’t get as much space to do shows where everything isn’t perfect, and in Norwich."
Cutting their teeth in a city that feels in a league of its own, where, for its size, you can as easily find yourself in at House rave or a death-metal gig in the same evening, offered up itself an opportunity for development. Hollingworth recalls. “I think we’ve played gigs that weren’t good at the beginning and just like played gigs…”
Walton cuts in laughing. “…So many gigs! We’d have like three people in the audience, and they wouldn’t be listening.”
"It’s funny though because [when] we played there last time we sold out the Arts Centre, which is quite a big venue for us. I love playing in Norwich so much actually!”
The ability for them to fall back into a normal life, with their friends who are still studying and unfamiliar with the idea of press days and tour life can only be a positive for Walton and Hollingworth. Leaving the purity of what they first appeared with intact, they’re building upon the flourishing creativity and awareness into their own untouchable story. Though, being so complex on the outside, and thrust into a world where numerous articles and reviews try and pick it apart, evolving to the next stage can present a new set of problems.
"Our image has evolved quite a lot since we did our first album” Hollingworth states “And I think people are often like trying to continue giving us our ‘witchy’ labels from the first album, but because the music has changed so much, it doesn’t make sense with what we make any more.”
Even looking further toward the future, Walton perks up. “We wouldn’t want people to be calling it whatever they’re calling this record!”
What it should come down to for all onlookers is the fact Walton and Hollingworth are currently making brooding pop that abides by its own rules - and that could all change in the future. Even the interlude tracks, "Missed Call" and "The Cat’s Pyjamas" - which features the resident studio cat called Adam (“He was quite an important part of our time there”) - are made to throw you off.
"I think we wanted to experiment with structuring in a more conventional way because that was something that we didn’t really know how to do before, and we wanted to try" - Rosa Walton
Songs that are suited to the trials and tribulations of growing up remind you that both Walton and Hollingworth aren’t celestial creatures born out of their love of music and each other, as much as they may seem it - they are still growing.
The maturity that’s saturated across I'm All Ears' wandering landscape tracks are real journeys, where the true essence of the record lies. Not your run of the mill chord-chopping and changing, but actual, bonafide, talent. "Cool and Collected" is a meandering walk around jealousy and the want to be somebody else, culminating in a crescendo of an echoing, starlight summoning guitar solo. With Let’s Eat Grandma, while it may not always be immediately apparent, there’s always a resolution, be it one you want or not.
“I think we wanted to experiment with structuring in a more conventional way because that was something that we didn’t really know how to do before, and we wanted to try…” Walton explains.
“I think it’s funny because even though we’ve used more structure conventionally," adds Hollingworth," on a song like 'Falling Into Me', the chord sequences change about six times throughout the entire song, so if you didn’t think about it, you’d think it’s a pop song, but actually…we wanted it to still be like just a nice little journey for whoever is listening.”
And that’s all a part of their newfound grander scheme: "We want our music to go further. That gives you more opportunities to travel and do new exciting things. Obviously, we want to be able to afford to like have our own place to live…just like anybody! We try not to worry about it; we have good people around us that are trying to make sure we can live!” Or, more succinctly, as Walton says laughing, “A sustainable career!”
More importantly, however, no matter the journey Let’s Eat Grandma go on, no matter the responsibilities that come; the questions, the spotlights, one thing’s for sure according to Walton. “I definitely don’t think it’d have had any negative effect on our friendship because even though we are Let’s Eat Grandma, we also are just Walton and Hollingworth.”