Girlpool’s debut throws listeners a curve ball

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      Imagine being onto something in a major way, but not being totally aware of it. Talking to Girlpool’s Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad, one gets the feeling they’ve yet to grasp the greatness of their debut album, Before the World Was Big.

      The record is a true DIY curve ball, this having much to do with the band having no drummer, which seems an endless source of fascination for nine out of 10 bloggers. While it won’t be surprising to see Before the World Was Big on more than one top-10 list at the end of 2015, the 18-year-old Tucker and her 19-year-old collaborator Tividad come across as anything but convinced of their own awesomeness.

      That modesty is somewhat explainable: Girlpool hasn’t gotten a lot of feedback on the record because it won’t be released until June, which means even the advance reviews are a month or two away from trickling in.

      Reached on the road in Albuquerque and speaking jointly on a cellphone, Tucker and Tividad seem most comfortable when talking about how lucky they are to have bonded as Girlpool, first meeting at L.A.’s fabled all-ages venue the Smell.

      “I was working the door, and Cleo was dancing,” Tividad remembers. “We were both at the Smell to see this band called Moses Campbell, and we discovered that we had this mutual love for a lot of the same music.”

      Part of what they bonded over was a determination to do things their own way, and not just from the no-drummer angle. What Girlpool has created is a record that’s somehow fiercely original, even as it seems to nod to the best work of indie icons like Cat Power, the Velvet Underground, and Liz Phair. Songs are built around nothing but economical guitar and bass, the stripped-down format helping wring maximum impact out of some great lines. The slanted and enchanted “Ideal World”, for example, addresses celebrity culture with “Put me on a food stamp and a Hallmark card.” Later on, the honey-harmonied “Cherry Picking” sums up modern relationships perfectly when, over golden shards of guitar, we get the lines, “ ’Cause lovers turn to strangers, everyone always has to go.”

      College was originally in the cards for the members of Girlpool, but they both decided to commit to the band. Helping them make that decision was the reaction to a 2014 debut EP.

      “Harmony and I were pretty overwhelmed with what happened with that EP,” Tucker says. “We recorded it in a couple of days, put it on tape, and our intention was to play shows in Los Angeles and sell the EP at DIY gigs. All we were looking to do was just play music.”

      Instead, the bandmates found themselves anointed as potential scene leaders in a new wave of riot grrrl, this having everything to do with EP songs like “Slutmouth” and lyrics such as “It’s not enough to watch a movie/Eat me out to American Beauty,” from “American Beauty”.

      With Before the World Was Big, there are only two people Tividad and Tucker are interested in speaking for. “With the EP, there was no real mission statement, and there was no filter for what we were expressing,” Tividad says.

      Tucker adds: “Harmony and I are super aware of the fact that, for ourselves, nothing really matters other than doing this for ourselves. Whether we’re playing to one person in a little shack of a venue or a ton of people, this is for us.”

      And, it’s hard not to think, a whole army of folks who, in a couple of months, are going to be discovering their new favourite band.

      Girlpool opens for Waxahatchee at the Biltmore Cabaret on Saturday (May 2).