It seems wild now that we first saw Girlpool way back in 2014, but that’s a fact we’re just going to need to deal with. The band have been a big part of our collective world ever since those early shows, so the announcement of a new record is always reason to celebrate. That being the case, Danny Wright gathered Stephanie Phillips and Kezia Cochrane together to talk all things What Chaos Is Imaginary.
Have you been a fan of the band since they started?
Kezia: Definitely! I first came across them when I heard their cover of Radiator Hospital’s ‘Cut Your Bangs’ and instantly fell in love with their sound. And then Before The World Was Big came out at a time when quite a lot of their lyrics really resonated with where I was at at the time personally – and I’ve followed what they’ve been doing ever since.
Stephanie: I first heard about them via their first EP. I loved their lo-fi vibe. It reminded me a lot of Bratmobile and that chaotic approach to indie and punk. I really like a few songs on Before The World was Big. Mostly I enjoyed that their vibe seemed to be two people indulging in the best of girl culture and not being afraid to show that.
Was it the personal nature of what they do that got you interested too?
Stephanie: It was definitely a positive. They seemed like a band that every girl and teen needed to find at some point. It changes your approach to your own creativity and what you can achieve. Mainly I loved the sing-song nature of their vocal styles and the fact that they always sang in unison. It added to the child-like glee of their lyrics.
Kezia: That was part of it for sure; the relatability of their songs is something I always found reassuring. Their close friendship is so tangible in their music. It feels like being granted a special invitation into their worlds – something which is particularly shown in their vocal harmonies.
So does this record retain all of that?
Kezia: I think it’s definitely still there but in a less immediate way. I think Powerplant already took their sound on from those earlier harmonies but on this record that difference is much more apparent.
Stephanie: It’s quite a departure from their earlier work, a fully grown-up record. But I always felt like their harmonies were an integral part of the band so now it’s almost like a completely different band. If I didn’t see their name I wouldn’t have known this was them – that brings up the question ‘What happens to an artist when they no longer have the sound that made them famous?’.
How would you describe this new sound?
Stephanie: It seems more like a step to the side, rather than a step up – like they’re chasing the Waxahatchee sound, with influences from mid ’90s rock like Pavement. The additions of the drum machines and the country-style guitar licks were really interesting – but overall I feel like the record meandered quite a lot.
Kezia: I think actually, after a good few listens, this record is my favourite of theirs! Having listened to the music they’ve been creating separately as well it all makes sense together. It reflects their personal growth and identities in the particularly honest way that’s always been at the heart of the songs. The sound is less immediate but I find it leaves more of an impression – like the strings on the title track. It’s interesting seeing them explore such different sounds.
They’ve both been through a lot personally. How clearly does that come across?
Stephanie: The music feels particularly reflective, like a record you put on after you’ve had a bad day. There aren’t any upbeat tracks on here. Even the slightly faster ones sound aggressive and angsty.
Kezia: Overall it feels very pensive and that’s particularly conveyed sonically. Lyrics naturally play a part but the overarching atmosphere of the record is really more brooding and down- tempo than before.
Which tracks stand out?
Stephanie: I enjoyed ‘Hire’. It feels like a song that’s about venting after feeling defeated. The instrumentals are particularly beautiful and show how adept they are at their craft. ‘Pretty’ also stands out. It’s bedroom dancing material and reminds me of ‘Your Dog’ by Soccer Mommy.
Kezia: I think the drum machine on ‘Minute In Your Mind’ is really immediate and potent, and ‘What Chaos is Imaginary’ stands out with the really striking fusion of strings and vocals.
For the fans who’ve grown with the band, do you think this feels like a next shared step or is it more about the personal journey of the band?
Stephanie: It seems like the band thought about it more as a personal journey considering everything they’ve been through. But it could be true that their fans will be looking for something new to connect with.
Kezia: I think it’s more about their personal journey – while there’s still this feeling of sharing in their world, naturally their lyrics reflect what they’ve personally experienced. The difference between their first and second album was so great that it’s not surprising that this record takes Girlpool to somewhere different yet again.
Photo by Ilana Kozlov.