[Interview] We chat to Jean-Phillip Grobler of St. Lucia – Catch them at Park Acoustics on Sunday!!

St. Lucia feature on Mixed Apples for Park Acoustics 4th birthdayThis weekend sees Park Acoustics turning 4 years old, which means that we are in for a real treat on this momentous day. On the line-up is a band called St. Lucia, which is a New York based band, that stems its roots in South Africa. We got to chat to Jean-Phillip Grobler, who was born and raised in South Africa before traveling to the UK to study, before ending up in the USA. He now performs in the band St. Lucia and is in SA right now for a short tour. Have a look at what he has to say:


St. Lucia feature on Mixed Apples for Park Acoustics 4th birthday

  • Hey gents, how you doing? Wow, such a pleasure to be chatting to you ahead of your SA Tour!! Before we get started, do you mind introducing yourself to us and giving us a short 101 on who St. Lucia is and how you started out in music? 
Hello! Well, St. Lucia is many things. In the studio it, up until now, has been mainly me, Jean-Philip Grobler. That is changing a bit though. Live, it is 5 of us: myself, Patricia Beranek, Nicky Paul, Ross Clark and Dustin Kaufman. My story is that I grew up in South Africa, went to the Drakensberg Boys’ Choir, left when I was 19 to go to Liverpool in the UK to study music, got a job in New York writing jingles, quit that job and started St. Lucia and now we are here. That all happened over about 10 years, so there was a lot of in-between stuff as well.
  • Do you mind introducing us to the full band and telling us where you guys met each other?
Oops, I already did that above, but I’ll tell you what each person does. I (Jean) write the songs, sing and play guitar and synths, Patricia (my wife) plays keyboards, percussion and sings, Ross plays Bass, guitar and sings, Nicky plays keyboards and percussion and Dustin plays drums. We all met around New York in ways that are far too intricate to detail here. 🙂
  • Can you please give us a background on your name, St.Lucia?? Where does that originate from?
The band was named after St. Lucia in Kwa-Zulu Natal. When I was looking for a name for the band, I took a pen, closed my eyes and put it down on a map of South Africa, and the 5th try was St. Lucia. At that moment all the dots connected, and the name stuck. I spent a few holidays there when I was growing up, and the tropical feel of the music connected with the tropical feeling of St. Lucia etc.
  • What would you say have been some inspirations to your music? Are you guys always looking for new inspirations and ways of evolving as a band?
We’re absolutely always evolving as a band. It’s a natural process, and I’m not sure I have any way of physically stopping myself and ourselves from evolving. My major inspiration is artists that, at least at a time in their careers, didn’t seemed to get stuck in their ways, like, for example, David Bowie, Kate Bush, Prince, Fleetwood Mac, Michael Jackson, and more recently, Kanye West.
  • Jean-Philip Grobler, you grew up in South Africa before heading to England to further your studies and eventually ending up in New York. Do you still have South African influences in the music that you make?  
I definitely have a lot of South African influences in the music I make. I’d say that was, in many ways, the missing piece in the music I was making before St. Lucia. It seems to me that a lot of ‘white’ South African bands or artists often try their best to sound American or European and to not sound South African. I was exactly the same for a long time, but then, after living overseas for many years, I began to realise the value of my South African upbringing and experience.  I then started to delve more into the music of the country that I’d somewhat ignored growing up here, and it began to infiltrate the music I was making more and more.
  • What have been some of the challenges of being in a band and making it work in a city like New York? 
The challenges of making the band work in New York have, ultimately, been to our benefit. There are so many incredible artists living and working in New York, and something I realised very early on was that in order to get anywhere I’d have to be holding myself to the same high standards as all of the artists that I admire. This wasn’t and isn’t easy, and took a lot of soul-searching and self-exploration, but I really feel that it’s been to the ultimate benefit of the music.
St. Lucia feature on Mixed Apples for Park Acoustics 4th birthday
  • How does it feel to perform with bigger bands like Foster The People and others that you have played alongside?Do you try learn what you can to better yourselves, when playing with bigger artists?
Playing with bands that are bigger or more experienced than us is always an eye-opening experience. As our set-times have increased in length, we’ve always tried to figure out ways to engage the audience more and to challenge ourselves more. Something that I’ve learned from all the artists and bands that I admire is that it’s important to never get comfortable and to challenge yourself. The moment you think that there’s nothing you can improve on is the moment you’re in trouble.
  • The local (South African) music scene has been growing in leaps over the last few years, mainly from all the amazing international talents gracing our shores. Are you guys excited to be playing in South Africa and to a much eager and appreciative local crowd? 
For sure! I’ve been waiting for this moment since I first left South Africa to live overseas, and to be back and playing in front of my family and friends and in places that I grew up around is incredibly special.
  • Can you give us a few of your career highlights thus far?
There are far too many to mention, but one of them was definitely our first headline tour of the US that we did in January and February. We went into the tour not expecting anything, but we ultimately sold out all of our shows, and playing to audiences in cities I’d never been to who were all singing our songs back to us was amazing. Also, having our first number 1 with ‘September’ of 5fm was incredible.
  • You will be performing at Park Acoustics for their 4th Birthday celebrations. What can we expect from your performance?
A lot of people, for some reason, expect our live show to be just me with a laptop, but it’s 5 people on stage. We have have a lot of fun and really like to involve the audience. There’s also a LOT of sweating going on.
Park Acoustics in Association with Jack Daniel’s and MTV ZA Presents: PARK ACOUSTICS 4TH BIRTHDAY
  • Are there any other projects that you are working on that we might be interested in hearing about?
I’ve been working on a bunch of collaborations with a few artists that I admire that I’m very excited about, but I can’t really say anything about them yet. You should also check out a band that I produced called ‘HAERTS’, who are some very close friends of ours. If you like what we do, I’m nearly 100% certain you’ll like them.
  • Where can we follow you on social media?
  • Lastly, if you could colab with any musician, dead or alive, who would that be with?
I’d have to say Michael Jackson.
  • Thank you so much for your time… See you guys on Sunday!!

Here are two videos to enjoy this Friday…

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