In the two plus years since their debut LP, When the Night, made waves in the synth-pop dance music scene, St. Lucia (composed of Jean-Philip Grobler, Patti Beranek, Ross Clark, Nick Paul, and Dustin Kaufman, all pictured above at New York City’s Webster Hall) has stayed faithful to what they’re best at: putting on incredible live shows everywhere from Coachella to Kansas City, producing stand-out ’80s reminiscent grooves, and having a damn good time doing what they love. Which is all incredibly evident in their sophomore album, Matter, one we’ve been hot to get our hands on for months. Now that we’ve finally gotten to hear it, we’re addicted—the compilation sounds like fun, which only enhances its listening appeal. And for this second record, the gang left no instinct unexplored: “We just put everything in there,” South African-born frontman Jean told us. “Anything we wanted to include, we recorded. There were horns, brass, drums, just everything you can imagine.”
“It’s easy to take a quick and easy route,” added bandmate (and Jean’s wife!) Patti. “But I think in the long run, going through the pain [of mixing] and doing it all is more rewarding, you know?” The result? An energetic compilation from start to finish that’s infused with the vibrant spirit of a band we adore. Finding them at ease at Webster Hall—despite the fact that Matter was just released the previous day and the gang was due in a few short hours to kick off their headlining tour—made spending last Saturday evening with them and talking to Jean (far right) and Patti (bottom center) so incredibly enjoyable. On the heels of a great night grooving, we played a quick round of 20ish questions, while their opening band sound checked on the stage below us. Listen in, this one’s fun:
Today is day one of your headlining tour. So what was the first thing that you guys did when you woke up this morning?
Jean: Coffee and check our phones. That’s the boring (but true!) answer.
What’s the first thing you look at on your phone?
Patti: Well, my family lives in Europe. We have this family chat, so usually they bombard me at night, and I wake up to it. So, that’s my first thing: family chat.
What’s your favorite thing to do in New York if you have a free weekend?
Jean: See friends, go out, or have people over to our apartment and make some food, have some drinks.
So you’re big entertainers. Are you a good chef?
Jean: Yeah, we love it. And we’re pretty good. Patti’s better than I am. She’s learned so many amazing skills from her mom, who is Taiwanese and cooks amazing Taiwanese food.
Patti: I miss my mom’s food.
What’s your favorite thing to make?
Patti: Ooh, depends on the mood. You [looking at Jean] make bombueti.
Jean: I like to make bombueti, which is basically the South African national dish. It’s basically a South African curry shepherd’s pie kind of thing.
Sounds delicious. So, moving on, why are you called St. Lucia?
Patti: Because Jean didn’t know what to do, so he took a map of South Africa—and there’s a St. Lucia in South Africa—and he took a pen and it hit on the fifth try. Everything just came together, and it was like “Oh, that’s kind of tropical, magical too. Yeah, cool.”
Jean: The moment I hit that name, it was like everything about when you think of the name St. Lucia: a tropical place, a place to escape to, a place you might have some sort of hazy nostalgic memories, and I felt like that was the sort of music I was making.
Why does your album Matter matter?
Jean: I think it matters because if I look at the music scene right now, there are a lot of people trying really, really hard to be cool, you know? And we’re going after what we think is beautiful, rather than what we think is just cool. We’re not denying any of our whims, so it’s just music that is awesome. It’s us, and it’s not pushing the uncool influences aside in order to make it something. To me, it feels refreshing in a sense.
You guys sing about love and finding love, but what’s your favorite part about being in love? What do you love about love?
Patti: When you get to do the things you love with someone you love, they just get even better, you know? I think just to have the support and experience, it just can’t get better. That’s the fuel of life, I think.
Taking a cue from the song “Rescue Me,” tell me a secret that not many people know about you.
Jean: My secret talent is doing the chipmunk voice. [Jean proceeds to say “Hi, I’m Jean. Hello,” in the perfect chipmunk voice.]
Have you found that dancing is dangerous? When you’re onstage leaping and high jumping?
Patti: You’ve definitely hurt a few others almost. I guess we haven’t gone there yet, but I’ve definitely swerved away from your leaping guitar like, whoa, buddy. My capoeira skills came in.
Jean: I used to do this huge jump off the drum riser. I had a good way of landing so I wouldn’t hurt myself, but then one time I landed on my elbow. It still is so sore when I touch it, and this was maybe like a year and a half ago.
On the subject of danger, what is your stance on crowd surfing?
Patti: I would love to crowd surf. My only problem is sometimes I like to wear skirts, and then I don’t know about the knicker thing, just being like, “Hello, I’m here.”
Later that night…
Say all of you guys are selected to be on Survivor Band Edition. Who wins?
Patti: I do. I would survive.
Jean: I think Patti would win, yeah.
Going back to this picture when you were 12 or 13 in boys’ choir…what was going on in your head?
Jean: I was about to hit puberty at that point. That time in my life was crazy. I was in boarding school and living away from my family. I was definitely a little bit embarrassed about wearing that bib!
Bring back the ruffly bib, there’s nothing better. Patti, Diamonds or pearls?
Denim or leather for you, Jean?
Jean: I think right now denim.
If you guys could go back in time and live in any time period, what decade would you like to live in?
Patti: Maybe ’30s, art deco. I think that was a time when things were really, aesthetically beautiful. There was a big emphasis on that.
Jean: I think for me the sort of golden James Bond era. You know, when the world was a little unexplored. Although I think I’m pretty excited about being here now, you know? I just think yes, even though the world is so messed up in so many ways, it always has been, you know? If you look at the world as well now, there’s a lot of stuff that is way better than it was. Pretty happy being here.
Is there a spot you’re most looking forward to on your tour?
Patti: The west coast for some warmth. Sun and warmth.
Jean: I’m really looking forward to going to London as well because we went to school in England. We’ve just had some issues with getting our music out there and stuff, so whenever we get to go, it’s always a huge treat because we love it.
What songs do you guys sing in the shower?
Jean: I normally make up songs about what I’m doing in the moment. Like, “I’m washing myself with some soap. Gonna rinse my hair now.”
Patti: Me too
Jean: That’s just kind of like a St. Lucia thing that we all do as a band. When Dustin started dating his current girlfriend, Cara, she said to Dustin “It’s really cute how Jean sings about what he’s doing. It’s so sweet.” And it’s only a joke, but I just kind of do it.
What’s been your craziest fan encounter?
Jean: We haven’t had anything really bad or crazy, but we do have a super fan. Her name is Megan Brown. She’s awesome, awesome, awesome. I think she came to like, seven of the shows when we supported Ellie Goulding and then on our first headline tour, she came to like, eight shows.
Patti: I think she’s basically seen 25 St. Lucia shows.
Fill in the blank: ____ is the new black.
Patti: And black marble.
Can you describe the album in three words?
Jean: Lush. Diverse. Pop.
Last question: What’s next for you guys? You have this tour, does anyone want to dip their fingers in acting?
Patti: I would love to dip my fingers in acting, that would be great. Dustin likes that too. We just decided when we were doing the “Dancing on Glass” video that we should all become actors. We were like “Let’s do it,” but we’re still going to do this. More tours, festivals in the summer. Lots of festivals.
Jean: Making more music, I’d love to do some more production. If some cool acting stuff comes up, that would be sick.
Photos: Courtesy of Katie Friedman