St. Lucia is the summer shandy of synthpop. Consisting of Jean-Philip Grobler, Nick Paul, Ross Clark, Dustin Kaufman and Patti Beranek, the Brooklyn-based band sound like summertime. Before St. Lucia’s recent show at Freehold, CONVICTS caught up with bandmates and spouses Jean-Philip Grobler and Patti Beranek for a chat. Jean and Patti shared stories about their first July 4th in Brooklyn, failing to bus tables, and rescuing Bruno Mars from a locked bathroom.
Hey, gang. To start, can you tell us who you are?
Hey guys, I’m Jean and this is Patti from St. Lucia and we’re at Freehold.
You two have been in the neighborhood for a while, right?
We got here early 2008. We moved to South 11th between Berry and Wythe and then we moved into a building on South 8th and Bedford, so we just saw everything happen here. We saw the rent on the Kent buildings go up and all the craziness over there. I remember when the Duane Reade arrived and i was like OMG we can go buy toilet paper.
Where are you two living now?
We moved to Prospect Heights. We love it but we still haven’t grown into it the way we grew into this neighborhood.
Talk a bit about Williamsburg before all the change rolled through?
Well, that first 4th of July we were living in a building with a really nice view, so we went up to the roof to see the fireworks. At one point, the Puerto Ricans were firing all these fireworks and the Hasidim were calling the cops and the cops came and they were chasing them. We were just egging everyone on like “Run! Run!” I think they got away. It was confusing because at that time everyone had a beard, and then it was like a new trendy for everyone to have a beard and so everyone was like “Is this a Hasidic person, what’s happening?”
Did you guys respond artistically to that time at all?
We did a music video for Elevate and wanted to highlight that cultural rub. We also wanted to capture the building where we had our studio because we were getting evicted. It was just a really multicultural, very eclectic building with so many artists and people that had lived there for thirty or forty years. It had a freight elevator that hasn’t been inspected since 2001 and you just hoped to god it went all the way up. It was just a really interesting building and it kind of felt like the end of that whole thing.
Any wild stories from back then in the day?
At one point I saved Bruno Mars from the toilet over there. It was this disgusting commercial building’s toilet and as I walked by, I heard someone ruffling the door like “Help, help! I can’t get out!” I was like “Turn the handle and push the door.” It was Bruno Mars with a sheepish look, then he went back into the studio. So I inspired him to write “Locked out of Heaven.”
Haha yeah that’s what you think!
You’ve played Freehold before, you’re from the neighborhood. Surely you have friends in the crowd. Does it raise the stakes when there are people you know in the crowd?
My favorite part of doing a show with friends there is seeing the judgement in their eyes when you mess something up. Seeing the satisfaction they get when you mess up.
I would probably enjoy that. If you see someone mess up and see that vulnerability, you love that about them.
It’s a little bit more light hearted when you’re in front of friends you take a few more chances because you know they’ve seen you a hundred gazillion times and you want to give them something new.
Why do you guys play music? Is it for the live experience, is it for recording, is it just a job?
Playing live has always been a really important part of being in a band or being a musician. If you’re sitting in the studio all of the time obsessing about little details, you can forget the immediate quality and connection you can have when there are people out there. Sometimes I’ll be obsessing about something in the studio and we’ll go to play a show and maybe play a new song and suddenly that immediate experience you have brings everything into focus and simplifies everything in your head.
You just get a different energy from playing live.
When you’re in the studio making something, you’re not getting any validation for that thing. You’re following your artistic instinct and what friends tell you, but there’s never this moment of ‘Oh yeah we played a great show.’ When you’re on tour every night you come off stage and even if it wasn’t a great show you’re always on a bit of a high and there is an immediate validation that comes from that. When you’re making an album, you hope it’s good enough and you think of all the things you want to change, but playing live you just immediately know if something’s good or not.
Have you ever had low moments where you thought you’d have to quit being musicians and take another job?
For me, if i’m going to do a job, I’m going to try and do it well. That’s my outlook on life. To me, the fact that I have a functioning body and mind, I feel like if i had to do something else I would do my best.
I have this one memory from my first job. I was in high school in South Africa and I was the busboy and had to go clean all of the tables at the end of the night. I figured out this way where I would spray them sideways, just spray them and wipe them and after about six tables i had realized i had sprayed all of the people that were still eating their food. I was non-functional at stuff like that.
How many drinks can you have while performing before it’s too many?
We don’t really try, we’re so boring. Not even about performing, just in general. It doesn’t take a lot for me to get drunk, but it takes alot for me to keel over. I can sustain it.
To be honest I’ve never tested that and now I’m interested to test that out.
Okay, I got the question all wrong: how many drinks can I have before I can’t perform? I think two for me.
It’s interesting because we went to go see LCD Soundsystem at one of their Brooklyn Steel shows and James Murphy is just on the wine, he has his own wine roadie just refilling his cup.
I love him. I’m just like ‘Who are you and where can I get you?’
But then there is this shambolic quality from their shows that we could draw from.
Give me some drinks and see what happens with the tamborine.
Might be good. Might be more vibey.
One of the Knox guys said you’re working on a new song that’s basically like the audio version of taking naked taking selfies out of a limousine’s sunroof?
Wow. Jean literally gave this song to them two days ago.
Yeah I don’t wanna say too much, but as I was writing this song it felt like it didn’t fit in, but it felt really awesome. I had a little writing session with the Knocks a few days ago and was like ‘I think I have a song for you guys,’ and I played it and they were like ‘Hallelujah!’
So get ready to be naked and take photos out of a sun roof.
We’ve seen you guys play here in the summer. Talk a bit about summertime?
I’m just excited for summer. I like the heat. I like humidity, I love hot weather. I am 100% excited.
That makes all of us. Thanks for the chat guys, and best of luck.