Norwich duo Let’s Eat Grandma are NME’s New Act Of The Week. David Renshaw meets them in London to find out how a band who are still at college have become one of 2016’s most hyped newcomers.
Let’s Eat Grandma’s debut album ‘I, Gemini’ is available from today (June 10) on Apple Music, a week ahead of release
It’s the middle of March and teenage duo Let’s Eat Grandma (LEG for short) are playing live at The Forge, a tiny venue in Camden. Jenny Hollingworth and Rosa Walton bow in front of the sold-out audience and let their Tangled-style hair tumble the floor. They stand completely still for a moment before moving silently across the stage and playing a keyboard in unison. It’s a striking entrance – but nothing compared to what follows, as the pair offer a window into their idiosyncratic friendship by way of lashings of off-kilter saxophone and recorder solos.
A month later, Jenny and Rosa (aged 17 and 16 respectively) travel from their homes in Norwich to sit down in an east London hotel. Like many newcomers to the capital, they’re taken aback at how busy the city is (“Nobody stops and takes a minute” – Jenny) but are excited to shoot the video for their single ‘Eat Shiitake Mushrooms’ here. That song is taken from their debut album, ‘I, Gemini’, which sounds impossibly fresh and veers from pastoral folk to droning synth-pop. So, how did these two college students who everyone mistakes for sisters end up here?
“We never considered it as a career,” Jenny says of the pair’s unsigned days. “We were just doing it for the hell of it.” They’re both studying music at college now but found themselves square pegs in Norwich’s music scene. “There’s a lot of young bands in Norwich,” Jenny explains. “Indie rock stuff, a bit of grime. When everyone else is making that sort of music and you’re not, you can feel alienated. We didn’t know how to be anything but true to ourselves though.”
That pursuit of honesty has led to one of the most unique, refreshing and downright weird albums of 2016. Recorded partly in their school holidays two years ago, the album was finally finished earlier this year. It’s a record of kaleidoscopic influence. ‘Eat Shiitake Mushrooms’, named after a piece of graffiti on their college wall, is brimming with ideas and includes a rap about getting bubblegum stuck to your trainers. Debut single ‘Deep Six Textbook’, meanwhile, is a more doom-laden affair that sees the girls submerged in water in its gloomy video. Neither sounds anything like the rest of the record, which skitters between styles while remaining distinctly true to Jenny and Rosa’s unique vision.
“We call it experimental sludge pop,” Rosa says, though she insists that she doesn’t like genres. Instead, she thinks of their music like the playlists they make for one another. “We want the album to express every part of ourselves. You can’t do that when you’re writing a lot of songs in the same style,” Jenny adds. Her minimalist themed ‘Midnight Thinking’ playlist is her latest addiction. “We want the album to be as spontaneous as our live sets seem,” she concludes. “Our creative process is very much ‘Go for it’.”
Claiming they take more influence from “news stories about weird types of fungus” and the Humans Of New York Facebook page than what other musicians are doing, the only album they will admit to loving is Frank Ocean’s ‘Channel Orange’. Instead they chase “peng-alicious” melodies and watch horror films and serial killer documentaries to get inspired. They even make films themselves and want to keep that up alongside the music. “Rosa used to put on a blonde wig and a hat and we’d pretend to spy on the neighbours,” says Jenny of their big screen adventures. “Then I had to try and track her down.”
The pair are best friends and don’t so much finish each other’s sentences as regularly say the same thing at exactly the same time (Rosa ends the interview ‘jinxed’ by her bandmate). They admit their closeness can cause problems with others, not that they care. “Together we’re misfits but separately we’re not,” Rosa deduces. “We can’t have friendships where it’s us two and other people. We’re just in our own world.”
Not even their own families always get what they’re doing. “Most people are supportive but my auntie doesn’t get it,” laughs Rosa. “She says, ‘It sounds jerky’. They’re interested in what we’re doing but they don’t understand the music.”
Jenny also knows that their music is divisive, reasoning, “Some people are just thinking, ‘Is this really good, or is it shit?’”
Ultimately though, like the pressure of releasing a debut album a year after taking their GCSE’s, they just laugh it off. “When we read negative things online we’re just like, “LOL”, says Rosa. “We don’t take anything too seriously.”
LET’S EAT GRANDMA: THE DETAILS
Buy It: Debut album ‘I, Gemini’ is released on June 17
Live: The Great Escape in Brighton on May 19-21, Electrowerkz in London on June 1, Latitude in Suffolk on July 14-17
Fact: Rosa’s favourite horror film is Shutter Island