Grove: “You’ve got to poke the rage button, but direct it somewhere once you have”

Each week in First On, we introduce a shit-hot artist you’ll see opening the bill for your favourite act. The Bristol artist will take their dirty bangers – a mix of dancehall, jungle, rave and beyond – to Glastonbury for four sets in the festival’s most incendiary corners. Things are going to get naughty…

The last year has been “balls to the wall crazy” for Grove, aka Bristol-based producer, vocalist, DJ and performer Beth Griffin. They’ve gone from creating adrenaline-fuelled dark and dirty bangers – a fusion of dancehall, bashment, jungle and more that fearlessly tackles politics, sexuality and race – in their Bristol base, to getting out and booking upwards of 100 live shows; four more will come later this month at Glastonbury.

“I never for one minute thought that that would be happening now,” they say, having envisioned it would take several years to tick off the bucket list. Instead, they’re “very blessed and lucky” to be playing four different shows on stages in Glasto’s most exhilarating and raviest corners. The shows will come a month after Grove played their first main stage festival slot at Bristol’s Love Saves The Day, a surreal experience that will live long in the memory.

“The weather was beautiful for the act before us. 10 minutes before our set it started tipping down with rain… but we love the drama!” Grove laughs. Making the best of a wash-out, they and “bass demon” partner EJ:AKIN, worked with the elements, and, to their surprise, people stayed. “It was worth getting ourselves and our equipment totally soaked,” Grove adds. “It felt like everyone there had this beautiful, cleansing, bass-infused spiritual experience.”

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It’s an apt summary of their live show; Grove’s gigs gleefully party in the face of obstacles and challenges. They recently joined punk duo Bob Vylan on their UK tour playing to a “really varied audience – young punks, older punks, the [BBC] 6 Music crowd, queer people, anarchists – who were fully up for it”.

They’ve done all of this as independent artist, and ‘Feed My Desire, their “passionate, cheeky and queer” thumper currently sits on the B List at 6 Music. Retaining their DIY attitude and only working with close friends when it comes to releases is an approach they are likely to continue:  Grove is sceptical about record labels and their impact; “I want to understand what they fully do, before signing rights away forever”. Preferring the process of having a distributor involved, they say “it’s about working smart and getting the best advice and the right team”.

One of those extended family members is their friend Lynks, whom they created the underground anthem ‘BBB’ with. Made during the UK’s second lockdown, the track was “originally meant to be a hyperbole of being the best in the world at something. Then I spat the verse and I was like, ‘park on double yellows, I’m the biggest bad bitch’, and Lynks was like ‘that’s it’! Although musically we’re not too similar, there’s a thread running through it: weird and just trying stuff out.”

Grove is keen to collaborate more when it comes to future releases. “Because my first EP, ‘Queer + Black’, was so insular, I’ve got a few solid people who I really love working with in the studio and bringing that element into it is going to be fun.” Alongside working on a new EP, Grove wants the “energetic build in my life to be reflected in the music” and is amassing tracks for an upcoming debut album: “I’m just constantly chipping away at it and conceptually aligning what I want that to look like”.

Grove
Credit: Khali Ackford

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Future plans are still being worked on, but they want to get their message out here and now and “to help highlight political issues and figure out, together, how to build towards change”. One of tangible ways to do this is by encouraging audiences to join a union in whatever their field may be. They’re in the process of doing so themselves and plan to bring leaflets down to their shows to put on the merch stand: “It’s commonplace to do at punk gigs, so it’s about learning from these already established, different cultures and bringing it together”.

This idea of taking real action is something many artists preach about, but not all follow through on. “There’s a lot of talk about it,” Grove says. “But it’s like, ‘we’re all angry in a room, now what’?” And where are their frustrations aimed? The “shit UK government; everyone’s just fatigued with it,” they say. Instead of looking at the negatives, Grove is focusing on the “collectivisation of what we can do”, citing going to protests, joining unions and  community-building activities. “Obviously, you’ve got to do a good mixture of both, but that’s my MO. You’ve got to poke the rage button!” they say, “but, then, once you have, you’ve got a responsibility to direct it somewhere.”

Grove plays Glastonbury Festival next week (June 23 – 26)

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