This week, Philly folk-punk duo (and one of our recent favorites) Girlpool released one of the year’s best debut albums, Before the World Was Big. On it, Harmony Tividad and Cleo Tucker prove that all you need is two guitars, two chords, and two harmonizing voices, assuming you have a lot to say and an interesting way of saying it. Indeed the teenaged musicians do, and on a matter they’re uniquely qualified to speak on: yearning for childhood simplicity.
As these two stand at the gates of adulthood (and oftentimes call bullshit on the world), they look back and say, “I just miss how it felt standing next to you wearing matching dresses before the world was big.” Moving forward with music requires them to face the realities of growing up more quickly than their peers who went the typical college route, but these raw songs are a way of dragging their feet. Tividad and Tucker brim with optimism even in the face of skepticism about the world, and celebrate the power of friendship as a means for coping. Atop punk melodies (imagine early Talking Heads doing campfire songs) and layers of haunting harmonies, they sing about picking cherries and consider how strange it is to be anything at all, to paraphrase Jeff Mangum.
Tividad and Tucker are childhood friends who moved to Philadelphia last year after being growing up in Los Angeles. They’re on tour at the moment with Waxahatchee, their fellow Philly transplant and staple in the local female-driven rock scene there. Given the nature of Before the World Was Big, we checked in with the duo about early memories attached to music.
“Imagination is a state of mind that is easily neglected when participating in a fast-paced society,” they write. “Imagination and creativity felt accessible in a different kind of way when we were young. Creating ejects us with the same kind of vibrancy that our imagination can deliver.”
In my room I used to jump on my mini trampoline listening to “Wild Thing” by Tone-Loc. My mom bought me a clean Tone-Loc CD ‘cause I told her “I loved the beat.” I liked to wear my sleeveless Spongebob T-shirt and play the CD loudly through my purple boombox. I also had the Phil Collins Tarzan soundtrack. I enjoyed re-enacting the plot in my bedroom. With focus I’d explore my bedroom low to the ground. I hid under my desk to the song “You’ll Be In My Heart” and pretended I was the mother ape.
Listening to “No One’s Really Beautiful” by Jude, driving down Sunset Boulevard with my mom was a huge mark of my childhood. “This guy’s great — no one knows about him,” my mom would tell me with the windows down. “I’m an iceball,” she’d sing over “I’m an asshole” to mute the cuss word in the song. My dad would drive me to school in the morning and play me Deep Purple and Styx and quiz me on the different types of drum beats. “Is that a bounce beat? Train beat?” My parents’ varying tastes helped me explore. My favorite record when I was 7 was ABBA’s Gold. I’d jump on my bed while a BBQ was happening outside blasting “Lay All Your Love on Me” until I had to go outside, winded, and “be social.”