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“Don’t break your leg!”: Let’s Eat Grandma’s anarchic, eccentric live shows

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When it comes to live shows, Lets Eat Grandma dont mess around. Jenny Hollingworth and Rosa Walton, both 20, open with a deadpan performance, their heads bent to the ground, long hair draping over their synths. They only break this eerie stance to shout one greeting to the crowd, before dropping their heads again.
Once their upper bodies resume a normal position, the band suss out how their crowd is faring. “I like watching peoples facial expressions when were playing,” says Walton when I speak to the duo, who have released two albums of weird and wonderful electro-pop, following their afternoon set at British Summer Time at Londons Hyde Park. “I like seeing if theyre getting enticed in or not, if they walk away again.”
Let's Eat Grandma are back onstage for the summer, playing festivals including Glastonbury and End of the Road after cancelling a string of US spring dates following the death of Hollingworth's boyfriend, Billy Clayton, in April.
The one-day Hyde Park festival, which is sponsored by Barclaycard, feels a mismatched setting for the band, whose very existence is at odds with the usual realms of everyday capitalist possibility, and whose music thrives on an otherworldly sisterhood. Within minutes of entering the arena, I am offered a complimentary can of alcohol-free Heineken; ten metres later, its a can of Coke Zero. I put these down to stand in front of Lets Eat Grandmas stage, and find a spectral calm, as pop meets psych-folk in an enchanting playground of synths.
Hollingworth and Walton grew up in Norwich and have been making music together since they were 13, between them playing keys, synths, guitar and saxophone. Many of the songs that featured on their 2016 debut album,<em> I, Gemini</em>, were written when they were just 14. When, just after the records release, I approached the counter of an Oxford record shop with<em> I, Gemini</em> in my hand, the man behind the counter gave me a funny look. “Thats a really weird album, you know”, he said, as if I should be wary of buying it. I bought it anyway, and sunk, willingly, into its nursery-rhyme-like tracks titled “Eat Shiitake Mushrooms”, “Rapunzel” and “Chimpanzees in Canopies.” I was spellbound, enamoured with Hollingworth and Waltons wonderfully girlish voices, mystical lyrics and unlikely recorder solos. Their music was the soundtrack to a dark fantasy dreamland.
“Quite a lot of that representation was engineered by us”, says Walton, when I ask what they think of the language the media use to define their sound, and the descriptors I also find myself falling back on. “I remember our management, ages ago, asking us to send a list of words that we wanted people to associate with us, and a lot of them were the words you mentioned there,” she says.
“I like our Spotify description”, adds Hollingworth, pleased that Lets Eat Grandma have finally been understood. “It just talks about things that our album is like – ringtones, train journeys, old record collections, PC Music. Im like yeah, fair enough, thats definitely what <em>Im All Ears</em> is.”
It's true that <em>Im All Ears</em> – their second album, released in June last year – is all of these things. It is also a collection of slick pop tunes that embrace catchy electro rhythms and singalong choruses, no matter how obscure some of their lyrics remain. It is a record that saw Hollingworth and Walton collaborate with the esteemed electronic producer SOPHIE and the Horrors Faris Badwan for “Hot Pink” and “Its Not Just Me”, two of the albums jump-start pop tracks. It is a release that won Album of the Year at the 2018 <em>Q</em> Awards, garnered a glowing five-star <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/music/2018/jun/29/lets-eat-grandma-review-bold-intense-pop-that-gets-under-the-skin" rel="noreferrer noopener" target="_blank"><em>Guardian</em> review</a> and earned an impressive 8.6/10 from <em><a href="https://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/lets-eat-grandma-im-all-ears/" rel="noreferrer noopener" target="_blank">Pitchfork</a></em>.
“Donnie Darko”, the albums 11-minute-long final track, named for the 2001 sci-fi thriller, closes Lets Eat Grandmas current live sets. Its spaciousness offers lots of opportunity for dancing. “We wrote it with a Boss loop pedal,” explains Hollingworth, “and we couldn't be asked to lean down and press the button to shut the loop off, so we just used to hit it with our feet, and that makes you a bit unstable. One of us fell over once!”
Now, they perform this stumble. The duo start the song lying down, Walton playing guitar on the floor, and slowly clamber up to standing. Then they play out a hand-clapping routine, before they fall down again, limbs flailing, and, a few bars later, come back up to sitting with crossed legs. Here they sit looking out at the crowd, surveying their audience, until their vocal lines demand they rise to reach their microphones, trailing lengthy cords as they bounce around the stage.
“The song is so long that there were parts where we both weren't doing much, so we thought, 'Well, where could we go? Let's have a bit of a mess around with the audience,'” explains Hollingworth who, next, plunges off the stage, not simply stage-diving (“Ive crowd-surfed a few times,” she says, “but that doesnt happen very often”), but getting down onto the ground with the crowd, front and centre, and jumping along to the beat. Festival revellers who havent seen a Lets Eat Grandma show before are rightly amused; those who have are expecting Hollingworths arrival – and know just where to stand so that theyre jumping alongside her.
Its a move that epitomises Lets Eat Grandmas sense of unrelenting fun as well as their tact for musical precision: Hollingworth has to make it back onstage to play her next part, else shell leave Walton stranded solo. Theres the differing height of each stage to take into consideration before jumping too, as well as the condescending remarks of the security staff. “Before we went on, this guy was like, 'Don't hurt yourselves! Don't break your leg!'”, says Walton, rolling her eyes.
“You wouldn't say that to a guy who was jumping off the stage,” Hollingworth points out. “They view us as a bit delicate, like we're going to suddenly snap if we jump.”
This sort of tip-toeing around two young female artists was rife when Lets Eat Grandma first started touring, but both musicians are keen to point out how thats changed since growing a little older, becoming more established, and releasing<em> Im All Ears</em>. “People have treated us with quite a lot more respect and that's been very much appreciated. We definitely didnt have that with the first record, though. It was a really big problem,” says Walton.
“Bad reviews are fine. Criticism is fine. But when it's always about your age, always about you being girls, its infuriating. The worst ones are when they say 'they coul<a href="https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/music-theatre/2019/07/dont-break-your-leg-lets-eat-grandmas-anarchic-eccentric-live-shows" rel="noreferrer noopener" target="_blank"><strong>Read More – Source</strong></a>
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