Fans of ’80s-style synth and pop music looking for a new take on the tunes of the era should look no further than the Brooklyn-based St. Lucia.
Fronted by South African-born Jean-Philip Grobler, St. Lucia played a show at the Observatory North Park on Oct. 17 following the September release of its most recent album, “Hyperion.”
During the performance, Grobler was suffering from a sprained ankle, yet he was still able to energetically take command of the stage. St. Lucia’s set was accented by bright LED screens flashing various images and colors, and the upbeat music bounced through the audience, enlivening everyone it touched.
Show opener The Night Game — a new wave, alternative rock band from Boston — warmed up the audience with strong notes of ‘80s rock nostalgia.
Set to a bold lightshow reminiscent of Lisa Frank planners, the band had the audience bopping away and singing along to covers like Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime” interspersed with original music. Songs like “American Nights” reflected ‘80s love songs, and “The Outfield” could just as easily be performed by Journey.
While lead singer Martin Johnson takes a slight detour from the pop punk-emo roots of his band Boys Like Girls, he plays the part of the ‘80s rockstar well.
While recording the 11-track “Hyperion,” Grobler said ensuring St. Lucia made decisions that its members truly stood behind helped to create an album the band feels is unique and is proud of.
“I really feel like we just made our best album, and it’s mostly because we said no to a lot of writing sessions,” Grobler said in an interview with The Daily Aztec. “We said no to a lot of things that maybe the label wanted to do or our manager wanted us to do, and sort of really listened to and relied on ourselves. To me, that’s how you make something unique and special.”
By saying no, Grobler said the band was able to create an album that reflected the sound it was aiming for.
“We’re almost becoming more and more ourselves as time goes on — not that we’ll ever necessarily reach the pinnacle of ‘being ourselves,’” Grobler said.
Influenced by artists like Michael Jackson, Prince and Radiohead, along with traditional African music, Grobler said he strives to emulate ever-evolving musicians like Madonna or Radiohead.
“There’s a lot of random stuff I listen to,” Grobler said. “The similarities that I see between that sort of strain of artists is that it always seems like they’re reaching beyond the genre confines they’re put in.”
Along with Grobler, St. Lucia is comprised of his wife Patti Beranek (backup vocals, keyboards and percussion), drummer Dustin Kaufman, Nick Paul (keyboards and synthesizers) and Ross Clark on the bass guitar.
After 12 years of making music and touring together, Grobler said working with his wife has become a seamless aspect of their lives. In fact, it has been a great way to travel and spend time with one another.
“We’ve been (performing together) for so long that we don’t really see a difference or a separation,” Grobler said. “I feel like we’re fortunate to do what we love. It’s kind of like our ‘work life’ and ‘normal life’ sort of blends into one.”
Beranek and Grobler brought their 11-month-old son along with them on their recent six week-long tour. Though he said it was a little difficult touring with their son, Grobler believes traveling will benefit him as he grows older.
“A lot of babies his age go through this thing they call ‘stranger danger’ where they kind of become a bit scared of people they don’t know or see on a daily basis, but every day he sees different people or he’s in a totally different place,” Grobler said. “I think it’s really good for his development, but we’ll see, maybe it will really mess him up, but I don’t think so.”
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