“It’s pretty weird, this record”, the guy behind the counter told me when I bought I, Gemini, the debut album from Let’s Eat Grandma. Of course, the band themselves know this all too well. The lyrics “And there’s something weird in my head / And there’s something strange in my mind” ring out on ‘Rapunzel’.
The artwork, full of trippy purples and pink swirly waves, illustrates a playful psychedelic experiment of surreal sounds and outlandish lyrics.
Let’s Eat Grandma are Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth, both seventeen, from Norwich; and two teenagers released I, Gemini, on Transgressive this year. The two multi-instrumentalists play drums, synths, guitars, recorders, a ukulele, a saxophone, a glockenspiel, even a mandolin.
The vibe is sometimes Tudor court music, sometimes sea-shanty, often electro-pop banger. The pair both sing as well as making use of rap and sprechgesang. In song, their voices are ethereal. Their vocals meander around pulsating synth drives and tinkering piano melodies.
All these influences form a thrilling soundscape. Some tracks are so catchy it’s irritating; nearly all are nothing short of bizarre.
In some moments – like in the first couple of minutes of first track ‘Deep Six Textbook’ – the outcome is pure tranquillity. But in others it is odd and eery. A deafening scream rings out towards the end of ‘Sleep Song’ and the “oohs” which begin ‘Welcome to the Treehouse Part 1’ are uncomfortably hypnotic. A cosmic breakdown in ‘Chocolate Fudge Cake’ is cosmic: all synths and whirls.
Most striking is the way in which they turn the fun – they’re teenagers, after all – into the macabre. Let’s Eat Grandma were thirteen or fourteen when they wrote most of these songs, a fact which gives reason to the fairy tale-like nature of many of the tracks, and which adds suspicion to the darkness of many others. “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair” is no straightforward child’s tale when it becomes a harrowing call over minor arpeggios. “I googled it, but not even Google understands”, isn’t merely a grievance of modern technology, but the result of trying to figure out what to do when the voices in your head come calling.
At Latitude Festival in July, the tent in which Let’s Eat Grandma played overflowed with intrigued ears. The songs could have been transported from outer space, blown unconsciously into this atmosphere and brought to the crowd in some psychedelic dream. Their sets are choreographed with panache. Walton and Hollingworth start with their heads hanging, hands up only to bash out dissonant chords on keyboard, wildly curly hair splayed everywhere. In time to the beat, the pair raise their heads up and down in a puppet-like motion.
I, Gemini’s promotion includes speculation that Walton and Hollingworth are telepathic.
As they incorporate playground clapping games and turns and spins into their set, falling onto the floor before steadily rising again, it seems these two girls couldn’t be more mentally in sync. Adding to the whimsical nature of this whole show, neither musician ever fully engages with the audience. They seem to exist in a bubble, acting out personas while onstage. It is only at the very end of their set, when they look directly at the crowd and bow slightly, that they seem to realise an audience’s presence at all.
But this is an act that isn’t at all pretentious. It’s entertaining and it proves Let’s Eat Grandma’s willingness to experiment with music and with identity. There is a youthful fun in dipping fingers into all sorts of genres and musical possibilities. Theirs is a sound as wonderful as it is weird.