Let’s Eat Grandma make exuberant psych pop with a sinister undertone. Get to know the duo and watch their new video here
The two members of Let’s Eat Grandma are squeezed into a Skype frame when I call them after a samba drumming workshop at their sixth form. I'm trying to figure out which one is Jenny Hollingworth and which one is Rosa Walton, but I’m reluctant to – they look like identical twins, and in public they’ve hidden behind their long, wavy brown hair. They seem to revel in the mystery, suspending revealing their identities and laughing as they encourage a guessing game. It’s a cat-and-mouse game that involves me trying to catch an answer from them as they continually evade my questions.
Before recording together, Jenny Hollingworth (aged 17) and Rosa Walton’s (16) friendship got no more creative than building treehouses together in Norwich – one of which still exists in Jenny’s back garden, “full of insects” and unused. Friends since infant school, the Norfolk-based teenagers started Let’s Eat Grandma roughly three years ago. Last year, they left high school and celebrated with a well-received performance at Latitude Festival, and released singles on Transgressive Records (home to Foals, Flume, and more) while continuing to study music at college. Next month, they release their beguiling debut album I, Gemini, an album that’s playful and exuberant on the surface but with a notably sinister undertone.
Their most recent single, “Eat Shiitake Mushrooms”, was released last month, which at the time they said is about “how people think they know what someone’s about when they really don’t”. It’s an apt explanation of a song that also defines how inscrutable Let’s Eat Grandma can be in person, and the difficulty in unpacking the knotty lyrics of their songs. This notion is enhanced by its video, which the duo co-directed and conceptualised with Ben Summers. “Our intention was to create a creepy atmosphere at the beginning, similar to the song,” says Hollingworth, “What we tend to do is pay careful attention to how people respond to our music – not so we can see whether people like it or not, but more so that we see how people perceive it. People have often pinned us as quite creepy. A lot of the video presents the imagery within the song, but there are some subtle references to the perceptions that people have about us.”
Watch the video for “Eat Shiitake Mushroom” below, and read on for a short interview with Let’s Eat Grandma about their background, witchcraft, and their debut album.
About what you said about the “Eat Shiitake Mushrooms” video – are you comfortable with the “freak” narrative that surrounds you?
Rosa Walton: Well, I think it’s something we’ve created ourselves.
Have you, therefore, played up to it?
Both: Yeah – that’s the idea.
Jenny Hollingworth: The song is also about expectations of people. We put some subtle things within the imagery. At the beginning of the video we’ve created something creepy, but by the end the scene shows our audience’s reactions in the shop.
Rosa Walton: The man is reacting in a way that shows he’s freaked out by us and we’re reacting to him. It’s as if we’re both on a journey to do something dodgy.
Jenny Hollingworth: Like how we nick a bike, but at the end we’re simply going to buy sweets.
“(The ‘freak’ narrative is) something we’ve created ourselves” — Rosa Walton, Let’s Eat Grandma
Tell me a little about your background before Let’s Eat Grandma. Where you brought up in a musical environment?
Rosa Walton: I think we both made music individually but for me, I only did one singing performance before we formed. None of our parents play music or are musical at all. They all enjoy listening to music. My dad played a lot of David Bowie, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones.
The album isn’t what I expected to hear. It pulls in a lot more genres and moods that haven’t been established by the singles. I’ve read that one of you has a background in jazz.
Jenny Hollingworth: I used to play in a jazz band – playing the saxophone – but I don’t listen to that much jazz music. But I do like some of it. I think my sax style is influenced by other genres; I like a lot of R&B and pop – well, we both do.
What do people of your age define pop music as?
Jenny Hollingworth: To people our age, there’s still a feeling of nostalgia for previous pop. They have a negative view towards (contemporary pop music) and only listen to The Smiths. They’re stuck up about it.
Do you share the same view?
Jenny Hollingworth: There’s a lot of interesting pop music that people who are snobbish about chart music refuse to believe is pop music.
Jenny Hollingworth: The 1975. They’re always saying that they’re pop artists and their audience refuses to believe it. They even made a video mocking it!
The album is influenced by fairy tales and Enid Blyton’s The Faraway Tree series – how did they originate as a starting point for the songs? Are there any other noteworthy influences?
Jenny Hollingworth: I think they were subconscious.
Rosa Walton: Basically, we’re witches, and they tie in with our witchcraft.
Jenny Hollingworth: We find that we subconsciously take in a lot of things that we identify later. We're sponges of our environment; we’re always observing and taking in new information. Our creative process isn’t so much set in stone; we start playing and improvising and we develop from there.
“Basically, we’re witches” — Rosa Walton, Let’s Eat Grandma
Did you feel the need to push against any preconceptions people may have about Let’s Eat Grandma when you recorded the album?
Jenny Hollingworth: It’s something that continues to happen; when you set one thing straight there’s going to be another thing to settle. It’s not about addressing what people say, but more about making up stuff, creating things and seeing how much of it is believed, just for our entertainment.
So what you’re telling me now could be a lie.
Rosa Walton: It might not be just a little white lie, either.
Jenny Hollingworth: For example, Rosa and I are a figment of your imagination.
Rosa Walton: We could just be computer-generated images on your screen.
Jenny Hollingworth: Everybody’s been trying to convince you for weeks that we don’t exist and you’ve ignored them.