Girlpool is just waking up on a sunny morning in their hometown of Los Angeles when I connect with the duo over Zoom. Avery Tucker is still in bed, sipping coffee from a neon orange mug that his girlfriend just handed him. Bandmate Harmony Tividad joins the call from her own sun-dappled bed, coming out of a hazy morning of binge watching her boyfriend’s childhood home video tapes.
I wonder whether they have their own home videos. “Harmony does,” Tucker pipes up. Tividad grins, a tooth-gem glinting through, saying her parents are obsessed with documenting things. Her mom is a big Instagram Stories fan. Tucker says his parents put down their camcorder after a failed attempt to capture the birth of his sister. “The camera ran out of battery right when my mom was delivering. They got so aggravated with cameras, so they just kind of stopped,” Tucker laughs. “Just very American Jewish frazzled camera people.”
I joke that they should recreate the missing half of the video, and it turns out, they kind of almost did. The music video for ‘Violet,’ a raw ballad off their newest album, Forgiveness, was almost a “live birth video,” Tucker says. The two toyed with the idea from their friend Julian Klincewicz, who directed the music video for Forgiveness’ single “Faultline,” but it wasn’t to be.
Besides, the band had already gained acclaim by conjuring up images of childhood with their debut album, Before the World Was Big, back in 2015. They’re a little bit over being forever associated with that chapter of their lives and discography. At this point, they’re over being over with it. The new album, Forgiveness, is largely about making peace with their old selves and the old music they may no longer fully see themselves in. “It’s about allowing myself to have past iterations of myself and not resenting those past iterations,” says Tividad. “It’s an internal forgiveness.”
On the cover of Forgiveness, Tividad’s arms are draped around Tucker’s shoulders in an almost sibling-like embrace. Much of their recent album art pictures them in this tender, protective stance. The pair’s closeness has been what’s made Girlpool special from the start, beginning with belted harmonies that became their early signature sound. That shifted when Tucker came out as a trans man in 2017, beginning a transition that changed his voice and in turn, began to push the boundaries of what Girlpool could be. “My voice was out for the count for literally almost two years,” says Tucker. “I couldn’t sing on tour and it was really frustrating. I was upset at shows, it was really hard.”
Their last record, 2019’s What Chaos Is Imaginary, saw Tucker warming up to a new voice that was constantly shifting under his feet. The duo strayed from harmonizing and began writing and singing songs separately. The sound pulsing underneath, however, was not a huge departure from their previous albums. In contrast, the sound of Forgiveness ventures into new territory. The jagged electronics of songs like ‘Nothing Gives Me Pleasure’ and moody, pulsing beat of ‘Lie Love Lullaby’ usher in an exciting era of Girlpool. Paired with Tucker’s newfound handle on his Elliott Smith-esque voice, it’s a new thrill.
“I transitioned into a boy and now I’m transitioning into what it means to be a man, kind of,” says Tucker. “I thought that it would just transition, but I continue to transition in new ways. I think that’s not just the case with people that are literally transitioning, it’s all people.”
As Tucker has grown into a new masculinity, Tividad plays with the construction of her own femininity in the aesthetics of Forgiveness. In the video for ‘Nothing Gives Me Pleasure,’ her face is pillowed with prosthetics, her bust pushed up to her chin. It’s done in part to playfully mirror the norms of her hometown, but with no hate to plastic surgery, she stresses. Tucker chimes in, “This band is obviously not against making changes to your body!”
“I grew up in LA but I did not feel like I belonged in LA,” says Tividad. “I felt not as feminine as other people, or pretty, or attractive in conventional ways. I did feel like I had a lot to heal in terms of my own femininity.”
The atmosphere of LA seeps further into the record, most notably in ‘Faultline,’ where Tividad uses the impending doom of “the big one” as a metaphor for the delicate way her emotional life hangs in the balance. “LA’s trash but filled with diamond candy,” Tucker sings on ‘Violet.’ Even though the two were writing songs separately, their streams of consciousness often run off into the same pool.
Like the swirling waters their band’s name rhymes with, Tucker and Tividad’s collaboration is never stagnant, always changing, and ready to suck you into unexpected new depths with every spin. Girlpool remains as gorgeously symbiotic as ever, not in spite of enduring years of constant change, but because of it.