To Norwich on the first day of spring — meteorologically speaking, at least, although the freezing weather begs to differ — to take vegan cake with Let’s Eat Grandma.
Rosa Walton, 18, and Jenny Hollingworth, 19, are chuffed that I’ve made the snow-defying effort to travel the 100 miles northeast by train from Liverpool Street.
Courtesy of their critically acclaimed summer 2016 debut album I, Gemini, the coolest teenagers in alt-pop — although these stoutly unpretentious youth would be mortified at that description — have already been around the world (a bit), touring and talking.
But being in their home town, where the singers and multi-instrumentalists both still live with their parents, suits them. Their spellbinding, Angela Carter-goes-electronic songs are fantastically, evocatively otherworldly, yet Rosa and Jenny are Norfolk girls to their core.
“I always feel a bit more relaxed doing an interview here,” says Rosa (nose-ring, stronger East Anglian accent, slightly shyer), and this despite the frigidity of the upstairs room of their favourite vegan café, Ancestors. “Like we’re more in control.”
“This is our space, this is our area,” adds Jenny (skater-girl layers, louder laugh, slightly quippier) in what sounds like an Australian accent, quoting a social media video. Still, don’t go thinking green tea-sippin’ Rosa and Jenny are rural rubes.
Let’s Eat Grandma’s “comeback” single, Hot Pink, co-produced by super-hip LA producer Sophie and The Horrors’ Faris Badwan, is a throbbing blast of cutting-edge R&B that is both thrilling and engaging — the woke lyrical message is one of socio-gender awareness (and also an “appreciation for an underrated colour”).
“It’s about females being objectified by males…” begins Rosa.
“…it’s the possessiveness of some relationships in particular,” adds Jenny. “The power dynamic…”
Rosa: “…even if it’s not a conscious thing or the fault of the guy, because they might not even realise they’re doing it because it’s deeply ingrained in society.”
The band shot the video — night-time cityscapes, the girls running through orange-glowing streets, their faces glitching out — in Shoreditch. So, the nearest neighbourhood to where the Greater Anglia train service arrives in the capital?
“Literally!” hoots Jenny. “We spend literally all our time in north-east London ’cause that’s where the label is, too,” she says of go-getting indie Transgressive (also home to Foals, Johnny Flynn and Gengahr).
“It’s not supposed to be Shoreditch, it’s supposed to be ‘a different place,’” Rosa says mock-portentously. Which is? “Ah, a futurist city? And we’re being glitched as we try and reach the Pink Room.” But they don’t know what happens when they reach the Pink Room, “because that’s the end of the video. Are we gonna get funding for a full film?” wonders Jenny.
Maybe Hackney council could stump up — it might like an advert for Shoreditch’s night time economy.
Jenny: “Yeah, put that out there in the article! Just say everything we like. Are there any Matcha companies reading?”
Rosa: “We’re looking for more musical gear too. We’ve got Yahama, and we’ve just got a free Fender.”
If it’s not already apparent, Rosa and Jenny are best friends, and have been since meeting in reception class when they were four. They complete each other’s sentences, trade in-jokes, share opinions, are equally smart, rock the same thick-tressed haircut and, in photographs, can look almost identical (although in person the differences are more pronounced).
Their symbiotic, insular relationship makes for intriguing, defiantly “other” — but also excitingly welcoming — music. They applaud Transgressive for taking a chance on them when they were mid-teenage schoolgirls about to head off to music college. (They completed their courses at Norfolk’s Access Creative College last year, just as they finished touring I, Gemini. Both got distinctions.)
“A lot of people saw us more as a novelty act in the beginning,” says Jenny, “whereas Transgressive saw us as creative people and just let us do what we want.”
“They had the respect for us even when we were 16,” agrees Rosa. “They treated us as adults.”
And how, after a couple of years of playing in America and Europe and at umpteen summer festivals, are they treated when they come back to Norwich? Well, on the one hand they’re drinking in the same establishments in this city that’s stuffed to the boozy gills with student-friendly pubs. Rosa mentions a circuit of venues they and their peers favour: The Waterfront, Playhouse, Loft, Mischief, Flaunt.
“And some people go to Mercy,” adds Jenny. “But that is seven quid to get into! Do I look like l live in London?”
Rosa: “If you bump into people from school that you haven’t seen for ages, it’s really nice but it can be really weird. I’m thinking, ‘Wow, I have no idea what you’re up to now, but you’re watching me on the internet’.”
Jenny: “I don’t know if this is in my head but sometimes I feel people think I’m standoffish just because we’re in a band. But I’m actually really awkward and shy. I’m like, ‘make friends with me!’”
Details on their second album are massively top-secret. But they recorded it in Manchester, it doesn’t feature any “collabs”, it’s due out in June and it will be preceded by some more singles (“How many? A number between one and 20”). It’s also being trailed by a special London show tonight, at which this all-round-creative pair of performers will also unveil all manner of fresh visuals.
More broadly, they want Let’s Eat Grandma Album #2 to evoke specific feelings. For example, offers Jenny: “This song reminds me of when I went round to my grandma’s house in 2018 summer and we were eating pies.”
“Or, if someone hears a lyric,” continues Rosa, “and goes: ‘Oh my God, me too!’”
Warming cups of Matcha tea at Norfolk’s Ancestors drained (are you reading, potential brand partners?), it’s time to leave.
Before we part, I achieve the unthinkable: reduce these brilliant young women to silence. All I did was ask each to describe the other in three words.
Rosa, asked first, struggles. Jenny refuses to jump in, “’cause I don’t know what direction she’s going to go in….”
Eventually, Rosa has it: “Absolute massive tw*t.”
The gauntlet is thrown, and Jenny responds in kind. “Struggles with politeness,” she announces to cackles all round.
Hot Pink (Transgressive) is out now. Let’s Eat Grandma play Lightbox, SW8 (0203 242 0040; lightboxlondon.net) tonight.