Words by:
Photography: Nick Walker
Hair: Hadia Kabir
Makeup: Eden Lattanzio

The first thing that strikes you as you approach Avery Tucker’s home, nestled away in a residential area of the Hollywood Hills, is the smell of jasmine and honeysuckle. Tucker is stood at the door, both to greet me and to keep his dog, Dizzy, from running out. After ushering me in, he calls out to his best friend and bandmate Harmony Tividad – who lives in a cottage just down the path, where Tucker used to live. Tucker is dressed in a navy top and paint-splattered cargo pants, and Tividad is wearing an oversized grey hoodie over the band’s latest merch: a t-shirt that reads ‘GASLIGHT GATEKEEP GIRLPOOL’.

Avery wears: Shirt: Vintage Fire Dept, Trousers: Vintage Abercrombie
Harmony wears: Hoodie: 85nyc Process Diana, Skirt: Heavn, Trousers: Vintage Jane Doe

Spend any amount of time in the company of Tucker and Tividad and you’ll notice their closeness. They seem to always be touching and talk about each other with such familiarity that one often ends up answering questions on behalf of the other. The pair curl up together on the sofa, tired from a long day of band practice ahead of an upcoming SXSW performance, but still eager to talk. Their feet intertwine, and Tucker catches a glimpse of Tividad’s split toe socks – “Harmony! Your socks are so silly!” he laughs. It’s hard to imagine that anyone else could enter such a close-knit dynamic, but for their upcoming fourth album, Forgiveness, the pair enlisted the help of a talented outsider: Los Angeles producer Yves Rothman, who has previously worked with artists such as Miya Folick, Banoffee and Yves Tumor.

“We showed him what we were going after and he saw both of us so clearly,” Tividad says of the decision. “It’s an undertaking for both of us to get creative satisfaction out of the same project, because we’re different people with strong personalities. It’s like trying to make two people orgasm the same way…”

“Or at the same time,” adds Tucker.

Avery wears: Shirt: Vintage Fire Dept, Trousers: Vintage Abercrombie
Harmony wears: Hoodie: 85nyc Process Diana, Skirt: Heavn, Trousers: Vintage Jane Doe

Tividad continues: “It’s a very specific feat, and Yves had to feel just as good.” They shoot a smile at each other in contented agreement over their metaphor, diamond tooth gems glistening in the sun.

Girlpool’s early work was a deeply collaborative undertaking, from writing to production. Frequently, their adolescent voices were indistinguishable from one another as they sang in lockstep over simple guitars, barely more than two chords. But as the duo have grown, they’ve learned to disentangle from each other long enough to explore their own feelings during the songwriting process. “We built Girlpool to make songs together. Then it became a pillar of support – supporting that person to say what they need to say,” explains Tucker. “It’s familial. It feels like doing it with someone that knows and understands you, and is looking out for you.”

Girlpool have always seemed to sit somewhere between a band and an experiment in telepathy, their voices and aspirations blending together with a palpable intuition. The two became friends and co-creators from the moment they met at downtown LA all-ages DIY venue The Smell, in 2012. Their shouty, bratty vocals about making out and growing up over rough-edged guitars – with echoes of Modest Mouse, if they were two teens from LA – gained them critical acclaim, and their 2015 debut album Before the World Was Big was a 24-minute quiet storm of existentialism. Powerplant, which arrived two years later, continued to explore the fear of loss that makes up so much of the anxiety of being alive. 2019’s What Chaos is Imaginary saw the introduction of a new musical dynamic, with songs written separately for the first time, and Tucker beginning to explore the new registers of his voice after transitioning (Tucker came out as a trans man in 2017). The album surveyed what it means to change and mature as a person while ultimately staying the same, simultaneously expanding the band’s sound but retaining its DIY essence. Forgiveness is a fully realised product of that vision, and of the duo themselves.

Avery wears: Shirt & trousers: Vintage Moschino, Shoes: Nike
Harmony wears: Jumper: Heavn, Skirt: Vintage, Shoes: Runway Marc Jacobs

Despite the hermetic closeness at the heart of the project, Girlpool’s creative universe is one that embraces the notion of flux in a way that few artists manage. Compared to their musical debut, the pair are almost unrecognisable both visually and sonically. Of course, the changes that take place between youth and adulthood are always profound, and Tividad and Tucker have both undergone dramatic transformations since they first signed to Wichita in 2014 off the back of a home cassette recording uploaded to Bandcamp. Early Girlpool performances show two awkward teenagers visibly uncomfortable in front of the camera – in stark contrast to the confident, direct stares on the cover of Forgiveness. On the latter, Tucker glares at the camera through black contact lenses, chin held high, as Tividad, a vision of powerful femininity, holds him protectively from behind. I mention that they both seem like much fuller versions of themselves now. “Once I started to feel better, it opened a lot of doors, because for the first time I could just allow myself to be myself,” says Tividad of her battles with anxiety and chronic illness. “I was a loser. I was an academic musical theatre kid – it was not cool, and it was hard to not be cool in LA. It took a long time for me to learn how to be myself because I felt so lost and ostracised.”

Tucker interjects, self-assuredly laughing: “I think when you get to a certain age, you’re like, ‘Oh, wait, it’s actually cooler to just be yourself, and not what you think you should be.’”

“It’s an undertaking for both of us to get creative satisfaction out of the same project because we’re different people. It’s like trying to make two people orgasm the same way”

Harmony Tividad

Has the process of making the record helped them feel a sense of kindness towards their younger selves? “When I’m writing a song, I’m opening a door to a feeling. My process is to explore all of it, even the things that you’re afraid of admitting, or feel uncomfortable,” Tucker admits. “I think forgiving is just allowing. If someone hurt you, to forgive them is to allow that they hurt you. So writing a song is to allow that you feel whatever you feel.”

Tividad nods in agreement. “It’s about self-forgiveness. The internal struggle to move through things you’ve done, but giving yourself the space to allow that, ultimately, you did those things, and that’s OK. You can learn to forgive yourself for putting yourself in [certain situations].”

Avery wears: Shirt: Vintage Fire Dept, Trousers: Vintage Abercrombie
Harmony wears: Hoodie: 85nyc Process Diana, Skirt: Heavn, Trousers: Vintage Jane Doe

Tellingly, themes of repentance, angels, sin and mercy are dotted throughout Forgiveness, lending it an air of quiet, haunting religiosity. Light Up Later, a sparse, theatrical track about shrinking yourself for someone else’s benefit, has a hymnal quality. Album closer Love333 sees the pair harmonising over a church organ, while Junkie explores the intertwining concept of love and addiction in explicitly Christian terminology, peppered with references to confession, prayer and carrying crosses. “I’ll repent, maybe not/ Hold a candle up to God,” sings Tividad over twinkling synths.

“[The songs] are predominantly about trying to transcend the dark parts of myself,” explains Tividad of the songs she wrote on the album. “Overcoming hedonism or inner demons… most of my songs are an unpacking of, ‘Why do I keep not loving myself, or prioritising that I can be loved, over pleasure-seeking behaviour?’” she ponders, lying back on a huge c-shaped sofa, surrounded by various crystals.

“I’ve always written songs about my relationships with other people, but not a ton about my relationship to myself…” says Tucker. “I explored my relationship to my masculinity and identity here for the first time,” he reveals, referencing tracks See Me Now and Country Star, specifically. “I was young for a girl/ I was tough/ Now I’m figuring out/ How you see me now,” he wonders over the stripped-back acoustic guitar

“When I’m writing a song, I’m opening a door to a feeling. My process is to explore all of it, even the things that you’re afraid of admitting, or feel uncomfortable”

Avery Tucker

The sense of hard-won self-acceptance that runs through the album’s lyrics is mirrored in the bold, experimental sound. Opener Nothing Gives Me Pleasure explodes with a newly adopted grinding, industrial noise that grates against Tividad’s ethereal voice, as she breathes with an eye-roll: “Do you even want me if I even have to ask/ Break it to me gently with your fingers up my ass.” Dragging My Life into a Dream, a slice of sunny dream-pop, features an accompanying music video steeped in the mythology of the City of Angels: driving around in a convertible, carefree in a white linen suit, eating a burger in the sun, frolicking on the beach.

For Tucker, this scenario was a means of processing a messy period of growth in his life. “For a while, I was, like, with the wind. I came out, and then I started to have to choose stuff, and make good choices. Then I became bummed that I was doing responsible things that weren’t toxic and addictive,” explains Tucker of the song. He’s referring to a past of intense relationship dynamics, the pains of falling in love and the fallout of ego-driven attention-seeking. “Dragging My Life into a Dream was a sweet moment because it allowed me to romanticise a wilder time emotionally. It felt like a healthier expression of chaos.”

Avery wears: Shirt: Vintage YSL
Harmony wears: Dress: 80s vintage

Los Angeles itself is also a heavily felt presence on the record, both in the form of hazy soundscapes and soaring melodies, and darker, more daring production that evokes the less palatable aspects of Hollywood. “LA’s trash but filled with diamond candy,” harmonise Tividad and Tucker over the gentle strums of Violet, neatly capturing their love-hate relationship with their hometown.

“For me, songwriting is so tied up in sentimentality and nostalgia, and LA gives me what I need in that department,” says Tividad, who grew up a few streets away from where they live now. “It’s a complicated balance, and when I initially wanted to leave, there was so much negative energy and so many memories tied to LA – I felt like I couldn’t look at this any longer. I’ve reprocessed narratives from childhood and it feels positive to be here now.”

To learn to love LA they first had to leave. In 2015 they embarked on a brief but formative stint living on the East Coast shortly after the band released their first album. In New York they hung out with bands in the same scene, and encountered people who were non-binary and queer, which was eye-opening for Tucker. “That helped me feel like I could not be feminine. Like I could be in Girlpool but not be feminine,” he says. Eventually, Tividad and Tucker returned to their hometown and leaned into the inspiration that it brought. “You digest what you’re around, and [in] LA, you want to listen to really specific stuff to get in the LA energy,” says Tividad of their musical influences for the album. They both mention the 80s, Madonna, Roxy Music, and, of course, the modern patron saint of California, Lana Del Rey. Tucker plays Roxette’s Listen to Your Heart from his phone, and Tividad’s eyes widen in recognition. “It’s so poignant. It’s so good!” she exclaims. “I love power ballads. They touch the feeling.”

Avery wears: Shirt & trousers: Vintage Moschino, Shoes: Nike
Harmony wears: Jumper: Heavn, Skirt: Vintage, Shoes: Runway Marc Jacobs

Faultline, the introduction to this new era, could be described as a Girlpool power ballad. It alludes to the seismically tenuous physical landscape of their home state, but also to the internal tensions they have each overcome to get to the place they are in now. “Every week keeps slipping by/ In this imitation paradise, sings Tividad in a forlorn, dream-like vocal, perfectly capturing the peculiar dichotomy of this seasonless, perpetually sunny place located on a geological rift. “And I live at this faultline/ Between the edge of solitude and hope/ Will I die at this faultline?/ Between the edge of entropy and woe.” Faultlines, and how we deal with the vulnerability and uncertainty of a life lived on them, is the question at the core of Forgiveness. For Tucker and Tividad, every Girlpool release is a totem of growth, and enshrined in this one are two people who have learned to harness this unusual conflict and transform it into power.

Back at the house, as if on cue, night begins to creep in through the cracks of the front door, and the pair mindlessly deliberate what to have for dinner. It’s a strikingly intimate moment to witness, as they amble around the room in unknowing synchronicity. Before I leave, Tucker says one last thing: “I think we all seek to feel moved in life and feel connected. It’s scary to go out on the line, to show yourself – but that’s what being here is all about.”

Forgiveness is out on 29 April via ANTI-

This cover story is taken from Issue 130. Get your copy now via the online store