It’s October 18, 2016. Later…with Jools Holland is set to air its weekly mix of live performances by both iconic and up-and-comers on the international music scene.
Tonight, squeezed between KT Tunstall and The Temptations (of “My Girl” and “Papa was a Rolling Stone” fame,) it seems that somebody left the back door open and a pair of girls who could easily pass for teenage versions of The Shining twins appear suddenly, almost as apparitions, on stage 3.
Armed with only a bedroom-appropriate Yamaha PSR-373 keyboard (we’re looking at you, Costco,) girl #1 launches the toy’s built-in, 4/4 rock drum track, accompanied by a child’s game-like hand clapping session, and immediately captivates the massive in-person and home-viewing audience.
The girls are not the twins from The Shining. They aren’t twins at all. They aren’t even related. They are, in fact, Norwich, England’s own Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth, and they are Let’s Eat Grandma (a clever nod to the importance of punctuation within written language.)
It’s said that provided enough time, pets and their owners can evolve in appearance to resemble each other. Walton and Hollingworth, 16 and 17 respectively, have been courting this notion since their friendship formed at the age of four over a mutual love of drawing snails. Tonight the evolution of their artistic merit is on full display as the opening notes of “Deep Six Textbook” ring through the studio and settle into the part of the brain in which the earworm patiently awaits its dinner.
“Deep Six Textbook” (‘deep six’ referring to the early 20th century naval term for 6 fathoms – a depth at which something tossed overboard would be impossible to recover, and, in recent times, simply meaning to permanently throw away) immediately evokes indisputable notions – these girls know how to write a song, they know how to play their instruments, and they perform like seasoned veterans.
Spacious and sparse, the synth-driven track offers enough room between notes for Lorde to comfortably move in, lie down, and take notes. Lyrically, although poetic and subtle, the song explores expected territory for a couple of outsider teenage girls: fleeing the mundane, insurmountable boredom of school. Occupied by daydreams of revolt and potential F.O.M.O., together they hatch their imaginary escape plan, claiming they’re heading straight to the East coast, it just got better. The ocean doesn’t care, the waves will curl our hair, before turning the finger on themselves, collectively reducing their lack of action and asking why didn’t we go?
Why, why, why?
The lead single from the duo’s first LP, I, Gemini, “Deep Six Textbook” wanders through hypnotic, down-tempo synth and beautiful vocal harmonies until we think we have the girls – and song – figured out. Then, just because her vocal duties are finished and she can, Hollingworth produces a saxophone and proceeds to caringly lower the audience into a deep, warm bath complete with candles and introspection.
If there remains any doubt regarding the duo’s palpable artistic maturity, it swiftly evaporates between the soundwaves of one of this century’s most mournfully beautiful saxophone solos.
The following few years will offer the duo a well-rounded spoonful of life, both professionally and personally. I, Gemini will take them around the world before two subsequent, acclaimed releases in 2018 and 2022. Personal challenges, including navigating distance both geographically and interpersonally, and the death of Hollingworth’s boyfriend, will be faced together, as (non) twins do.
This night in October, 2016, however, will forever rest in popular music’s user’s manual under “how to make a first impression.”