St. Lucia founder Jean-Philip Grobler didn’t intend to overthink “Hyperion,” the synth pop band’s intricate new third effort for Columbia.
But as he began work on it last year as his wife, group keyboardist Patti Beranek, became pregnant with their first son, Indiana, he had grown increasingly disgusted with today’s shallow hits, particularly those made in label-initiated songwriting sessions between strangers.
“In a world of artists that previously would have relied more on themselves or a core group of close collaborators, it felt to me that these disingenuous sessions were becoming more and more the norm. It felt like people just going to Wal-Mart to get this song from someone who’s had a bunch of hits,” says the singer, who brings the group to The City next week.
“This was just another angle that I needed to explore — pop music that’s transcendental, not one dimensional,” says Grober,
The creation of the new, soulful material with integrity eerily paralleled the gestation of Indy, born Dec. 20, 2017; the brainy kickoff single “Walking Away” peppers pounding keyboards with twisted effects until it’s elevated into vintage Talking Heads territory.
Although Grobler admittedly had taken part in songwriting summits, on St. Lucia’s 2013 bow “When the Night” and its 2016 follow-up “Matter,” he stresses that he collaborated only with longtime friends.
He’s no stranger to acoustic precision. Before he moved to Britain at 19 to study at Paul McCartney’s prestigious Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, he polished his voice in South Africa’s Drakensberg Boys’ Choir.
St. Lucia coalesced after he and Beranek moved to Brooklyn, and pending fatherhood pushed him into further action.
He began researching how his favorite albums — Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours,” Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” Radiohead’s “OK Computer” — were recorded, learning what technology afforded them such organic sounds.
His most surprising discovery, he says, was that “the records had one thing in common — the band playing in the same room together, which I’d never done.”
He decided to embrace more randomness and things that were out of his control.
Bringing a child into the world was the overriding motivation that spurred everything on. He says, “I thought, ‘If I’m going to dedicate my life to doing this, then I’m going to take it as seriously as I possibly can.’”
Knowing he’s running the risk of sounding cornball, or worse, he says with a sigh: “I’ve read some reviews that called me the most self-indulgent artist out there. And f— ‘em. I don’t care. These days, I take that as a real compliment.”
IF YOU GO
Where: August Hall, 420 Mason St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Oct. 14-15
Contact: (415) 872-5745, www.ticketweb.comHyperionIndiana GroblerJean-Philip GroblerMatterPatti BeranekPop MusicSt. LuciaWhen the Night