Jean-Philip Grobler, pictured performing in 2014, brings St. Lucia to San Francisco this week. ( Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP)

Visuals inspire St. Lucia’s textural sounds

It’s no accident that songs on St. Lucia’s new sophomore synth-rock recording “Matter” — including “Home,” “Dancing on Glass” and the six-minute epic “Winds of Change” — are simultaneously aural, scenic and textural. South-African-born, New-York-based Jean-Philip Grobler, the group’s singer, keyboardist and main producer says, “Most of my music is actually inspired by the visual world, rather than just some random piece of music.”

Growing up in Johannesburg, Grobler — who, with his percussionist-vocalist wife, Patricia Beranek, brings St. Lucia to The City this weekend –- went with his parents to a video store every two weeks to rent a movie, usually “Top Gun,” his favorite, over and over again.

Tired of seeing it, his folks asked for another kid-friendly recommendation from the clerk, who suggested “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind,” the 1984 masterpiece from Oscar-winning Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki.

It changed Grobler’s artistic outlook.

“Seeing that movie, the image of its giant insects, the Ohm, really stuck in my head,” says the former jingle writer, who discovered Miyazaki’s definitive, surrealist tale of a giant, friendly feline, “My Neighbor Totoro.”

“I then went on this huge Miyazaki binge and watched all of his movies, and realized he was my favorite director of all time,” he says.

Other films that contributed to the three-year “Matter” process included more anime, but also work from Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson, plus stimulating visits to art museums around the world.

Grobler loves to shop New York bookstores, then disappear into local coffee shops to peruse his finds — mainly architecture and interior design books.

“Almost every time I do that, I’ll get an idea for a song, and something,” he says. “I have some weird kind of link in my brain, between how spaces are structured and how they connect subconsciously to music and arrangement. All of these things get filtered through my brain, and come out as a song.”

The “Matter” album cover is a suitable aesthetic extension. The Dali-esque painting by Lauren Motimer, conceived by Grobler and Beranek, features the five St. Lucia members in an Escher-complicated room, surrounded by animals, African masks and Grobler levitating the solar system over his outstretched hand.

“The planets represent the fact that there are a lot of pop elements on the album, but also more exploratory, experimental, non-linear kinds of songs — the more space-like element of our music,” Grobler explains.

“But I’d love for somebody to pick up ‘Matter,’ and the cover will almost perfectly describe the music that they will hear inside, in all its different layers,” he says.

IF YOU GO
St. Lucia
Where: Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. March 5
Tickets: $22.50
Contact: (415) 346-6000, www.livenation.com

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