Fashion Club and Girlpool Feel Most Grounded at Target

The friends talk touring comforts, vocal fry, and more.

Fashion Club is the project of Pascal Stevenson, an LA-based artist who’s also a founding member of the band Moaning and a former touring member of Cherry Glazerr and Girlpool; Girlpool is the also-LA-based indie rock duo of Avery Tucker and Harmony Tividad. Fashion Club’s debut record Scrutiny was just released on felte, so to celebrate, the three friends hopped on a Zoom call to catch up about it. 
—  Annie Fell, Editor-in-chief, Talkhouse Music. 

Avery Tucker: Hey, hon.

Harmony Tividad: Hello. I’m excited to be here with you all.

Avery: So how has it felt to put out all of this music?

Pascal Stevenson: It’s weird. It’s been done for so long that… I like all of it a lot, but it just feels bizarre, because I’m such a different person now. It’s weird to look back on.

Avery: Have you been writing a bunch of other stuff, so this stuff feels like the old stuff?

Pascal: Yeah, for sure. It’s very much like I can tell what I was listening to when I was writing it, because all of the new stuff I’m writing is so not rock music. 

Avery: I think your music is so cool, though, because it’s so ‘80s and it reminds me of the Cure so much.

Pascal: I do love the Cure. The next thing is not gonna be like that, but I appreciate that.

Avery: Are you annoyed with that? Like, do you want it to be softer or less harsh?

Pascal: Yeah, for sure. I just want it to be more delicate.

Harmony: Do you self produce everything?

Pascal: I did on this record. I probably will for the foreseeable future.

Harmony: It sounds sick.

Pascal: I like it, I’m kind of controlling. But you guys work with producers, but I feel like you bring in a bunch of stuff, right? Like when we were going through the tracks to play live, there would be stuff and one of you would be like, “Oh yeah, that’s from me. I made that in the computer,” which I thought was really sick.

Harmony: Yeah, we love to fuck around.

Avery: We kind of add a bunch of stuff into the bowl and then just take out or add in.

Pascal: Do you demo everything totally out before you get into the studio, or you spend a lot of time writing in the studio?

Avery: I feel like more often, we have a demo that one of us made, but I think we also aren’t opposed to just fucking something up completely new in the space. But I think more often, we have songs that we’ve already written and started and we kind of want to maximize them as much as possible in the studio. Because once we get in there, it’s like, “OK, here’s all the stuff that we really want realized.”

Harmony: Yeah. What is your writing process, Pascal? What do you start with usually, when you make a song?

Pascal: It’s so all over the place. These songs I wrote all pretty much in Europe in the back of the Moaning tour van, like on Ableton with fake bass and fake drums, and then I came home and it was pretty much done.

Avery: It’s so weird how now you can make songs on your laptop on your keyboard, and it sounds like the weirdest toy version. Demoing is like making this really shitty computer sounding shit, and then you can go home and make it good. 

Pascal: Yeah, totally. It’s weird, though, because now all of the new stuff I’m writing is so much more computer that I finish writing something and it’s, like, done. Like, there’s going to be so little stuff that I’m going to have to rerecord. It’s a very strange process. It also makes it harder for me to get on it, because it’s already done. 

Avery: So do you already have a whole album? 

Pascal: If I needed to make one in a month or two, I probably could. But I’m trying to keep things a little bit unfinished, just delaying writing lyrics and stuff so that I don’t get sick of anything.

Avery: That’s interesting.

Pascal: Do you guys start writing as soon as you finish a new album or do you wait?

Avery: We’re kind of always, I think, just writing. 

Pascal: Yeah, that’s how I am, too.

Harmony: Yeah. It’s not, like, rationally driven. It’s just whenever feels right. 

Pascal: I did buy an acoustic guitar in the pandemic to write on, just because it’s so fast.

Harmony: How do you feel about writing on the acoustic guitar?

Pascal: I love it.

Avery: It’s fun.

Pascal: You can just play power chords and get down to the most basic form of a song to write a melody to. 

Avery: Totally. It’s the easiest, most immediate tool to form structure, and also support lyric searching, you know?

Pascal: Yeah. When I try to do that with stuff that’s already in the computer, I get so annoyed having to loop things back. Whereas if you’re playing it on the guitar, you just start playing it again.I think that’s why I’m happier with the newer music that I’m writing, too, is because I’m writing it mostly on acoustic guitar, and I’m trying to fit a melody into something that’s already written.

Avery: Totally. How do you feel playing music in other people’s bands? Is it fun for you? What’s your relationship like to that?

Pascal: Yeah, I do. It’s just such a heavy thing playing your own music, right? It feels like there’s so much at stake. So I like playing other people’s music because it’s just like the fun part of it. It’s less of the existential dread or whatever of getting up and presenting your self and baring your soul. You just get to perform, which is great.

Avery: Totally. It does sound really cool to [play in other people’s bands], just especially with people that you resonate with and enjoy supporting musically and feel connected energetically to the project. I can imagine that being a really exciting, cool feeling. And then also, I bet it’s really amazing to feel what it’s like to occupy that space on your jump into your own shows and stuff. I’m just curious what your journey has been being the front person, because I haven’t really seen a lot of your solo stuff. I’m trying to remember years ago — correct me if I’m wrong, but it was maybe more of a noisier set?

Pascal: Yeah, I used to forever ago play noise sets and ambient sets, or new age sets. It was weird.

Avery: Yeah. What has it been like to be more verbal and lyrical for you? How has that been?

Pascal: It was really hard at first. Now I’m super into it. I like the power of it. But it was definitely difficult at first, because you have to learn how to sing, even if you know how to sing. You have to learn how to sing for your voice, which is, I think, so fucking hard. Now I have the added layer of feeling dysphoric about my voice, but I try not to… It’s the one thing where I’m really just trying to be over it, not let it bother me at all and just let my voice be what it is. And people are going to have to be cool with it.

Avery: Yeah. The voice is, when you think about it — this sounds weird, but it’s so weird that we can even make sounds with a voice, like as animals. It’s actually just really raw to use your voice in general. Everyone has their own specific relationship to their voice. I’m just curious, Harmony, what has your relationship to your own voice been throughout your life, and what is it like right now?

Harmony: I’m just obsessed with singing. Like, you mean my singing voice?

Avery: Just your relationship to. Like. Like. Not even you liking to sing or whatever, but, your actual voice. Like, have you ever gone through periods of discomfort in it?

Harmony: No, I don’t know. There have been periods where I wished the timbre was different or the sound was different, or that my range would be lower or higher. But I’ve always been pretty pleased with what I find I’m able to do and communicate with my voice.

Pascal: We’re all from LA, right?

Harmony: Yeah, we’re all from L.A..

Pascal: Do you guys identify as people that have vocal fry? Because I definitely do, and I’m into it 100%. I definitely identify hard as a person that has a vocal fry.

Avery: You really do.

Harmony: You really do. I always am asking people if I do, I can’t tell if I do.

Avery: You do sometimes. But Pascal, it’s very dominant in your speech.

Harmony: Yeah, your speech is very vocal fried out. It’s like deep fried.

Pascal: I like it. I think it’s fun.

Harmony:  No, it’s really good. I love it. Your voice is amazing.

Avery: It’s really fun. I find that you don’t actually get the satisfying part of singing if you’re holding yourself back in a way, so I think that when you choose to sing something, the goal is to sink into just letting yourself be free in it. Not judging your voice, I think, is something that I’ve had kind of a hard time doing. It’s been so unbelievably out of control in my life, because of hormones. When it first started, it was so embarrassing to at times to just not have any control. And I think just being like, well, you know what? This is the tea right now, this is just what’s going on, and letting it go and embodying that is… I don’t know. I mean, your vocal chords, are they shifting? They don’t shift, really, unless you want them to?

Pascal: No, they don’t. You have to train it.

Avery: You have to learn a different part of your vocal chords. So it’s a very different experience, I think.

Pascal: Yeah. I think this is a little different than what you were talking about, but I think that is kind of part of the reason why there is something so valuable in vocal tuning. Like, not necessarily Auto-Tune, but actual studio vocal tuning. Not everybody is fucking Aretha Franklin — if you’re trying to focus so hard on hitting the exact right note, you’re going to be so reserved that the performance kind of suffers. So sometimes it’s so nice to be able to just let go and really express as easily as you want, and then just nudge shit around later.

Avery: Yeah, for sure. So are you doing stuff with Moaning soon too?

Pascal: Yeah, we’re writing new songs. We did one tour and it just felt harsh, and we were kind of just like, “Let’s not.” Our second album had been out for a while, and it kind of just became this thing where we’ll do stuff if we get asked to, but we might as well just start writing a new record. 

Harmony: Why did the tour feel harsh?

Pascal: It was at a really peak COVID time, so I think that’s part of it.

We were touring with Bob Mould, who’s pretty old, so the restrictions were pretty [harsh] — there was nobody allowed in the green room or anything. And we really didn’t want to get sick, obviously because we didn’t want to be sick, but also because we didn’t want to get Bob sick. And so we weren’t really seeing anybody. And then hotels felt so sketchy and weird at that point. It just didn’t feel comfortable in any way, and touring is already uncomfortable. 

Avery: What’s your favorite part of touring?

Pascal: Aside from playing, I have all of these friends all over the place, and a lot of them I only get to see when I’m on tour, because they live in places that I would never just vacation to. What about you guys?

Harmony: I just like getting to refresh into a different way of living every day and feel new in a different path. I feel like each part of the country or wherever in the world has such a different feeling that I become someone else everywhere I go, and I think that’s really fun.

Avery: I think mine is playing and feeling the home base of the day in the music. So feeling everything we’re experiencing is unfamiliar even though we’ve passed through it on tour a million times, and there’s weird correlations with other tours and experiences. The most grounding element is being with my people and playing a song that is super intimate or something, and that’s really cool.

Pascal: I was going to ask you guys, what makes you feel grounded on tour? Because it can be easy to feel unmoored. Mine is Target — I always feel very grounded whenever I go into a Target. 

Harmony: Yes, Target and CVS for me.

Avery: Whole Foods.

Harmony: Yeah. And TV on my phone, Netflix in the car.

Pascal: I relate to what you were saying, Harmony, about getting to be a new cool person on tour. There’s something about LA to me that makes me… I love it and I probably wouldn’t move, but there is definitely something about it where I can feel myself being reserved or not fully letting go when I’m just out and around. And for some reason when we went to Texas, even where I was fully having anxiety before we left about just being trans in Texas — when we got there, for some reason, I was just owning it. I just flipped a switch where I was like, Oh, I fully don’t care. I feel great here. I’m just walking around serving, nobody cares. Fully the opposite of what I had expected. And then same thing when we went to New York. And I think it’s literally just being in a new place. I feel like everybody has trauma from the place that you grew up in that you just maybe never address, especially if you like the place. Like, I like LA a lot, but I think I have all of this residual trauma just from existing there as a person that wasn’t fully realized. I guess that kind of fades away when I’m somewhere else.

Avery: It’s liberating to be somewhere where there’s no reputation of you, or there’s no expectations from what past versions of yourselves that people have known. It’s easier to sometimes be cocky when you’re just like, I don’t care because I don’t know any of you.

Harmony: Literally. I love that feeling.

Pascal: The stakes are so much lower. We went to a thrift store in Texas and I feel like we had a good time. Do you have a tour thrift store find that you really value now? Or just a good thrift store experience? 

Harmony: The Texas one is my one. 

Avery: I can’t find my marijuana leaf shirt that I got in Texas with you guys.

Pascal: That’s a huge drag.

Avery: I know. I don’t know where it is. 

Pascal: I went to a thrift store once in Grants Pass on a Moaning tour and it was just packed with shit. I feel like those places always have the best thrift stores, places that kind of have no people in them. I got an absolutely massive denim shirt that had Marvin the Martian on it that I wore all of the time. 

Avery: Oh, that’s so cute.

Pascal: It was great. I really miss it. I have no idea where it went, I probably got rid of it at some point.

Avery: I hate losing clothes.

Pascal: Avery, do you feel like watching a ton of Friday Night Lights affected your personal style?

Avery: I think just dating someone that’s from Texas started… My style, by the way, is going through a shift right now, Pascal. We can talk about that later. But yeah, I did go through kind of a bro-y, jock vibe. But maybe it’s the show. When I was 7 and 8 — which I feel like is kind of the truest form version of yourself, at that age — I was very much dressed jock-y and backwards hat and basketball shorts. So there’s definitely an innate resonation with that kind of sweet, careless and practical, comfortable style.

Pascal: I love it. Do you have your own fiction style inspiration, Harmony?

Harmony: It’s like Madonna mixed with watching Bladerunner. And also too much musical theater as a child, I feel like, has created me, honestly. I’m trauma-bonded to corsets because of all the musical theater I was into.

Pascal: You’re like a recovering theater kid.

Harmony: I’m actually a resurrecting theater kid. I’m entering it further.

Pascal: You’re relapsing with musical theater. 

Avery: You should go on Broadway.

Harmony: I would literally love to. Put me in the mix.

(Photo Credit: left, Tonje Thilesen; right, Alexis Gross)

Fashion Club is the solo project of Pascal Stevenson, who also fronts Moaning and is a touring member of Girlpool. Fashion Club’s debut record Scrutiny is out now on felte. 

(Photo Credit: Tonje Thilesen)