“I wish I could say that, when I was younger, I had a strong sense of identity and I’ve always known who I am, but that’s not my reality. There is so much figuring out that has gone into where I am now, and it’s a constantly evolving journey,” explains Bristol-based vocalist and producer Grove.
Growing up in Cheltenham, they explain, had its limitations, and it wasn’t until moving to a bigger city that they were able to begin cultivating a life that was ultimately more fulfilling. “Cheltenham was a place that was quite bizarre to be doing anything other than being in a guitar band,” they begin. “If you’re into hip hop or electronica, it wasn’t encouraged apart from within a few lovely havens of people pushing others to pursue their passions within that field.”
As a displaced teenager in a predominantly white area, music was the outlet in which Grove felt most comfortable to express themself: “I had all of these pent-up emotions and this was the only way I knew how to get them out. There wasn’t too much of a community; it was a very insular, very brooding process.” Initially, they spent time being mentored by hip hop collective 5 Mics, before playing a short stint in a prog-rock band called The Noble Experiment, as well as lending their nihilistic touch to the electronic duo BAAST; in their own ways, all of these stages have found a place within the firecracker sounds of their current personal project.
“There is a certain way of holding your space which I think I’ve transferred from the performance style of heavy rock. I do enjoy starting a nice big dance pit,” they say, arms and elbows simulating a mosh pit in a way that channels big rave energy as opposed to the take-your-eyes-out mentality of some metal gigs. They also look to the intricate flows of hip hop, and politically-charged elements of punk, but while it’s the swelling darkness of electronic music that predominantly inspires Grove’s sound, the cheekiness of dancehall MCs comes through as well.
Their debut EP - last year’s ‘Queer + Black’ - marked a point in the musician’s life where they finally felt like they’d discovered who they were: “There comes a point where you really have to stop and look inwards. I took it upon myself to learn about my heritage and what makes me happy,” they note. And often, the answer would be times spent within Kiki and Pxssy Palace – inclusive spaces for queer people of colour. “They’re a beautiful reminder of how minority groups are not alone, and there’s a lot of power we have both as individuals and collectives.”
“We all intrinsically have huge amounts of power even though we often feel powerless in any kind of situation.”
By jumping between a myriad of influences, ‘Queer + Black’ is genreless and clear in its intent. It’s a reclamation of self: an act of defining your own identity before anybody else tries to define it for you. This is something that Grove has experienced throughout their life, and it’s a dialogue that they’d like to put focus on. “The fluidity of a human being is viscous and doesn’t need to be contained in something like this or that,” they say, mimicking the act of putting something into boxes. “That’s not for the benefit of people experiencing or expressing it; that’s for the benefit of people who need to categorise things. The need for categorisation stems from an extremely Westernised, Colonialist history, and the lack of needing to be placed into one space is what the core of my being gravitates towards.”
Grove’s half-Jamaican, half-English/Irish heritage has become intrinsically woven throughout their music. ‘Spice’ is an ode to Bristol with its “nasty basslines,” but is also political in the sense that it challenges homophobia. Grove openly sings about their love of cunnilingus on ‘Skin2Skin’, despite it being an act that would see you demonised in Jamaica. Even though they are aware that there’s only so much you can laugh about personal and pressing subjects, they’re trying to make music that represents themselves and others like them, and they’ve realised that collaboration is key to reaching as wide an audience as possible. “I have some insecurities to overcome in thinking my work is good enough to collaborate, but the process of doing that is a very beautiful and enriching process,” they say.
After releasing their bad bitch anthem ‘BBB’ with chaotic queer icon Lynks, and becoming aware of Bristol-based artist Solomon O.B, Grove learnt that not only is working alongside others who have been through the same struggles the perfect way of cultivating a community who are fighting the same fight - it’s helped them discover their inner power, too. “We all intrinsically have huge amounts of power even though we often feel powerless in any kind of situation,” they nod. “In future bodies of work, I want to explore power and how it’s perceived, because power feels like a dirty word – power is the thing you have to scramble on top of others to get.
“But that’s an illusion. It’s just a case of sharing that we all have it, and the more we share it, the more it’ll grow within us without thinking that we have to climb up a horrible slimy ladder. I’d like to harness that as a thought and try to embody it within conversations with other people.”