Grove’s debut EP Queer + Black opens with Sticky, that sets the tone for a powerful celebration of black queer nightlife. This track has a specific reference, Grove says, “This track is written about my first experience going to Pxssy Palace, a party in London run ‘by’ queer and black femme people ‘for’ queer and black femme people. Something that was fundamentally perspective and life changing.” For Grove, a non-binary artist based in Bristol and proud of their Jamaican roots, visibility and party culture exist in the forefront of their work and out-spoken EP Queer + Black.
Grove’s affirmative and purposeful EP aches for the club - or essentially any sweaty darkened crowded space. Whilst we wait for the hallowed ‘Summer of Love’, we’ll have to dance in our rooms to this banging EP for now. Many of the tracks reveal Grove’s political activist side as well, with the most explicit being Fuck Your Landlord. In its chorus, “Off with their heads!” gains so many new post-Alice-in-Wonderland meanings, including a revolutionary cry to knock the landlord off his thrown and maybe a cheeky command to 'off-their-heads' party-goers. Whilst my slightly darker interpretation might be that these two things intersect, with drug use generally coming hand in hand with trying to escape a larger problem. In any case, we want to mosh to this track once more and bring on post-lockdown raves.

Personally, I prefer the thinking-man’s rave, and as Grove says they're inspired by Angela Davis, the queer Marxist writer and activist; I want to highlight that Grove is truly hitting the mark making black working class feminist music. Grove’s Queer + Black treats lesbian desire and class politics akin to the blues artists that back in the eighties softened Angela Davis’ qualms with identity politics (OUT Magazine). Queer + Black is a bouncing, sometimes experimental, head-banging and thought-provoking EP that has seen tracks championed by many-a BBC radio 1 host pre-release. But, far beyond isolated identity politics or liking this album for the person’s political position, we hear it for what it is – a debut EP teeming with great dance-inducing anthems that have Bristol’s industrial kinks mixed with smooth Jamaican dancehall to perfect measure. Fill up your cup. Stream now.
I last saw you perform at Spinny Nights, alongside Kinlaw & Franco Franco, this time last year, at one of the last not-socially-distanced gigs I went to. Tell us a bit about the early stages of Grove as a performer. Where was your first gig? 
Ahhhh, that was such a great night! Got a solid crowd surf on during 404 Guild’s set, drank enough lager to mash up a baby elephant and met some incredible people, an unknowingly good send off to life as we knew it.
So, early days Grove was a lot more focused on the more soul, hip-hop, UKG flavours, always repping in Gloucestershire with Griz-O, JPDL & Yogi Beats. Long live the Funkarama. But, my first ever gig was when I was around 15 years old at 2Pigs as part of a prog-rock, metal band called The Noble Experiment (laughs), very different times to think back on. I performed with this band for one and a half years, and it definitely shaped elements of my current performance style in that I learned to give less of a fuck about how I look and get people moving.
Do you feel like you were always a musician or have other forms of performance or art interested you?
Dance and spoken word have always been solid interests of mine, alongside music. Dance as an art form has always had the power to really get a deep emotional response from my body and mind. I think the combination of music and dance, whether that be watching a contemporary performance, feeling euphoric and infinitely loose at a rave or connecting with someone and experiencing intimate moments spurred on by nothing but body language is powerful. I always relate this feeling back to watching documentaries on African civilisations, and how I feel that our ancestors perpetually flow through the way that we move when in a flow state.
Your mix on Object Blue’s show on Rinse FM like it takes dancehall to a more industrial place. What attracts you to mechanical sounds?
Oh for sure, tech-dancehall flavours are a favourite of mine. Dark, heavy and deep is the sonic palette I’ve always leaned towards. The combination of a darker breaks and techno-influenced sound mixed with the traditionally more upbeat music of my Jamaican heritage just feels right. I guess it’s informed by my lived experience in terms of location, and artists I admire, such as GAIKA, Mr Mitch and Diessa.
Your debut EP Queer + Black comes out during Black History month. Was that intentional?
Not intentional at all! Although, I think this month is specifically African American History Month, which is definitely an important time for those everywhere in the world to reflect on the African diaspora and the horrific impacts of colonialism, however, isn’t fully relevant to my ancestral experience. I observe Black History Month in October with more of a focus on the UK based history.
Who is your favourite Black Queer icon?
Angela Davis, 100%!
How do you relate your non-binary gender identity to the art – both music and music videos – that you create?
The Ur Boyfriend’s Wack video was an exploration of hyper-feminising and hyper-masculising my form, to exaggerate and parody elements of gender performance. It’s less related to me personally, as I happily sit within androgyny, but is more acknowledging if you wanted to, you could be this feminine fitty or butch geezer and it wouldn’t take away your gender-queerness.
Your press release explains your music “combines masculine and feminine energies”, what do you define as a feminine or masculine sound in your music?
Great question! I think there’s an inherent sensuality to the way in which I conceptualise and deliver lyrics - this sensuality is neither exclusively feminine, nor masculine, but a sexy blend of both. Alongside this, I enjoy combining smooth and harsh sonic textures, and again, neither of these is exclusively feminine or masculine, but they do mesh together in a unique way and have their fun intertwining within sound-waves.
Futurist-rave is a nice wide term to give a genre to Queer + Black EP. How has it been for you coping without the big parties that your music is so well suited to during lockdown?
It’s tough you know! I’m definitely a person who reacts to their environment a lot and this EP was created with the energy of Bristol, which was hugely transformative in my experience of dance music. Introversion is where I naturally sit, was always a little kid with their head in books and minding my own business, so I’ve just got more back in touch with that side of my inner child again.
The Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol saw the slave trader’s statue, Colston, finally pulled down and thrown into the river. It’s something I wish I saw, were you there?
Unfortunately, I was locked down in London, but was living vicariously through the videos that my friends were sending through. I’m telling you, I scoured Twitter to watch from every angle! The man got wasted! And, most importantly, it kick-started worldwide discussions and actions. First thing I did the next day, after plenty of reflection and celebration, was to pick up the pen and paper and write Black, a track from the EP.With all this said, it’s very important for us to support The Colston Four, the 4 individuals who are being prosecuted over this action.
Your music videos as really playful and fun, particularly Ur Boyfriend’s Wack, do you like to creatively direct your own videos?
Thank you! We do like to have fun ‘round here! With Sticky and Ur Boyfriend’s Wack, my ex and creative partner Xiah Perry and I would always bounce around concepts and ideas and be super loose with it, which was definitely a highlight of the process. And I think being able to tie in the sound with the visuals first-hand is important, and all the artists I admire do that, such as DEBBY FRIDAY, Sevdaliza, FKA Twigs etc.
Within the first 30 seconds of Ur Boyfriend’s Wack we see the character ‘Pink Hottie’ pull a tampon out. Can you talk to me about the importance of showing queer bodies bleed too!
(Laughs) That was a fun bit to film. Prepping pink custard for all sorts of shenanigans. I think with TERF rhetoric like J.K Rowling’s knocking about, it’s important to say a big fuck you to transphobic rhetoric whilst having fun with it. Opinions such as hers should be kicked to the kerb both intellectually, and in parody.
In your track Sticky Dancehall and queerness come perfectly hand in hand. But, that wasn’t always the case, there was a dancehall track in the 90s popular in the UK called Badman Nuh Dress Like Girl – that I learnt about from Jeffrey Boakye’s book Black, Listed. The song dares to threaten non-binary folk or non-binary gender expression with a gunshot – it’s depressing and violently binary. Have you ever found dancehall a difficult genre to compose within as a non-binary artist? Have you heard about this song?
Dancehall music is notoriously homophobic, and, as you say, including serious threats towards gender minorities. Buju Banton’s Boom Bye Bye where he threatens to shoot gay men is another horrifying example of this. These songs are exactly why I want to carve a space within the genre to be unapologetically queer. I’ve always loved dancehall-centric music, and to make some explicitly for queers is the exact kind of defiance I thrive within. And post lockdown I want to be catching whines left, right n centre to some big beefy gay-focused tunes. I know there are other dope artists doing a similar thing, such as James Indigo and Zebra Katz. Unfortunately, there is a rift between the mainstream LGBTQ community and older generations of the black community. Racism is present in one through whiteness, and queerphobia prevalent in the other. Navigating this as a young’un was often difficult and I would always worry being open about my sexuality within family spaces. Side note: I’ve heard a lot about this book, and seeing this question has just pushed me to order it!
Who are your favourite musical and non-musical references for Queer + Black EP?
Oh heck. During the time of making I was listening to a lot of M.I.A, Eva Lazarus, Gaika, Diessa, Coucou Chloe, FKA Twigs and Sevdaliza.
The track Fuck Your Landlord is something I particularly remember hearing and everyone going mad moshing at one of your gigs at the Old England. It’s really something that unites a cause that a lot of young people and creatives can relate to. Do you see making music as an opportunity for political advocacy?
Oh mate, the reactions to that song are some of my favourite performance highlights ever! The Old England holds so many fond memories. To answer the question, 1000% yes. Making music with intent and infused with a punk ethos is what I thoroughly enjoy listening to and creating.
What are you excited about for the future?
Excited to learn some more Caribbean recipes, deepen my understanding of self and get sweaty dancing with some random people. Catch you there.
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