Listen: Lala Lala x Grapetooth Split

By Soleil Engin

Photography by Tim Nagle

If I had to tell you what I did today, I’d probably accidentally mention at least five things that happened yesterday, or even earlier this week.

I struggle to untangle my ankles from the mass of computer and phone chargers hanging beneath my desk as I enter the call. Time is continuous for me now — all my days feel the same. I wonder if any of my friends are feeling this too. I can hardly sleep at night knowing that tomorrow will probably encompass the same routine as today, but I don’t bring these things up on the call — they don’t matter. As long as I can see my friends’ faces and hear their voices, I can convince myself we’re still together, we’re still connected.

“Fantasy Movie” by Lala Lala and Grapetooth reminds me of the memories I have of my friends, but not of the experiences themselves — a distinction I barely knew was possible before hearing this song.

Just to be around you
Just to watch you talk /
I know it's not real but
Can we live in a song?

When I listen to “Fantasy Movie,” I feel like I’m watching the past few months of my life on a technicolor TV behind my eyes — as if these moments are separate from me and my own existence, and I can’t re-engage with them. They are ephemeral, fleeting, colored by soft pastels, and I’m stuck, separated from them. When I watch these memories, I’m simultaneously reminded of how close I feel to these people, emotionally, but also of the physical distance between us. The distance that keeps me from re-engaging.

Cause I stay on an island /
But I've always loved to swim

I’ve never had the luxury of a completely stable social life, but in many ways, my friends have taught me how to leave my island; to do things that I had only ever dreamt of. My friends and I are connected by music — we’re musicians and songwriters. As Lala Lala and Grapetooth sing “maybe it’s not real but / I can feel it when we sing,” I’m brought back to the earliest stages of these friendships, understanding one another by playing shows together, and getting to know each other through music. At that time, I didn’t anticipate that in weeks we’d still have these connections, that we’d still be talking, let alone making scheduled Zoom calls through a screen. If I’m being honest, sometimes it still doesn’t feel real.

What it’s like to be so magic?
I can sense you walk away /
Everything is boring
That you didn’t say

In the midst of my friendship circle, there’s a gravitational pull. It’s a tugging that comes from one friend, in particular; he’s like a magnet that draws other people to him. Week by week, he adds to our friendship group, connecting with people, bringing more of us together. He’s the reason I’ve been able to leave my island at all, pulling me to let other people in. For that, I’m grateful.

The other side to this release, “Valentine,” takes me back to the technicolored screen behind my eyes. I feel like I’m at a music venue my friends and I could play in, watching the stage from afar. The couch beneath me feels like it could collapse at any second, but there is something comforting in truly how worn in it is. Patches sloppily sewn in fabrics of various colors cover all the places it has given in over the years. I’m sinking into it, almost entering a trance as I hear the music emanating from the stage in front of me. I’m watching the musicians, I’m watching the people dancing all around the venue. I’m so entranced by their movements I don’t even think of joining them.

I’ve always found myself in awe of the couples I see dancing. There’s nothing glamorous about the venues I have frequented in the past, most of them covered with spray paint doodles and peeling wallpaper, the stages so worn down they look like they could collapse at any second. Seeing couples at these shows, it almost seemed like they found solace in this. Escaping the reality of outside life.

Lift your gaze into the sky
Not a single cloud is falling
Now's the time to love your life
Don’t miss a moment

I’m trying to remember to live in the present, to not miss a moment. Going to shows and seeing people connect has consistently taught me to experience things fully, to open myself up to people and forget about the rest. But I’m finding it harder each day to keep this up when it seems I’ve become trapped by routine.

Listening to both songs on the Lala Lala x Grapetooth release, I’m reminded to snap out of it. I’m reminded of everything and everyone I have to be grateful for. “Fantasy Movie” reminds me that I’m loved and supported; that even though I’m apart from my friends, we’re here for one another regardless. Immediately following, “Valentine” reminds me to treasure that; to remember what’s important, in the midst of a mess.

I feel myself getting more and more absorbed by the technicolor TV in front of me. Although I can’t get through the screen just yet, the memories it’s letting me tap into are more than enough.

Soleil Engin is a public policy major at the University of Chicago, where she also helps organize student performance opportunities with the Music Forum.  She is passionate about healthcare equality, creating gender inclusive music spaces, and making music with her band, Puddlejumper.