James Droll and Drew Southwell — a.k.a. Trove — have been making music together for a few years now. The collabs started when the two met at a studio session shortly after they’d both arrived in Nashville four years ago. Despite being a bit of an odd couple — Droll, a queer American originally from Ohio; Southwell, a straight Australian — they found that both their sounds and their personalities meshed well.
They’ve each released solo EPs within the past few months, but with a literal, well, trove of songs they’d written together gathering dust, Droll and Southwell figured, why not release one more? “We had 60- or 70-odd songs together at this point, and it seemed silly that some of them were just sitting around,” says Southwell. “We should just put them out, put together a project.”
Due out in April, the resulting EP, Pity Party, includes the first song the duo ever wrote (“Psycho”) as well as their latest single, “Nothing Matters Then We Die,” premiering exclusively below. We chatted with Droll and Southwell about the new track, their ongoing musical relationship and the odd intimacy of gay-straight duets.
How would you each describe your own individual sound?
Droll: This is when I get in trouble. I always describe my sound as, like, a toilet flushing in slow motion.
Southwell: The last one I heard was “trash you can hear.” [Laughs]
Droll: “It sounds like garbage smells.” [Laughs] In reality, I love the mix of organic and inorganic elements. It’s present tense music about my life. Which I feel like is a really annoying response. [Laughs]
Southwell: Sonically, my stuff is very similar in the sense that it’s a lot of organic stuff with electronic stuff—probably more leaning on the electronic stuff. Definitely in the realm of pop, alternative, electronic kind of sound, I’d say.
Talk to me about blending your distinct sounds for this EP. How does the music you make individually differ from the music you make together?
Southwell: I remember actually sitting down on the first day and talking about what we wanted to do. And whilst I think both of our individual sounds are unique from each other, I think the opportunity to create an EP—we were like, we can kinda just do whatever we want with it. Because there were no limitations on speaking to our individual sounds. It was kind of a gateway to just experiment.
Did you both write lyrics? Did you write lyrics for each other?
Southwell: James did a lot of the lyrics and I tackled a lot of the production. And I think that’s why we like working together, because we each bring something to the table but still do a bit of both as well.
James, when you’re writing lyrics for a track that you’re both going to sing on, does that influence what you write about or the perspective of the song?
Droll: Yeah. I think my favorite way to write music—and this is all over this project—is just to talk about stuff. Talk about life, what’s going on, what’s up. A lot of times songs just come from conversation. So, a lot of the ideas and what’s surrounding it come from the conversations we have the day we write the song. I think all of the songs on this—it’s all shared conversations. It’s all stories we’ve told each other.
I love the idea of a duet as a conversation between two people. I was thinking about how intimate duets can be and wondering if, as a gay guy and a straight guy singing together, that was something you thought about when you were writing.
Droll: I feel like it was a passing thought. For me, as the queer member of the two, I’ve kinda been singing platonic duets with women my whole life. [Laughs] I didn’t even think of it as an angle. We both wanted to represent our voices, literally and figuratively, on this music. And our voices sound cool together. And there are topics that we both feel strongly about that we wrote about together. A lot of it is about life shit. If people want to fan-fiction Drew and I dating, that’s fine. [Laughs]
I thought about Troye Sivan and Lauv’s duet, and I wondered if you see Pity Party as part of a trend of these kind of gay guy-straight guy duets.
Droll: Honestly, I hope so! I feel like a lot of creative barriers have been lifted. There are so many different things going on with how people release music. I think it’s opening up a lot more. I would love to see more queer and straight collaborations, because I feel like there’s a lot to be said.
Did it ever cross your mind that even just a few years ago you might have gotten pushback?
Southwell: I don’t think that crossed my mind. We became close friends when we met. We work together so much. We did one song together on a whim called “Take A Walk,” and it did really well. We just put it out. Personally, I never questioned if there would be pushback, because there shouldn’t be.
So, the new single is “Nothing Matters Then We Die,” the EP is called Pity Party—that’s some big mood.
Southwell: James and I have always had an existential look on life in a kind of comical way. Really, when you strip away all the supposedly important things in life and look at why we’re here—really we’re here to survive and procreate and find entertainment in between. Whilst it can come across as a dark or heavy topic, what we found is it was quite liberating. If that statement is true, if none of this really matters in the end and then we die and that’s it, I think that’s a reason to go out and live your life and be who you wanna be and do what you wanna do.
Droll: Being in the LGBTQIA+ community…the people who would never be affected by the decisions I make in my life about who I love and what I do are the people who care the most. It’s so wild. And there’s something really nice about the song. It’s like, enjoy exactly what you enjoy about your life. And then we all reach the finish line. It’s kind of a very sweet song. The tone of it is going to surprise people. Live the life you wanna live. Just don’t be shitty.