Karen Ledford encountered Rej Forester’s solo act GRLwood for the first time while out playing ping pong with some friends. Rej stood on stage singing with her guitar in hand and a suitcase drum at her feet — a bass drum controlled by one foot, a tambourine by the other — so Karen asked if she ever considered working with a drummer.
Two days later, they got together for a jam session. Two weeks later, they were performing shows together as GRLwood, now a two-piece band.
“Being a one-piece is really cool, and it’s really comfortable to kind of do everything and anything you want,” Rej said. “But at the same time, there is a type of grounding and digestability that comes along with adding one more member. And having that support while on stage and also while working the business aspect of everything, is like an incredible amount of help.”
The two albums they’ve released since coming together are phenomenal works of art. Their musical style is captivating and their lyrics reflect the pain and hope every preteen pop-punk fan needs to hear. Their most recent album, I Sold My Soul to the Devil When I Was 12, depicts the inner musings of a young queer woman, afraid of her reality in a cis-hetero-patriarchal world and able to recognize the absurdity of it all.
“[There’s] definitely like a lot going on in the world right now. And I think everyone’s fire is super fueled — I think everyone feels a little extra creative around this time,” Karen said. “But, you know, we’re gay and it’s kind of hard to be gay right now.”
Both Karen and Rej grew up in Kentucky and still live in Louisville. Karen said Louisville is different from where she grew up, but she was “hella bullied for being gay” back in school. And when Rej was around the age of 14, she started playing guitar.
“I have trouble like communicating my feelings sometimes to people, like emotional feelings, and playing music has always been a really good way to do it — like keeping a diary,” Rej said.
GRLwood’s music definitely reflects this — their songs vary in mood and genre, but hold consistent in quality.
“I feel like it’s always hard to plan what kind of sound you want, like me and Rej literally met through music. … And whenever you’re about to jam with someone, you’re really like, ‘I don’t know what’s about to happen or come out.’ And honestly, I feel like it’s best not to plan a route. It’s just how the cookie crumbles,” Karen said.
“We definitely never planned any of what we’re doing, but we kept doing it and now it is what it is,” Rej added.
And even though GRLwood found magic by expanding to two members, they have no intentions of growing it further.
“No thirds! That’s also our Tinder profile,” Karen said with a laugh. “No unicorns — we are the unicorns.”
GRLwood is slated to perform at Black Cat in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 2 as the opening act for Man Man. Tickets can be purchased here.