Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Babies Interview - Catchy Lyrical Melodic Rock

With their follow up album "Our House On The Hill" now out on Woodsist Records, Brooklyn's The Babies exhibit the cohesiveness of a fully realized band. Lead track "Alligator" finds Kevin Morby presenting his vocals in that conversational style first made popular years ago by Chuck Berry (think "Memphis" or "No Particular Place To Go"). The opposite of flowery (or obscure) poetry, the words come at you exactly the way people talk to each other. "There's no plans - watcha doin' later? Take my hand - alligator." And "I like your hair - how do you do it?" Ultimately the frustration is revealed when it's stated "It's no fair that you're taken. It's unfair, that you're spoken for." "Slow Walking" is classic boy/girl duet with lots of tongue-in-cheek "whoah oh wah" background vocals. What initially seems like an "I don't love you anymore" song twists and morphs along with way, with Cassie saying later on that "I'm not leaving like I said I would." "Get Lost" churns along a buoyant four chord progression with that now instantly recognizable Cassie guitar lead sound. These instrumental notes played are melodic to the point of being lyrical - that is, as if they are another set of lyrics.

Q:  Do you feel the type of lyric and vocal presentation on a song like “Alligator” allows listeners to quickly get into your music and the messages it is attempting to convey? Does Cassie play all the smokin' guitar leads? (and especially the one on that song?) On that note, how did the recording of the whole album go? Is there a fair and agreeable distribution of who plays what when it comes time to lay down tracks?

Cassie: Kevin's said that when he wrote "Alligator" he was trying to channel a Jonathan Richman style of storytelling. As for the leads - Yup! There are a few leads I don't play - Kevin plays lead on "See The Country" and part of "Slow Walkin" and Tim Presley of White Fence plays lead on "Chase it to the Grave." The recording was a very smooth process. We recorded many of the songs after having played them live a bunch, and we tracked most of the instruments live.


Q:  Is there a certain amount of wry humor being projected on the album? Who brought “Slow Walking” to the table first? Do the two collaborators then write their own part of the story?

Cassie: "Slow Walkin" is a song that I had half written before I showed it to Kevin - I saw potential for it being a good song for The Babies but wasn't sure where to go with it. Kevin and I jammed on it with acoustic guitars for about an hour and then it was a done deal. Even though I came up with it first I think of this song as being very collaborative - everyone in the band contributed something to it.

Q:  "Mess Me Around" channels Black Francis at his peak Pixie period and even the sustained lead guitar lines sound like an homage to that band. Is the accusatory "you're a dumb idiot" lyrics your sense of how those "messing you around" perceive you?

Kevin: "Yes, although I am not the character in the song. But to that character, that is correct. It's a chant of anger and frustration towards a situation you were born into and wish you could get out of. It's pointed at all sides actually, outward towards an enemy, as well as inward, towards one's self."

Q: "Baby" is the first Cassie solo lead vocal. "I got a reason now - for you to come around." It goes from initially sweet and heartfelt to demanding - "you gotta come around." The video recently released to accompany depicts the universal fantasy of when singing Karaoke, you are imagining yourself on stage at a huge venue. The video itself is charmingly low budget in the way Sonic Youth would sometimes do. In fact, the deadpan vocal presentation hints at Kim Gordon cool. Does Cassie see Kim as any kind of influence or reference point for her own pubic personna (music or visual style)?

Cassie: I love Kim Gordon and Sonic Youth, but I can't say that she (or anyone else in particular) has had a huge influence on the way I sing or present myself in public. With my singing it's like - it's the only way I know how to do it. I don't even want it to sound like it's deadpan, but I guess that's how it comes out. I have been influenced in recent years by Lou Christie . He has really innovative vocal arrangements and I love his use of falsetto. Also the harmonies of bands from the 70s, like the Carpenters and
America .

Q:  “That Boy” finds Kevin detailing everyone’s (it seems) heartbreak. The seemingly simple rhyming quality of the couplets give the impression of an unlabored composition. As if it flowed out quickly with relatively little editing. Is that an accurate impression or was there more designed effort involved?

Kevin: "That's pretty spot on. The song has never had much structure, it's a song I had written a long time ago, that was never too defined, just something I would always come back too when idly strumming the guitar, and I tried to capture that essence in the studio by just doing a few takes of me playing it."

Q: Kevin shows up solo with acoustic guitar on the quiet and instrospective "Mean." Delivered in class Boby Dylan style, the "chorus" (including Cassie on ghostly background vocals) consists of the one word "mean" (repeated three times). A surprising saxophone solo makes its way into the mix unexpectedly. The Dylan vocal stylings are taken further with "On My Team," progressing it forward the way Bob did from his early acoustic recordings to the full instrumentation he realized with The Band. The repeated title line morphs from Kevin vocal only to Cassie fully out front. Has the Dylan influence been as profound on you as so many others have stated over the years? Is he still the gold standard that songwriters look to when making music that puts its emphasis on lyrics?

Cassie: Kevin really loves and is inspired by Bob Dylan. Me, not as much. I like him but there's a wall there that I haven't broken down. I'm more of a Neil Young kinda gal.

Note: I had previously written a review of signficant album track "Moonlight Mile" here:

Q: "See The Country" is another Cassie lead vocal, with Kevin on background. "Gonna see Sedona in the snow, and the rolling hills of Idaho" is how this travelogue goes. Ultimately "where will I go?" becomes the thematic hook. Touring extensively the way you now are, do you feel you're getting an adequate opportunity to see all the interesting things this country has to offer?

Cassie: Yes. I've always loved traveling across America since I was a little kid and my parents would take me on vacations to the National Parks. Part of the reason I love touring is getting back that childhood feeling. It's wonderful to be able to see so much beautiful scenery.

This interview appears in an edited form in The Deli Magazine, Print Issue No. 33, which can be found here:

And directly on The Deli Website here:

What you should know:

Preferred band Website address

Origins: Brooklyn, NY.

What it is: Melodic three minute rock songs with lyrical emphasis.

For those who like: Modern Lovers, Pixies, Dinosaur Jr.

Relevant info: The Babies released their second album “Our House On The Hill” this past November on Woodsist Records.

Equipment/Recording interview for Delicious Audio (featuring Cassie and Kevin)

- How much of your recording is done at home versus in the studio?

Our latest record was recorded in a nice studio. Our first album was technically recorded at Kevin's house, but it was a studio-like setup, recorded by Kevin's bandmate in Woods, Jarvis Taveniere.

- If you use a studio, what do you record there and what do you record by yourself and why?

Our only release that we have recorded ourselves was the EP "Cry Along With The Babies." We record in a studio because we're a full band and it seems like it would be difficult to make a decent-sounding recording with the whole band.

- What are the pieces of equipment that you find particularly inspiring when recording at home?

Kevin and I both have Tascam DP-008s that we use when recording on our own.
- What one piece of hardware/software would you most like to add to your recording setup (cost not an issue)? Why?

I'd like to have a reel-to-reel 8 track and an old tube condenser microphone.

- Do you expect your next record to be self-produced, or would you like to work with a producer? If it’s the latter, who would you most like to produce your band, and why?

Our next record will likely also be recorded and produced by Rob Barbato, who we worked with while making "Our House On The Hill." We love working with him. He is extremely talented and easy to get along with.

- Do you use rack effects or guitar pedals to forge your own sound? If you do, please list the ones you use the most and let us know why you love them.

I use an Electro-Harmonix Memory Boy and a Boss Super Overdrive while playing live, and also while recording sometimes. Kevin uses a booster pedal playing live and that's it. We also both sing through Holy Grails.
- Do you have a particular recording style that you aim for? What techniques do you employ to recreate it?

We wanted our last record to have the energy of playing live, so we tracked almost all the instruments live for many of the songs.

- Who determines the direction and style of your recordings?

It's a group decision.

- Is there a person outside the band that's been important in perfecting your recorded or live sound?

Rob Barbato was incredible as a producer. He brought many ideas to the table that made our recording sound way better than it would have otherwise.
- Would you say that your live show informs your recording process or that your recording process informs your live show? Both? Neither?

Both. Our live show informs our recording primarily, but there are some parts on our record that we hadn't been playing live, and after we recorded them we started.

- Is there a piece of equipment that you find particularly useful on stage?

I love my '65 Fender Pro Reverb amp. It never lets me down. It's hard to play out of other amps sometimes.

- With bands doing more of everything themselves these days (recording, performing, self-promoting, etc.) and the evermore multimedia nature of the world, how much effort do you put into the visual component of your band - fashion, styling, photography, graphic/web design, etc.? Do you do these things yourself or is there someone that the band works with?

I'm a visual artist as well, so the visual component is very important to me, especially in terms of album artwork and music videos. It's important for a band to have a defined aesthetic, whatever that means to the band themselves.
- What do you find to be the most challenging aspects of the recording process? On the flipside, what aspects are the most rewarding?

There can be stressful moments when someone is trying to nail a part and it takes a while. However, it's extremely rewarding when you listen back to the song and it sounds better than it did in your head.

An edited version of this recording and equipment interview can also be found at The Deli Magazine Delicious Audio site, located here:


Mirror said...

here's an awesome live version of that great song "Get Lost" that I shot at the Cake Shop last year:

Ivanka said...

woo hoo! some pretty good stuff here
and guitar and a girl! nothing better than girl with guitar!
awesome review Dave!Thanks for sharing

DaveCromwell said...

I agree - there are some seriously tasty guitar licks going on here. I love that snaking melody line that Cassie plays out on the song "Get Lost."

Misty said...

very cool.

and i dig that song 'get lost' as lot.

and 'baby' too!

DaveCromwell said...

Those are two stand out tracks on the album for sure, Misty. Be sure to check out "Slow Walkin" - "Alligator" and "Moonlight Mile" too. All highlights on a really solid record.

Andy said...

some sexy sonics going on here and a great into to the band for people not au fait with their work !

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

some sexy sonics going on here and a great into to the band for people not au fait with their work !

William said...

Nice band- I havent heard of them before now, but they seem worth checking out- theres a bit of the creepy ghost vibe i like in my music in there - thanks for the intro!

The Midnite Rambler said...

This is a band I need to look into further. Thanks for the article Dave. As usual I like your multi-media & text presentation with just enough info. Keep it coming.

The Midnite Rambler said...
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Patricia Mena said...

Very nice one Dave. Cool band, That song "Get lost" left me lost in the rhythm hahah, i liked it.

DaveCromwell said...

Getting "lost" in a rhythm is my fave thing to do, Paty.

How do you say "sexy sonics" in French, Andy? I must make a point to 'keep up' on that ;-)

I'm glad you noticed the somewhat 'creepy/ghosty' aspects in some of the songs, Will. I think that vibe emerges on repeated listens to the song "Baby." What initially appears to be a relatively innocent plea, may ultimately be revealing a certain level of psychotic desperation.

Oh, and thanks for the compliment on by (hopefully) balanced presentation here, Midnite Rambler. ;-)

Mr Smork said...

nice job, dave.

sounds like cool gang.

MusicRX said...

Good interview, once again. And I quite enjoyed listening to their CD.
Thanks, Dave