Welcome to another edition of Music Meter Monday, where we profile bands who are tearing up the MTV Music Meter charts. This week, we caught up with The Babies, a band composed of members of Woods and Vivian Girls who recently released its sophomore album, Our House On The Hill.
The last time we spoke with The Babies, they dropped by OMA HQ to film a WTF Wednesday episode in which singer Kevin Morby showed us his father’s Facebook page. James Morby is apparently his son’s biggest fan, and often posts updates about his bands’ various successes. Well, we’re guessing Papa is pretty proud of his son’s — and bandmade Cassie Ramone’s — new album, a tighter, more lyrically lush followup to the band’s lovely self-titled debut.
We caught up with Morby to talk about the album, as well as Third Eye Blind and the Wild Wild West — naturally. Check out our Q&A below:
So I usually like to start off by asking bands what their earliest musical memory is — what stuck with you and made you think, ‘This is what I want to do?’
I have a very specific answer for that question, which is when I was probably seven or eight, my sister had ordered some — like out of a mailing order catalogue — CDs and one of them was that first Third Eye Blind record. That self-titled one. She ordered that one and that first Robyn record. So I got my hands on that Third Eye Blind record and that’s when I always cite for becoming obsessed with music. It was the first album I ever had. I became really, really obsessed with that album and I remember vividly thinking that I wanted to play music after hearing that record.
What was your favorite song on that album?
I think… ‘How’s It Gonna Be’ really moved me. I like ‘Graduate’ a lot. I liked the hits — ‘Semi-Charmed Life.’ ‘Jumper’ is also really good — the other single. I remember being blown away by the fact that I liked every song. I loved everything about it.
But you obviously haven’t modeled your sound on Third Eye Blind.
No, not at all. But what’s funny is that I read something recently that compared my voice to his [Stephan Jenkins], which obviously isn’t true at all.
So speaking of your voice — on this record, it’s a lot more out in the open. Not as shrouded in sound. Was that a specific decision that you guys made?
I think that it has to do with natural progression and evolution of us being a band. We wanted to go into a proper studio rather than record it at home, which we had gotten pretty used to doing. Our friend Rob Barbato, who produced and recorded the record — he’s just kind of a sound nerd, so a lot of that’s him. But, yeah, we wanted it to definitely jump out more and not be really buried under anything.
I’ve seen a lot of people asking you the lo-fi question in interviews. Whether you think of yourself as a lo-fi band. Whether you think this record is less lo-fi than the last.
It’s not like a super hi-fi record or anything, it’s just not the same fidelity as our last record.
And you recorded and wrote it in L.A. rather than Brooklyn? What effect did that have on the songwriting process?
I don’t think it affected the subject matter, but I really like L.A. because it’s a lot calmer than Brooklyn and I can get a lot more done. So it was a bunch of ideas that I had taken out of Brooklyn into Los Angeles, and then had the time and space to work on it there. So L.A. just basically allowed me the time and space. But it was all stuff I had laid the foundation for in Brooklyn.
But the record was named after your house in L.A., I heard?
Yeah, the house that Cassie, [drummer] Justin [Sullivan] and I lived in on a hill in Echo Park — a very steep hill. It’s named after that.
Is there a reason why you chose to connect the album to L.A. that way?
It’s not so much about Los Angeles as it is about a house that we all had and that we all wrote a lot of what ended up on the album [in]. It could have been anywhere; we just chose L.A. I don’t feel like Los Angeles really influenced the sound or anything.
So I know you write a lot of the lyrics — what were you drawing on this time? With the train imagery/metaphors in ‘Moonlight Mile’ and some of the outlaw-like references in ‘Mess Me Around’ and all that, the album seemed kind of Old America-ish.
I’m from the Midwest and I feel very heavily influenced by any sort of Western debauchery and I really like writing about that stuff — kind of applying it to my current situation. Using all of that as a metaphor. Dolling the song up with these things of the past.
Are you a fan of Westerns or Western music?
Yeah, absolutely. I love Western music and I love Westerns. I just saw this one that I liked called Hombre with Paul Newman in it. It’s very good…. [Westerns] are like candy or something — it’s kind of hard to separate which one is which. You can kind of seamlessly watch them and duck out of it and pick back up on it — it doesn’t really matter what’s happened; it’s just the overall vibe and feel of the movie.
Are there particular themes that you’re drawn to in Westerns?
What I really like about Westerns is that the law is really loose, but there’s also a lot of… I think what really draws me to them is the tragedy. There’s just a lot of f**k-ups in it, basically. I really like watching that from a distance. It’s all happening within towns, these weird developing towns, that are just sort of discovering themselves. People are adjusting to this developing world that had alcohol and guns introduced into it, which is really wild and fun.
It’s super appealing. Whenever I’m in the desert or something I think about the fact that there were real people traveling across the desert for the first time and the fact that they would just lay down in the desert and go to sleep. It’s so wild. It’s cool.
Have you ever done that? Lay down in the desert?
No, no I haven’t. Not just on the desert floor…. My other band, Woods, was just out [West] and we stopped in a place called Pioneer Town and we played a show there. It’s really cool. It’s like an old town in Eastern California in the desert. It’s right next to Joshua Tree and it’s centered around an old standing movie set. It’s super special. There’s just like one bar — it’s the only bar in that town because not that many people live there — and a couple of locals come out. Kind of freaky because the desert is kind of scary. You’re in the desert. The middle of nowhere desert. I think the population of the town is like 150.
So how has it been working with both bands? Has it been crazy? It seems like with this last record Babies has become less of a side project.
We’ve been able to handle it. It’s a little crazy for me because it’s just a lot of traveling, but at the same time it’s what I love doing and it’s a really good opportunity. It’s ultimately what I’ve always wanted to do.
Image courtesy of Facebook, The Babies