Charles Brownstein chats with Kevin Morby of The Babies (members of Vivian Girls and Woods) about balancing multiple touring bands, their new album “Our House on The Hill” and shares his top five essential records.
CB: The group really started out as a “party band”, when did you decide that you wanted The Babies to become more then that?
KM: It was pretty organic, really. We started out playing house shows and DIY spots, opening up for our friends bands, etc. An excuse to sort of return to the basements and warehouses of the Brooklyn scene, but once we had a record out and started dedicating a lot of our time to touring and recording, it naturally became a bit more serious. You can’t really go on tour for two months at a time all over the world and pretend it’s not a ‘serious’ project.
CB: The Babies have been described as an “Indie Supergroup.” Are you comfortable with this label?
KM: No, I hate it! It’s false and product of lazy music journalism. I play bass in Woods, I don’t sing or write the songs, and if I did then perhaps the Babies could be called a ‘side project’, or a ‘super group’, but I don’t, and it’s not. I was hoping those titles “super group” and “side project” would have gone away now that we are on our second record, yet they seem to still be lingering around. But I understand why people call it that, it’s quick and easy. We are just a group of friends who happen to play in other bands as well, but the Babies is it’s own vehicle.
CB: Can you tell us a bit about the upcoming album ‘Our House On The Hill.” Can we expect more catchy tracks like ‘Moonlight Mile’?
KM: I am very proud and excited for Our House on the Hill, we all are. It doesn’t just feel like another album I’m a part of, but something a little bit bigger than that. The stars really aligned themselves on this one. From recording with Rob, working with Woodsist, to our collection of songs we had lying around, it’s all felt very magical and came together quite nicely. I think we, the band, all took a step up as friends, artists, and songwriters on this record. Like I said, i’m proud.
And yes, I would say Moonlight Mile is a good representation of the album to be…
CB: What was the songwriting process on the album?
KM: Our song writing process on this album seemed to move through three different rooms. Room one was Cassie and I playing acoustic guitars and writing out lyrics on a pad of paper singing back and fourth. Room two was Justin, the drummer, and I in my living room playing plugged in. Room three was all of us, the band, combining what Cassie and I, as well as Justin and I, had separately come up with. I find it hard to work with too many people at once, so I prefer to sort of piece the songs together step by step.
CB: Was it hard combining all of your schedules to get the album done? With other bands you guys are in, and producer Rob Barbato who tours full time with Cass McCombs and produces loads of bands, seems like it might have been a challenge.
KM: We had locked down our recording schedule with Rob a few months in advance, so we all had it on our calendars. Life gets busy being apart of more than one project, for sure, but if you schedule everything out and dedicate yourself, it’s incredibly doable.
CB: You recently lived in LA for a couple of months for the recording of the album; is there a move for the band in the future? How far apart are the music scenes?
KM: We only lived out there for two weeks while we recorded the album, but the year before (2011) we had spent two months living in Echo Park. We had toured the West Coast with White Fence and then sublet a house for the rest of the winter. It was wonderful, and we, by some crazy force of the world, ended up living only five houses down from Tim Presely (who we had just toured with in White Fence). Our house was on a street named Cerro Gordo, which translates to ‘The Fat Hill’. It was incredibly steep, and that is where the albums title comes from.
We hadn’t moved out there with any real motive other than escaping the New York Winter, so our days were very simple, very sublime. Tim leant me his nylon string acoustic guitar and I wrote so many songs on that thing, a few that are on the album.
The music scenes in both cities are pretty similar, both have a lot going on, and a lot of great bands.
CB: Any chance of a Woods, Babies, Vivian Girls tour package?
KM: I don’t know if I have the physical or mental strength for that, but who knows! Ha!
CB: Which five albums from your collection always go on tour with you?
KM:Lee Hazlewood – Cowboy in Sweden
Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited
Nico – Chelsea Girls
Group Inerane – Guitars from Agadez
House of Broken Hearts – A Mississippi Records compilation.