Ohio’s Total Babes are on the verge of releasing their second album Heydays, out on 18th May through Wichita Recordings, a label with a seriously strong roster including Cheatahs, Girlpool, Waxahatchee and Cloud Nothings. The latter (who released my favourite album of 2014) features Jayson Gerycz who along with Christopher Brown formed Total Babes back in 2010. These two previously made a fairly substantial racket together in Swindella but it was their leaning towards songwriting of a more ‘pop’ flavour that brought Total Babes into fruition.
Heydays is a blast of an album. Not quite as pop as the press releases might have you believe but there’s certainly plenty going on across it’s eight tracks to delight lovers of noisy guitars, hooks and melodies all wrapped up in a punk blanket. It sounds like a lovingly crafted mess, in the best possible way of course. After the delight of several listens to the new album Overblown caught up with Christopher Brown to gleam a little more knowledge about what makes the band tick and we make absolutely no apologies for asking the most obvious lazy question first. Read and listen.
Overblown: Total Babes is a very playful name, where did it come from and are you really just trying to get web searchers into bother?
Christopher Brown: It really came up as a joke. We thought it would be funny if there was a band called Total Babes and we decided we wanted to have that name.
O: I believe the band came into being as an outlet for songs that weren’t suitable for Swindlella. Was it a deliberate move to start a band to allow you to create a different style of music or did you have the songs for Swindlella but they just didn’t fit?
CB: It wasn’t a deliberate thing so much, there was no pressing need to get these pop songs out of our systems. Jayson and I just started goofing around with these couple of pop songs one day (“Like They Always Do” and “Be So True” from Swimming Through Sunlight) and then just kept making more because we enjoyed doing it.
O: What’s the take on Total Babes from fans of Swindlella?
CB: I think there are two, maybe three Swindlella fans in existence. I don’t think Total Babes is on their radar. I hope they like it.
O: The new album is being released worldwide through Wichita Recordings. Tell us about how that relationship came about.
CB: Jayson knows all the Wichita folks via working with them with Cloud Nothings. Heydays was created and recorded with no release plan in mind. Once the record was done, the Wichita gang heard it and are kind enough to be releasing it.
O: I’ve read you explaining you got really bored of the songs on the debut album. What’s the difference this time around from your perspective? Do you feel there’s a lot of progress on the new record?
CB: We got to really sit with these songs for a while, hash them out, re-record and re-write them as many times as we needed to. We also recorded something like eighteen songs for the new record, and only ended up using eight. With the first record, we used every second of music that we had. The first record was recorded very hastily – we didn’t think too much with those songs. I think now I’m too harsh on the first record. Maybe the appropriate amount of harsh. There’s some good stuff there. Also some not-so-good. But I do think we did make some big strides from the first record to this one. We’ve learned where our strengths are and we’ve learned what doesn’t work. Our musical and personal growth is reflected in this record as well, I think.
O: The band is made up of people who also play in various other bands. It sounds difficult for you all to get together too often, especially considering the success of Cloud Nothings. Is it a hindrance to the band at all or something you just have to stay relaxed about?
CB: We just stay relaxed about it. We wouldn’t be in the position that we are in now if not for those other projects.
O: Your bio describes the songs as ‘Pop Songs’ but there’s certainly plenty of rock and noise on the new album. What do you guys feel makes for a good ‘Pop’ record or does pop in this instance really mean just more accessible than Swindlella?
CB: Pop is a pretty broad term. I get kind of lazy when describing what music sounds like. I don’t really care for, like, micro-genre terms. A good pop song, to me, has gotta have something that can stick with you. A killer hook is invaluable.
O: You’re touring with Sebadoh and the Pile. Sounds like a lot of fun. What’s the Total Babes live show like?
CB: We’re not totally sure yet! We’ve still only done a handful of gigs with this lineup (I think the current tally is four). But they’ve been a blast so far. John brings so much to the table, we got a lot more liberty to improvise and play with more freedom with him in the mix. So the songs have been opening up a little bit more than the record does. And Jayson and I have been playing together for years, we can lock in together pretty quickly.
O: The new album Heydays sounds like a blast, positive, upbeat and bright for the most part. However, the lyrics (from what I can make out) don’t necessarily reflect that. Do you consider the lyrics to have much meaning or are you looking for the vocals to just act as another instrument in the mix?
CB: Lyrical meaning is very important to me. I don’t want to be some chump up there saying words that I don’t care about. If they don’t mean anything to me, how are they going to mean anything to anybody else? Lyrics and vocals are always the last thing I do when writing a song, but I consider it to be one of the most important parts. I put a lot of time and thought into them, and try to capture as much meaning and feeling as I can.
O: What’s the cover artwork all about? Is that an old rug? Looks very nice!
CB: Thanks! The artwork is a kitchen tile from the house we recorded Heydays in. John, Jayson, and I all lived there together, and to us, this record encapsulates the time spent there. The house got torn down (and is now a parking lot) and that photo was taken on the last day that anyone occupied the house, while I was waiting for a guy to come turn off our gas.
O: If you were only allowed to listen to three bands in your tour van what would you choose and would there be a massive fight between band members trying to decide?
CB: There’d probably be some squabbling, but I think we’d all be happy settling on ZZ Top, Taylor Swift, and Drake.
Heydays is released on Wichita Recordings on 18th May 2015 (19th May in USA). Spend your cash on it here
Total Babes are touring the UK with Pile in June. Dates Below.
Tuesday 9th June – Brighton, Green Door Store
Thursday 11th June – London, the Lexington
Friday 12th June – Bristol, The Louisiana
Saturday 13th June – Nottingham, JT Soar
Sunday 14th June – Manchester, Castle Hotel
Monday 15th June – Leeds, Brudenell
Tuesday 16th June – Newcaste, Think Tank
Wednesday 17th June – Glasgow, Nice and Sleazy