Formed in 2004, New York based punk/garage/pop outfit Baby Shakes will be gracing Belfast with their presence this Friday with a show at The Warzone Centre with Belfast punk/pop (not pop punk) stalwarts Protex and garage upstarts Los Bloody Rackets. I got in touch with the band to ask a few questions:
► Starry Eyes’ is your first full length since 2008. Why the long wait?
After touring Europe and Japan to promote our LP we spent some time writing music for Japanese commercials and later worked on the 45 single before relaxing for a bit.
► You’ve been on the go for over ten years now. When you first formed, did you find the atmosphere a lot more garage friendly because the likes of the Von Bondies, White Stripes etc were in the charts?
Don’t think we ever had the intention of being part of the “garage” scene originally but nowadays and back then “garage” seems like an umbrella term used for new bands who are influenced by 60’s and 70’s rock n’ roll. We aren’t too familiar with the Von Bondies or the White Stripes music, the bands we associate with garage music that we love are bands like The Seeds, Chocolate Watch Band, The Sonics and The Stooges. We are also influenced by lots of other bands who wouldn’t necessarily be considered garage. When we first started we were more involved with the small scene of bands that we played shows with in NY.
► How important is New York to the band? Could the band be from anywhere else but New York?
Perhaps, but with the history of punk being rooted in NY (the Ramones, NY Dolls ,CBGBs) it seems like this is the place to be if you want to be in a band. Admittedly, being branded a NY band definitely has a stigma attached to it as well as higher expectations. Taking into consideration that rock n’ roll originated in the South with Chuck Berry and Little Richard, the west coast has always had a strong music scene and there have been some great bands to come out of the middle of nowhere in the Midwest. Even the White Stripes came to fame in Detroit, a city that has contributed their fair share of great bands. That being said, who knows how it would’ve turned out if we had started out elsewhere. It definitely would’ve been different. NY is a fantastic place if you want to see and hear live music, but since there are so many bands here trying to “make it” there’s a lot more competition as opposed to a small town where you have the advantage of being the local main attraction.
► You use the term power pop as one way of describing the music. For me, I associate power pop with throwaway New Wave acts like the Vapors (or what Americans referred to as ‘skinny tie’ bands), but then the term comes from Pete Townshend who described The Who’s early singles in such fashion. What does the term mean to you, and how do you feel it fits with the music you create?
Pete Townsend coined the term powerpop without a doubt and the fascination thereafter stems from his own cranked up jingle jangle Rickenbacker driven brand of modern pop music. The term powerpop in America is used to describe those bands who were specifically influenced by the early Who and the Byrds. For us powerpop has elements of all the music we love; bubble gum, mod, punk as well as 50’s rock n roll. In America the “powerpop” scene exploded in L.A. with a record label called BOMP pumping out records made by skinny tie, tennis shoe wearing, nerdy boys and gals singing 3 minute jangly love songs recorded in their basements. Bands like 20/20,The Nerves, Phil Seymour, Dwight Twilley and better known acts like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Cheap Trick. We have a fascination with these bands and this very same powerpop style of music is what made us big fans of bands from the UK like Nick Lowe, The Boys, the Undertones, Protex and the Buzzcocks. They’ve got a Beatles meets punk sound and that’s what we are trying to achieve with our songs as well. To us those bands are the epitome of powerpop. You can call it new wave or garage. We somehow fall between and always get associated with all three genres.
► The look of the covers to the likes of ‘She’s a Star’ and ‘With You Around/Too Much Time’ evoke a feel of early to mid 70’s (with the exception of ‘Stuck on Blue’ which reminded me of Cabaret Voltaire).
We’re big fans of 50’s 60’s and 70’s design. We feels it’s very important to have cover artwork that matches the feel of your music and considering our songs have 60’s and 70’s elements musically, it only seems natural that the artwork does as well. Mary is responsible for creating most of our artwork and we think she does a great job with capturing that vintage aesthetic that we love so much. If there’s are any 80’s elements they’re always influenced by new wave and pop. Pure pop, pure fun always!!!
► Ultimately, what do you think you’re trying to achieve?
We would just like to get our music out there and keep on playing shows around the world. It’d be nice to make a living out of it, sure. We’ve been receiving great feedback about the new record and have had great energy with the crowd at our most recent shows. That’s the most rewarding sensation you can have after a new release. We love our fans and if they still love our music we are happy. We just want to have fun and see where this ride takes us.