Members of Barf Troop, the internet rap collective, recently got the chance to record at Jamaica's Tuff Gong Studios, the iconic recording studio opened by Bob Marley in 1965. For some members of the very young group, it was the first time they left America. The trip was part of Converse Rubber Tracks' initiative in September to hold 84 recording sessions at 12 different studios around the world. Reached over email, Jed Lewis, the Global Music Marketing Director for Converse, told The FADER that he was excited to extend the program's reach around the world.
"One of our ongoing goals is to inspire new generations of emerging artists by providing useful resources, including quality studio time," Lewis said. "Each of the 12 iconic studios in the program have played an integral role in shaping music history, with the legendary artists who have recorded there redefining generations and genres for decades, and this initiative elevates the Converse Rubber Tracks platform to an unprecedented global reach."
What follows is a lightly edited conversation with BT members Babeo Baggins and Babe Simpson about recording in the studio, working with Thailand's The Super Glasses Ska Ensemble, and what they've got coming soon.
How did the recording go? What was it like?
Babeo Baggins: It went really well, actually. It was super super cool. We recorded three songs—each of the members that attended got one song done. On the first day, we arrived and a band from Thailand was leaving, it was their last day in the studio. And we kind of convinced them to make a song with us! We collaborated, and it was really cool because of course, we never expected to meet them because they're from Thailand. We were all together in the same space and we created something really really cool. So it was a really cool experience overall.
What was working with this band from Thailand like?
Baggins: It was really cool! I didn't expect it to happen, and I didn't know how it was going to go, but it actually went really well. They got what I wanted to do instantly and we just collaborated together in that space, in that moment. It worked super well. It came out really amazing—more amazing than I had expected, to be honest.
What were these three songs that you made like?
Babe Simpson: I think there were four actually. There were two main songs, one done by Babeo Baggins with the band from Thailand, and then another done by Babefield using a Penthouse Penthouse track. There were two rap songs done, one by myself, Babe Simpson, and then one done by Babefield. The one I did was a remix of TLC's "Creep" and Babefield did one with original production.
Tell me about this "Creep" cover?
Simpson: I did it as a rap song, actually. I used a tiny bit of the elements from the Creep chorus. Babeo Baggins sang it in the middle and at the end. Actually it was good, and I want to release it today.
How was recording in Tuff Gong?
Baggins: It was amazing, honestly! It was such a cool experience to travel outside of the country. For some of us, it was the first time out of the country in general, much less the first time to Jamaica. It was such a cool experience to go to such a historical place and be able to create and do what we love most. It was completely different from what we're used to recording in because we're used to super modern studios, laptops, and whatever, but it was such a time capsule. It had such a specific feeling and there were specific emotions you would get when you enter Tuff Gong. It was such a special place.
Simpson: Yeah, the energy in there is crazy. It's so historic. My mom is Jamaican, the whole side of my mom's family. It was super interesting to record in the country where she's from, let alone the most historic studio in the whole country.
Do you think Jamaica influenced the sound of the songs at all?
Baggins: I would say Babefield's track is probably the most influenced by [Jamaica]. It's super tropical. Wait 'till you hear it!
Are any of you Marley fans? It was it an experience in that sense to connect with him?
Baggins: Oh yeah, of course, of course!
Simpson: Yeah! He's one of my favorite artists so it was amazing. I went in and immediately touched his organ and you could literally feel him. It was really crazy how much influence he has there. It was strange, almost, because it was empty but there still felt like there was a presence there.
You said yourself that you work in super modern studios, and your sound is really influenced by the internet. How was recording in an old-school studio? How did that work for you?
Baggins: The majority of the tracks I make are very much inspired by older music. It's definitely not "internet" music. All of my singing stuff is very much inspired by old jazz musicians, old bluegrass. To be such a special place that's literally like a time capsule in a world that's constantly changing, that has such a distinct energy, that has such a special vibe that really can't be replicated, to be in a place like that inspired me to sing because all the things that do inspire me to sing are so old. So muted, things that I haven't been able to experience. It was such a cool experience to be that place, and get that old vibe that I hear in my head when I'm writing. To be in a space like that and feel so cultural, feel the depth and warmth of everything around, it was just a cool experience.
You mentioned that for some of you, it was their first time out of America. Was that true for either of you?
Baggins: It was my first time! I know that Babe Simpson has been before.
And how was that for you?
Baggins: It was really really cool! It was a really cool experience because I'm part Jamaican and I've never been before, but always wanted to go. Being there, being in that environment was great. Jamaica as a location, as a country, being around all the people, it was a really cool experience. It made me feel more in tune with myself, now that I was able to be there in that moment. To be able to see what was going and interact with my environment was really cool.
What else is on the horizon for the two of you?
Baggins: We're definitely working on new music all the time. I know Babe Simpson is working on her upcoming mixtape. Of course, we're working on a group tape, that's our main focus right now. We really want to have something that speaks for all of us, but we're always working.
What is the vibe when all of you are working together?
Simpson: We always have stuff that we prepare on our own before we get together and then record because we never have much time together when we do get together. So it's a lot of preparation and talking back and forth. We talk pretty much every second that we're awake, so it's really easy for us to share ideas back and forth. We already have ideas ready to go, or songs that are pretty much almost done written, so that when we get together, we can just bang 'em out, finish them, and then adjust anything we didn't necessarily like about it. It's really different because we'd like to have more time to sit down and write full things together, but the way we work is easier and faster. We get stuff done on our own and then get together, and then merge those ideas.
I know that with earlier releases, there were a lot of short songs. Is there any focus on any of the newer work to lengthen the songs?
Simpson: Yeah, that's been our main focus, making songs that are way longer just so I can create a longer project. As much as I love one-minute micro songs, it would be great to have more fleshed-out full ideas in longer tracks.
Was there a standout moment for both of you?
Baggins: Oh yeah! We were all in the studio, Babefield was in the studio up front, recording. We were all looking at our phones, writing lyrics, and I was hearing her rap. I was like, 'Wow, this is amazing.' I looked at our engineer Chris, like 'When did she record this?' And he was like, 'Right now.' And I looked up and she actually rapping in that moment, and I thought it was pre-recorded and they mixed it and everything! I was just like, 'Whaaaaat!' It's so amazing to be in a space with the people you most care about and the people you're inspired by and to be in awe of them without realizing it. I was so amazed because I thought that was the finished product. Even more amazed because it wasn't the finished product, it was literally her rapping in that moment. It was so crazy.
Simpson: My standout moment was just getting things finished. Being able to rap and work with you, what we worked on, and being like 'Oh! This is done, just now.' It's the feeling of accomplishment, finishing everything, stands out the most for me. It's so stressful during [the process] to complete something and want to have it done. In two days, we tried to get as much done as we can. It's like, 'Okay, this is done, this is recorded.' It's finished, and it takes this weight off your shoulders. It's a sense of accomplishment, like you just won the Superbowl.