Since Lion Babe discovered their cosmic chemistry at a party in New York City, singer Jillian Hervey and producer, Lucas "Astro Raw" Goodman have continued to cultivate their electro soul sound on their new debut album Begin. Through the exciting journey of establishing a large audience in both the U.K. and in the states, Goodman’s keen ear for instrumentals shines through the perfect grooves he's crafted for Hervey’s infectious smoky serenades.
The FADER spoke with Lion Babe over the phone just days before the release of the album about the inspirations behind their new project, risk taking, and the magic that happens after shedding insecurities.
How have you grown as artists and as individuals since the Lion Babe EP came out in 2014?
Hervey: We've grown just in our understanding of what we want to do. All of the elements that brought us together and kind of what created Lion Babe are still here but we've just grown in trying to maintain them. Just really practicing how to stand your own ground and know how to stretch yourself, how to take risks and be open. But, also know to stand firm on things that you know that really mean something to you. Those things definitely have been tried and tested in some capacity.
Goodman: Yeah, you know everyday it's kind of like you learn something new. We’ve definitely learned many lessons through trial and error. It's all good stuff that just we're excited to use all our new found knowledge to embrace this year.
What risks would you say that you've taken?
Hervey: Tons of risks. With music, things that we could have done, not even questioning, just like, "Oh, I've never did something like this" or "I wasn't thinking of doing something like this." It's just kind of pushing yourself. For me, I think when I started doing collaborations and stuff, I was thinking differently from when I first started just because I was in Lucas’ little sister's room kind of singing to myself and then you're in the studio with other people around. You start to push yourself vocally and that's definitely a risk and it definitely felt uncomfortable. But, I got to a point where I really loved to do that and that's definitely one way.
Goodman: Even like with the sound. With the newest song, it's got some similarities but, it's definitely quite different from our earlier stuff. We made some music like this to just achieve different feelings and vibes because we just try not get all stuck in one area but, then you just never know. Obviously you might like one tune or not like one tune as much, just trying to experiment you know? With different feelings.
Usually the best stuff comes out when you’re not really trying to do anything—you’re trying not to think so much and just feel it out.
What feelings did you want to bring out on this album?
Goodman: We included all our earliest songs that you start from "Treat Me Like Fire." You might have heard that song before, you might have been into it, but for anyone who this is their first time getting into Lion Babe we really wanted them to know the beginning of where we started the full spectrum of the sound—the beginning. Definitely with the other parts of the album, we were into doing things like some more up tempo type records. You know, we just wanted to have some party vibe too to it that gets you grooving and then still have some of the more low-key veteran type feels to it as well.
Lucas, what's the process like when you're finding the perfect beat? Do you two sit down and talk about it first or are the lyrics there? What's the creative process like?
Goodman: Sometimes, I might hear something and be inspired by it. Like, "Oh, it would be so cool if Jill had something similar to go in on."
But a lot of times, I'll just be making tracks and really start to just get inspired by things that make myself feel good in the moment, you know, just making whatever tune at my crib. So, I'll just make a bunch of stuff and there's tons of music there sitting in my iTunes that isn't even really for Lion Babe. It’s like an “I just made this type of thing” day. But it's usually the ones where I'm like, especially if Jill's chilling there and she's like in the background or she's singing along to one thing or another and I'm like, "Oh, man, that's what she's feeling." Or I'll email something to her like, "Just something I think you'd be into."
And there's also other ways. Jill might be like, "Oh, it would be cool if we do something with a sound like this," or she starts singing and I'm like, "Oh, yo keep singing that, I'll just make something under it."
So, it goes all sorts of ways. It's kind of like, you just gotta keep experimenting and usually the best stuff I feel like comes out when you're not really trying to do anything—you're just kind of like try to not think so much and just feel it out.
Pharrell produced "Wonder Woman" but who are some of the other producers that you've been working with? How do you collaborate with them because you have such a heavy role in terms of creating the instrumentals for the album?
Goodman: We worked with Andrew Wyatt who has a band called Miike Snow. We worked with this dude Alex Shux and Joel Compass who’s one of our really good friends out here in the U.K. and we did three of the records with him. He's probably got the most hand in this album out of all the other dudes we worked with. Three of the records we did with him, as well as our friend Linden, and another friend of ours, Josh. The one thing that's been really cool for us is anyone who wanted to work with us, it was much more of a vibe because they were already digging what we did so, "Let's get down together” and all these people we were with, they have all their own style and flavor that we were really excited to like mix into ours.
Usually the process is kind of a similar thing. We'll do a session for maybe like two or three days and hopefully we'll leave with a song being written and there's like a basic vibe in the track, but then like, the two of us, we take it back home and then we go in on it and then add more production, more vocal layers. All the little cool things in the background that's usually just like the stuff we do on our own, because it's kind of like almost the checklist for us, like, "Oh, man, we need to make sure we kind of hit all these points to make sure it is a Lion Babe type record." And then we bring it back, and we get back together and we kind of like finish it up, but you know, most of it is like the initial session and the two of us, we just go off our own thing together.
There's a song "Everyday Life" it's one of my favorites that I've been playing over and over. The words touch on the uncertainties of life. Would you say that it's somewhat reflective of anything that you both have encountered throughout the journey in making the album and in the time in between the first EP and now?
It's just seems personal.
Hervey: It was all about just about whatever's going on when you get into the space of being in the studio, whether you're trying to be personal or not for me, at least it comes out that way. "Everyday Life" is actually one of my favorite songs also just because it feels really real. The verses kind of came really naturally and just all the questions that I had—just continual unanswered questions is kind of the name of the game of everyday life and it's just kind of my atmosphere of what I thought like.
I live right across the street from a church so I do hear church bells ringing all the time. I was just kind of putting in moments that really felt like me and then all the things that I was talking about with my friends and kind of in the world. There's definitely been times where we're just like, "Oh, we thought that was coming out like, months ago, just not so," I think sometimes just the journey is the best thing to talk about just because it's the most real. And it's a release, a way to get it out.
Jillian, so many of your songs show your strong sense of self. This is who I am, I won’t stand for this, today I might be this way… this is me. Where does that come from?
Hervey: Living my life. I’m lucky to have a great support system and a lot of friends who carry themselves in the same light, but it’s just nice to feel supported in that way. New York City was a huge transformational place for me—seeing people’s mentalities and having a new awareness of who I was and kind of how I wanted to do things. All those insecurities that I dealt with growing up just fizzled out and I wasn’t interested in feeling that way anymore. Then also, what I was doing artistically felt really good. That was my message to myself and that’s the message that I wanted to impart on everyone else. There have definitely been challenges but, I do credit the people around me and as much as it is self-reflective I try to think of the bigger words of wisdom that have kept me grounded and feeling whole.
A lot of people connect with the music because it provides that motivation to do what you do and love it and be who you are. “Got Body” is one of those songs as well. Is that song connected to some of those insecurities that you’ve gotten over and embraced?
Hervey: Oh, totally. My little sister, she’s on the verge of being 16. I see so much of myself in her. I always think about that time being such a crucial time of when you first become a woman and what that means. Even where I grew up, I didn’t have that many references to women of color around me and it affected me for a long time. Whatever race you’re in, there’s such an expectation put on everyone about how to feel. I just felt like you needed to have something that was that kind of an anthem. Everyone has a body and just being a dancer, I have such a close relationship with my body. It’s not directed only in the way that society talks about body. It just felt really appropriate and if I didn’t mention the body I would feel incomplete with this first album. It’s something for my sister or any girl I talk to that’s gorgeous and they say, “I feel this way.” It’s something that they can tell themselves and not go through unnecessary stress.
What are some of your favorite songs off of Begin that you absolutely love?
Goodman: I love “Stressed Out.” It’s a cool funky tune and for us at the time it was about being new in the label system and we had a lot to prove. A lot of people thinking we should do things a certain way and we just wanted to do it our own way. That was a big thing we had to learn. How to deal with this new level of self and not let it eat you alive. We love “On the Rocks.”
Hervey: “On the Rocks” was a jam. That was one of the last songs we finished up so it feels fresh in our minds and we played it live for a couple of shows and it’s been a lot of fun to bring into that world also. I’m glad you agree, I was really excited to share, “Got Body” and “Everyday Life” because it reminds me of “Treat Me Like Fire” and that vibe to bring that full circle.