It’s safe to say I have a bit of a band crush on the LA based surf pop foursome Basement Babies *swoon*. A band who’s natural habitat would be a cross between a sweaty basement show and rooftop BBQ, they deliver a perfect balance of low-fi production and endless summer warmth.
My favorite track from their Soundcloud page Avenue has the kind punky, approachable vibe that made us fall in love with the Pixies, one that makes long drives on the freeway enjoyable and living in Southern California the absolute best.
I got a chance to ask adorable lead singer Kate Linthicum a few questions and things got pretty weird:
Can you give me a little background on Basement Babies?
The band has existed in various incarnations since 2010. The original lineup was me and Mally Jones, my best friend since age 12, and our friends Martin Roark and Andy Mart, who have known each other since middle school. So we were all quite comfortable with each other. We started out just sitting on the floor in a bedroom in Echo Park cranking out these ridiculously long jams. I mean, these were 45-minute long jams . . . jams that would put the Venice Beach drum circle to shame.
At first we weren’t trying to be a band, per se. We were just interested in making sounds together. But at a certain point we realized that we could fashion real songs out of the best parts of the jams. That’s still our process today. We have a drink, jam the fuck out, listen to the recordings, and then piece together the best stuff. Occasionally one of us will bring a song we wrote on our own, but that never works out as well.
What’s up with that name?
It sounds cute but it’s actually quite dark. I work as journalist, and around the time the band got together I was following this very creepy story about the remains of two newborn babies that were discovered in a basement in MacArthur Park. They had been wrapped in newspaper from, like, 1930, and stuck in a doctor’s satchel. When we were asked to play our first show, we gave them Basement Babies on a whim. And then we just never changed it. I tried to change our name to Lana Del Rey, but that was nixed. Everybody said it would be too unfair to her fans, who would inevitably have shown up at our shows by accident. They’d be there at the Bootleg or whatever expecting an intimate show with this sultry, Versace-draped goddess. And instead they would get four kids who just really like to jam.
You guys have definitely mastered that sunny, low-fi sound… who or what are your primary influences?
It’s funny when the music you make doesn’t sound like the music you intake. Like right now I listen predominately to hip-hop, R&B and electronic music . . . darker, sexier stuff . . . yet I go to practice and end up producing this cheery-as-hell uptempo California surf pop. What the fuck? I think that’s just what happens when you create something with other people. You end up settling on some common denominator.
For us, I think that’s the music we grew up on. Martin and James Roehl (who replaced Andy on guitar when he followed a girl up to northern California) are total 90s rock heads. I worshiped Kim Gordon and Sonic Youth. We all were raised on the Beatles and the Beach Boys and Nirvana.
I hear you have a new drummer, has this had any influence on your sound?
Yeah! Cybelle Tondu is a force of nature. She plays really hard and has definitely taken us in a more punk direction. We’ve been making much shorter, faster songs. I call them our snarlys because they’re full of attitude.
Having a chick drummer is kind of essential. Personally, I feel like it frees me of some of the stereotypes of female-made music. I’ve had annoying audience members tell me that my keyboard parts are “typical chick parts” because they’re usually single note melodies. But when you have a chick up there driving the whole show, those comments come off as pretty stupid.
Having James in the band has also changed things because that boy can really sing. We’ve been doing the call-and-response thing more, with him and Martin channeling some cutie-pie crooner vibes that will melt the hearts of every boy and girl in this city.
Martin plays in another band, So Many Wizards, and I think that’s influenced our sound a little, too. Nima, the band’s singer, has such strong melodies.
What would your dream tour look like?
We’d call it DREAM MACHINE 2000 because it would involve a time machine. The Reels would open for us, Television would go next and the Beatles would headline. Arthur Russell and Lou Reed would DJ in between sets and Aaliyah would play the after party. We’d travel by spaceship from one planet to the next. I hear the fangirls are crazy on Venus.
What does the summer look like for basement babies? Can we expect anything special?
We are putting out a tape! It’ll be five recordings we made with Eric Penna, a really amazing sound engineer. We’re also hoping to make a video with my friend Eugene Kotlyarenko, who has made videos for Vampire Weekend and Julia Holter. He did this little two-part soap opera for the band Yumi Zouma recently that is really great.
You can see Basement Babies live tonight at the Satellite in Silverlake with Strange Babes and Green Gerry and if you RSVP to the Facebook event you’ll even get a free drink!