Babeheaven want to keep things personal

If you’re into contemporary, R&B-tinged pop like Tirzah, Erika de Casier, or Clairo, chances are you’ve also come across Babeheaven, who just released their debut album Suspended Animation. A collaboration between lead singer Nancy Andersen and bass player Jamie Travis, Babeheaven’s full sound comes from performing with a five-piece band.

Nancy Andersen of Babeheaven

Babeheaven’s sound is often compared to hazy pop and trip-hop like the Cocteau Twins and Portishead. Could you tell us a bit about the context you grew up in musically, and how that influenced you? 

My dad writes music for adverts, and he was in a couple of bands himself, so I grew up in a household where there was constantly music playing – he was really into soul and funk. I’d finish school, go to his office and listen to him making music for hours. When I got old enough he said: ‘you get to sing on them now!’ So I started doing that and I still do occasionally.

When you started to explore and discover music on your own, what did you look for and what did you find?

I grew up in in the Myspace era, so I’d find a lot of music there. I was super into indie bands as a teenager. I’d go to all the 16+ shows – there were so many of them in London, it was amazing – you could go to every gig for about four pounds. As I got older, Myspace disappeared so I started looking for stuff on blogs more. I was a big music searcher and I still am, but of course things like Spotify have taken that away a bit.

Babeheaven have been making music together since 2016 and just released their debut album Suspended Animation – a title which refers to slowing down the biological processes of the body in order to preserve its functions. Was slowing down also a part of your creative process?

Slowing down to keep things alive is quite accurate to how we release music! There’s no rush in anything and that’s probably why, though it has its own groove, we make quite slow music. Everything is a one-hit wonder these days, but it’s important to take the time with things and not force them out.

Everything is a one-hit wonder these days, but it’s important to take the time with things and not force them out.

We’re always making music, so for us the creative process is not a struggle – the issue arises with figuring out what should we release because there’s so much. So it’s a question of what’s worthy of being put out, sifting through everything and trying to fit it into a body of work. And I think with Suspended Animation we’ve managed to do that – it really has a beginning, middle and end. Though everyone keeps calling it a debut album and I think it’s more of a long EP than an album.

As Babeheaven has grown, did you feel ready for that spotlight or did you have to learn to take yourself more seriously  – like “ok, I’m really a musician now”?

I take my music very seriously but as I think you can tell I don’t take myself very seriously. When I’m on stage I still find it hilarious and amazing that everyone is there and holding on to my words and I’m just this idiot on stage. It’s quite an odd feeling. I’ve always loved music but I never really thought I’d do music like this, that I’d be a musician, and now I am.

When I’m performing I find it hilarious and amazing that everyone’s there, holding on to my words, and I’m just this idiot on stage.

Like many artists – in particular young artists – you have other part-time work. In your dream world, do you make music full-time?

I’d love to do music full-time but there’s also an element of my brain that’s maybe not suited to it. I find writing music a relief but it’s also quite intense, so then I also need to have menial tasks: things that don’t take up any of your emotions or brain, you’re just doing it to do it. I love cooking and it serves that function for me – it clears my mind. I do quite a lot of catering jobs for people, cooking for dinner parties, that kind of thing. Or I get home and I’m a bit stressed, I open the fridge and make something. I live with three boys so they’re very happy when I make a feast.

I can imagine writing music asks a lot of you, as many of your tracks feel quite personal – like ‘Heaven’, which is about your mum who passed away.

Most of our songs are very personal. ‘It’s Not Easy’, for instance, is a song that me and Jamie wrote for his mum when she passed away. I like writing about how I feel because it helps me get  things, and then I have a mental note of how I was feeling at that time in my life. It’s also for me quite difficult because then someone wants to release it into the world and suddenly it’s not just your song or your experience anymore.

And how do you preserve that personal aspect while performing?

People are really shy, am I’m really shy too, so I always say to my crowd: do whatever you feel, sing along or don’t, just do what you feel. I look at everyone and try to see how they’re feeling and respond to that.

Pretending that all the audiences are one beast is quite an odd thing. When like us you’ve been a support band and you’re on tour, the first night you see the headliner you’re like, wow, that was incredible, what a performance, everything they said was so genuine – and then you see them the second night and they do it all over again. It really threw me off actually and it’s something I fight against quite heavily. I don’t want to prepare things to say between songs, because you lose the realness of being there.

Babeheaven is on tour in the UK at the moment – do you have any rituals to preserve your well-being when you’re on the road?

When me and Luca [Mantero, guitarist] and Jamie were on tour in Europe, we had to drive for like 7 hours between every town or city, and then as soon as we arrived somewhere we’d park and go into town and we’d all go look for a magnet to buy for our fridge. It’s a good way to see a city centre because you find yourself walking around the busiest areas and normally the venues are a bit more secluded. We’ve learned that the best thing to do is not to go straight to the venue and sit in the venue. It’s good to have a walk!

I don’t want to prepare things to say between songs, because you lose the realness of being there.

How do you understand the role of art in society?

When you listen to music and you feel like it’s speaking to you, because you can relate to it, it elevates you in such a special way. It’s very important to make things that make people feel good. Right now England in particular is a sticky one… but I think it’s also a very interesting moment for people creating stuff, because everyone is reacting to what’s touching them at the moment and I think that’s when the most exciting stuff happens.

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