The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Escape Velocity

Sometimes They Just Want The Heavy Stuff: Baby In Vain Interviewed
Jamie Walker , June 29th, 2018 07:13

Ahead of their appearance at Roskilde Festival next week, Lola Hammerich, the guitarist and singer of Copenhagen trio Baby In Vain, speaks to Jamie Walker about writing death into music, almost losing fingertips, and why London is a dangerous place to be a touring musician

Band portrait by Nikolaj Thaning

Despite forming back in 2010, Baby In Vain are still young to the game, with all three members of the hard rock trio falling just short of 25. The band - comprised of Lola Hammerich, Benedicte Pierleoni and Andrea Thuesen Johansen - released their heavy hitting debut album More Nothing in August of 2017 on Partisan Records, and have since brought their melodic take on stoner-grunge to all corners of Europe and North America, including an upcoming appearance at Denmark’s Roskilde Festival.

More Nothing is a melange of gritty guitar work; a tight composition awash in feedback and swirling guitar lines which when placed behind the twin-vocals of Lola and Andrea hark back to the 90s Riot Grrrl movement. The eleven tracks beat on with only occasional slips in tempo, and provide a lush palette of hard rock musical colour, applied in thick and thin strokes alike.

More Nothing is a more textured display to the band’s 2016 EP For The Kids, with newly introduced tracks such as ‘Low Life’ displaying Baby In Vain’s musical maturation. However, as Lola told me in our recent interview, not all audiences have taken to the change of sound - “sometimes they just want the heavy stuff” she recalls when referencing the bemused, pit-hungry crowds.

I spoke to Lola during a recent Baby In Vain rehearsal break, and discussed the production process behind More Nothing and the excitement of learning to sing live for the first time.

You released your debut album More Nothing in August of 2017. How would you say the Baby In Vain sound has changed since you began writing music as a band eight years ago?

Lola Hammerich: When we started out it was very riff based rock, we were just playing really loud in the practice space. Now it’s become a little bit more mellow - we’ve kind of grown away from the huge, loud guitar sounds. We grew up, and we got more into melody and songs, more than just the sound. So I think its changed a lot. When we did the album it took us a long time to find our sound in the studio and the sound we wanted to put on the record. When we were playing shows it was all about the loudness and the energy, and then we found out that that was hard to capture, and not always as interesting on a record. Now we have some of the mellower songs which we had to figure out how to put into the set. We’re still trying to figure that out.

The album is a really lovely mix of brilliant indie rock which is mixed in with darker, heavier material. Do you prefer playing one or the other in your live shows?

LH: I really enjoy playing the softer songs, and getting the chance to sing properly, because I usually just growl or scream. It is kind of a challenge for me, especially singing live, without having to yell, and I also get nervous. Sometimes the crowd aren’t into the mellow songs, or it depends - sometimes they just want the heavy stuff. Because I think that’s what most people know us for, and therefore they're not prepared for our other stuff.

The vocal partnership between yourself and Andrea works really nicely, and these lighter songs provide points of relief in the middle of a track list which is characteristically moody and sardonic. How are Baby In Vain songs usually written? Is it a single person, or do you write them in one room as one band?

LH: The majority of the songs are written all together. Someone will come with an idea, or a riff, or a chord progression, and then we figure it out from there. There are a few tracks on the album which were either written solely be myself or Andrea, but usually it comes together when we are all together in a room, and those are the songs I like the best.

The music video for ‘Muscles’ is full of erotic symbolism, with bottles of foaming champagne suggestively held by topless, masked men. What is the meaning behind this video?

LH: We work with a director called Frederik Valentin, and the ideas he comes to us with are sometimes a bit over the top. In the past we have turned down some of his ideas, because we have thought them to be too much. But on this one, we thought that the song could carry this sort of visual, because the song itself is so arrogant. We were just brainstorming about images, but there wasn’t a message behind it. It was a fun video to shoot because we were at this beautiful castle in the countryside, and we were just there with the director, who had brought all of these props, and the actor seen in the video. Actually, it was my mother who had the connection to the castle, so that was why we could use it. On the first day of shooting we showed her some of the footage and she got really paranoid - she didn’t want to ruin the image of the people who owned the castle, who are royals. She got really scared about it [LAUGHS].

Royals?

LH: Yes, it was a Duke’s castle. That’s when we realised the effect of the video, the contrast between the very beautiful setting with what actually happens in the video.

The playful eroticism seen in the video to ‘Muscles’ and other Baby In Vain videos is contrasted against a macabre, almost goth-like aesthetic - the theme of death comes up quite frequently in your music. As a band, why are you drawn towards these darker themes when you write songs?

LH: I think that I just don’t think about it at all, actually. I’ve never written a song which doesn’t have a sinister side to it. It can be superficial, but there is always this dark element to it. I’ve never tried to write a song which doesn’t have a darkness to it.

‘Last Of The Turner Girls’ is one of my favourite tracks from the album, the drums on that song carry a surround sound spaciousness which breathes a real energy into the track. How was the recording conducted to achieve this sound? [ More Nothing was produced by Bob Ellis, who has worked with PJ Harvey, Scott Walker and Bat For Lashes] Did you all record simultaneously in one room?

LH: Most of the songs were recorded together, in the live room. But then we would edit it, with reverb. I think there was only one song on the album which wasn’t recorded in this way.

Baby In Vain have toured with The Jesus And The Mary Chain, Chelsea Light Moving and The Kills. Are there any particularly interesting tour stories you can share?

LH: It was a huge deal for us to get onto The Kills tour, as we’re all really big fans. We’ve toured with them three times now, but the first time was insane - we went to the States to play four or five shows. We played the first show with them in Vancouver, and we didn’t get to meet them until really late that night. We were all really drunk by the time we met them, and I was really nervous to meet them, but then when we did get to meet them I was so drunk that I completely forgot who they were and how big a fan I was, so the next morning I realised how much stupid shit I said to them.

Besides the drinking, has anything dangerous happened on a Baby In Vain tour?

LH: Once in London I almost walked out in front of a bus, because I couldn’t be bothered to look the right way when I crossed the street - and London buses are extremely big! So that was kind of scary [LAUGHS]. Also, on the first day of a UK tour we did, the door of our van was almost smashed shut onto Andrea’s hand. It just missed, but that was on the first day of tour, and she could have lost a finger. Then two days later I almost walk out in front of that bus.

So London has been quite a dangerous place for Baby in Vain then!

LH: Yeah, I think it is a dangerous place. [LAUGHS]

Away from London, Denmark currently holds a major place on music’s world stage, producing some incredible bands who are touring internationally. What is it about Denmark that makes it such a great place for emerging music?

LH: I think it’s a great place for music because it’s a lot easier to do what you want, compared to some other places. I think it’s maybe easier here to make a living - I mean, you can’t live off of the music, but we can get the space and the time we need. I think you can make it work a little easier here than some other places. Perhaps in the UK it’s a little harder.

Finally, what would you say to a young musician who is trying to make it in a band?

LH: I think just try to focus on writing the best songs you can, and forget everything else. In the end it doesn’t matter. It is easier to get distracted when you are starting out as a band, there are so many other things to deal with, but you have to give yourself the space you need to be creative and to write. I think sometimes that is easy to forget.

Baby In Vain play Roskilde Festival on Friday 6 June

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.