A, “dreamy grunge-pop”, project fronted by Siân Alex, Gold Baby first came to my attention back in 2019, and I was so enamoured I booked them to headline one of the shows I co-promote with Scared To Dance. Almost instantly they struck me as a band with a polish and a poise that lifted them above some of their DIY-contemporaries. Since then the band have gone through something of a period of metamorphosis, moving through various line-ups, before re-emerging in their current power-trio set-up. With Siân now joined by bassist, Sara Kleppe, and drummer, Scott Hislop, Gold Baby recently shared their much anticipated debut EP, Rabbits.
Discussing the record, Siân has spoken of Rabbits as a record dealing in the process of moving on, or perhaps trying to, with the record layered with ideas of being held-back, the overwhelming pressures of life, and just the right amount of optimism that things could get better. Much of the album’s more positive moments seem to take influence from creativity, as Siân explains, “art is a reaction to, and a reflection of, the world we live in“. In the face of the current political landscape where isolation became something of a norm, the record has a certain day-dreaming quality, of looking at the future and asking can we rebuild it into something better, “it has been a devastating time, but there’s a lot that can be turned into positive change, and I’m optimistic about that”.
Across the record, the EPs four tracks seem to hang together as a collective whole, while still offering moments of individual brilliance. There’s the fabulous Betty, described as, “an exploration of identity told through a tantrum“, Siân finds herself looking at the titular Betty, “she’s like a Disney princess and I’m the creepy kid watching her, all mixed up about whether I want her to be my mum, or my girlfriend, or whether I want to be her“. For all the track’s question-asking insecurity, it is musically direct and driving, and Siân’s always impressive vocal has never sounded better, particularly on the mesmeric break-down of a chorus, that ends with the howled question, “who was I supposed to be?” Elsewhere the record’s lead-single Captain Dorego finds influence in a 1920’s country-song and comes out like the middle ground of Caitlin Rose and Big Thief, while opening track Bodie adds a certain 60’s pop-flare with its arpeggiated guitar lines and gentle drum-tick, before exploding into life on its crashing crescendo of an ending.
A sparkling collection that feels like a band really hitting their stride, Rabbits is the sound of Gold Baby working out exactly who they want to be as musicians, story-tellers and artists, and it doesn’t get much more exciting than that. Read on for my interview with the band discussing the joys of live music, recording during a pandemic, and why, “the universal always ends up personal to some degree”.
FTR: For those who don’t know who are Gold Baby?
Sara: Siân, Sara and Scott!
Siân: I sing and play guitar, Sara plays bass and Scott plays drums. We’ve been making noises together for a couple of years now!
FTR: You’re recently released your new EP, Rabbits, what can you tell us about recording it?
Sara: It was a very welcome break from the reality of pandemics and lockdowns, and we were very lucky to be able to squeeze it in in that small window of time when life was allowed to happen again.
Scott: We worked with our regular producer Ian who found a lovely studio space called Unwound Studios in South London with nice big high ceilings. We tracked everything together which was a first for us… gave it a more live band feel.
FTR: You’re self-releasing the EP, do you like the freedom that gives you? Would you be interested in working with a record label?
Scott: Yes if the right label came along, there are pros and cons to both working with a label and going it alone, we find at this early point in our career as Gold Baby that just keeping it simple and putting it out ourselves made the most sense.
FTR: Your press release describes your songwriting as confessional, do you use music as a way to process the world?
Siân: What drew me to songwriting initially was that it was really cathartic during some pretty turbulent teenage years. Over the years, I’ve been trying to listen more to the world around me and get away from what is going on in my own life, but somehow the universal always ends up personal to some degree – your subconscious creeps in there.
FTR: It’s obviously a strange world to be releasing the album into, how has the pandemic affected your plans?
Scott: Apart from the obvious lack of live shows we would have spent way more time in the rehearsal space putting together songs for our next release by now. We did one song remotely during lockdown but our music is quite organic in the way it comes together.
Siân: I really would have liked to have gigged the EP songs by now. We all really miss it. I read Kae Tempest’s book ‘On Connection’ recently and she says that music is like a circuit that the audience is a part of, and in a room together you can feel that electricity buzzing round. It’s great to hear people have been enjoying the songs, but to all be there, feeling it together is a whole other magical thing. AHH I can’t wait!
FTR: What’s the best way for people to support musicians at this time?
Sara: Maybe by just reaching out and saying “I can’t wait to see you live when gigs are allowed to happen again”, and reminding us that there will be better times again, and that there is still a reason to write songs and to practice our instruments.
Scott: Yeah and maybe small things like buying merch from bands you like as the live income stream is currently not there.
FTR: What have you learnt during the pandemic? Do you think it will change how you approach making music in the future?
Sara: I have definitely realised that remote recording/writing can work really well, so in a way that opens the door to collaborating with people you wouldn’t have thought of collaborating with before.
Siân: I will never take playing live for granted again. It’s the best bit. A song comes to life when you play it live, and I’m going a bit insane trying to figure out the new stuff I’m writing without being able to play it to/with real humans.
FTR: Who are your influences as musicians? What were you listening to when you wrote Rabbits?
Sara: I have gone through phases of all sorts, from Swedish pop and 90s Grunge to Math Rock and Avant Garde Jazz, so for me it’s kind of all over the place.
Scott: Recent stuff like The National and Big Thief has been an influence on my approach to the drums in Gold Baby but I listen to a lot of stuff. Been slightly obsessed with Sons of Kemet over the last year but I don’t have the chops to play like that.
Siân: I remember listening to a lot of Billie Holiday and Dinah Washington when we were writing, no idea if that comes out anywhere. My biggest influences as a musician are songwriters like Billy Joel, Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone, Joan Armatrading… those people who know how to capture a feeling and bottle it up in the lead line of a Chorus in a way that makes your heart hurt.
FTR: Once you can get back out on the road, what can people expect from the Gold Baby live show?
Scott: We will be super happy to play live again and there will be a bunch of new songs we’ve never played for people before.
Siân: A lot of energy! Be ready to dance, we want to have some fun.
FTR: Why do you make music?
Sara: It’s amazing to be able to make these sounds through these inanimate pieces of wood and metal. I’ve always found that very fascinating.
Siân: I agonised over this question a few years ago, and the best answer I could come up with is that I only feel like me when I’m doing this. I’m really sad when I’m not, and that I’m pretty in love with it.
FTR: Do you have any other creative outlets beyond music?
Siân: We’ve all taken up line dancing since the Captain Dorego video… just kidding! For me, I grew up drawing all the time, and though I really enjoy it, these days I’d just usually rather be writing or making music in some other way – there never seems like there’s enough hours in the day to do that (the music) as much as I’d like to. I painted the Rabbits EP though – that was fun 🙂
FTR: What are your ambitions for this record? Is music still a viable career?
Scott: Just for people to hear it and to get out and play some shows at some point. I’ve played in bands and toured since I was 18/19 but I feel it’s a very lucky few that can make music their only source of income, I’m just happy to be playing with like-minded people.
Siân: I think maybe when you make career the goal, you’re not focusing on the best bit anyway.
FTR: What’s next for Gold Baby?
Scott: A full length album hopefully, Sian has started writing a bunch of songs so we plan on getting together soon and working them into a full band arrangement.
Rabbits is out now. For more information on Gold Baby visit https://www.goldbaby.co.uk.