WHO ARE YOU… Lion Babe
Lion Babe’s first EP came out today, providing a nice pretext for finding out more about the New York-born soul band. Here’s our phone interview with their producer Lucas Goodman and singer Jillian Hervey – who, according to an inspired YouTube comment, is none other than the “secret love child of Erykah Badu and Beyoncé.”
Who is Lion Babe?
Lucas: Lion Babe is Jillian Hervey and Lucas Goodman, from New York City.
Jillian: We met each other at university, then saw each other a few years later through mutual friends.
Lucas: That was about two years ago.
Jillian: I was just about to become a professional dancer, and Lucas was working in music. We first worked together because he did the music for one of my dance shows in New York. I really liked his sound and his productions…and I wanted to give singing a try!
Had you ever sung before?
Jillian: I used to sing a bit at school, but I’d never done anything real in that area.
Lucas: She came round to mine while I was playing music. I started playing a little beat, the one on Treat Me Like Fire. There was a sample with a woman’s voice, and Jil started singing along with it. And it was great! When I heard her voice, I was obviously pleasantly surprised!
How would you define your musical style?
Jillian: The word often used to define us is “soul”. But we’re trying to do something new, with an unusual approach to music we listened to when we were younger. We’re trying to create something that’s just ours. I also think we work so well together because we’re eclectic. We listen to everything; folk, hip hop, rock, indie… We have so many influences which direct what we do.
And what were your main influences?
Lucas: I really like Lee Scratch Perry. Not just because his music is amazing, but also because he’s a pioneer. He’s one of the first people to see mixing as composition. It’s hard! I’d also say J Dilla, not just what he’s done, but his samples in general. He’s really helped define what my music is like today.
Jillian: That’s difficult! Someone we always forget to mention – and I don’t know how – is Michael Jackson. I listened to so much of his music when I was younger. He had an exemplary career as an entertainer and as an artist. I also really like Chaka Khan and Minnie Riperton, both for their music and natural style, and for the subjects they sing about.
Jump Hi took YouTube by storm. Is this the first time one of your tracks has been so successful, so quickly?
Jillian: It’s the first time we’ve released something that is so pushed by our label. The feedback has been incredible for our whole EP. On the radio, for example, the BBC named us the new artists to watch. We’ve worked really hard, so we’re very pleased with this result.
You collaborated with Childish Gambino on this track. How did you meet him?
Lucas: We were at the South by South West festival playing a support gig in March 2013. Childish Gambino sent us an email and asked us to be a support act for his set. We’d never met him before, but he got in touch with us because he liked our music. We met each other ten minutes before going on stage! Afterwards he came to New York, and when we showed him the first version of “Jump Hi” we all agreed he could sing a verse!
Have you got other collaborations in the pipeline?
Lucas: Yeah, we’re working on an album and we’ve got a few, but we’re always looking for new ones.
Jillian, in the comments for your videos, people always compare you to Erykah Badu. What do you think about that?
Jillian: It’s such a compliment, Erykah Badu is an incredible artist. I hope the energy in her music is something people see in us. I think I will form more of an identity over time. You know, when someone hears something they’ve never heard before, they have to compare it to something else.
What were you doing before Lion Babe?
Jillian: I was at a dance school. I was in a dance company but I injured myself. But I can still dance and I started singing, so now I’m getting the best of both.
Lucas, were you a professional musician?
Let’s just say that I’ve always made music. I’ve played the guitar since I was 11. At university I focussed on production and beats, and I studied music. I also worked in the studios of the Truth and Soul Records label in New York. I guess you could say we’re professional musicians now (laughs).
Do you think you’ll come to France?
Both together: We hope so!
Jillian: I love Paris. I went there a few years ago. Everything is great there, the coffee, the hot chocolate (laughs).
Lucas: We want to come over soon, next year maybe.
Jillian: Before that we’ll do a few shows in New York, and probably in Los Angeles. We want to tour in the USA, in England and all over Europe.