“Driving into work the other day I saw a dead fox in the road; he’s belly up, his tongue’s hanging out, there’s teeth everywhere”
Mmm. Nice. But for Baddies’ singer/guitarist Mike, it’s a sufficiently gruesome jump-off for a new song.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the weird, wired world of Baddies. A world where the every day is warped and contorted, where a bloody mess of road kill is merely the portal to an alternate dimension. A world of exaggeration, freaks and glorious grotesques.
“I can’t overstate the amount of ribbing and piss-taking that goes on in the band. We’d be great caricatures,” says bassist Danny. “If someone’s got the slightest physical defect it just gets amplified!”
Take, for example, their song ‘Who Are You?’, inspired by an innocuous incoming phone call at drummer Jim’s day job. It was a woman with an unnaturally deep voice and, in the ensuing confusion, she was re-imagined as a freakish, monster she-male, beset with mammoth hands, and vocal cords as long as England’s tallest man. It’s perfect Baddies lyrical fodder.
With such startling imagery on offer, you need a suitably cartoon-ish backing to render songs like this, and Baddies more than deliver with a brash and supremely economical racket that sounds almost as if it’s being dashed out in thick felt tip pen lines; garish, dynamic and vivid, like a DC Comics strip or a swashbuckling animated cartoon.
That’s not to say the Southend band’s songs lack intelligence or craft, and the band are at great pains to talk up the writing process wherein countless ideas are steadily boiled down to ensure each and every song achieves maximum impact. Having all been in bands prior to Baddies - with varying degrees of success - this time round they’re staying hyper-critical when putting new material together.
“The songs are short, but that’s not because we’re lazy, the opposite in fact,” says guitarist Simon. “We’ll be playing and we’ll say, ‘We do that bit four times, would it be better to do it twice or even once?’ We get a song and we strip it right down, cut the fat off.”
The result is tourniquet taut, invigorating stuff that treads a clever line between indie brevity, melodic sass and staccato, almost metal-esque stop/start riffing. Recent single ‘Battleships’ barrels along like a high-speed car chase, complete with face-pulling chord changes, whooping vocals, a killer falsetto chorus, and sucker-punch power chords. It’s ludicrous but unbelievably exciting.
Then, of course, there’s the matching sharp shirts of their uniform, though this is less a case of the band slipping into character as you might expect, more a means of uniting their sense of purpose. “It’s not a Jekyll and Hyde thing, no. It’s about the camaraderie, the humour, the vibe,” says Simon.
And, true to form, Clash is delighted to find them in regulation attire even in their London studio, recording single-in-waiting ‘Holler For My Holiday’. Band uniform? Even in the studio?
“It’s not just about the way you look, it’s about the way you feel with it,” says Mike. “It unites us. It makes you feel like you’re part of a team. We know what we’re here to do. People that work with us realise straight away that there’s a camaraderie and there’s good humour and vibe to the band. That comes across on stage because we enjoy being out and about on tour and spending time with each other. And I’m not afraid to make a fool of myself on stage. People see you enjoying yourself and they enjoy it too.”
He’s not lying: Baddies are undoubtedly one of the most thrilling live bands operating in the UK right now. Twitching and convulsing, all jerky hooks, bug-eyed intensity, yelping, breathless vocals and white-knuckle riffing, it’s a show that’s wowed audiences across the UK and Europe, and caused virtually every noteworthy label in London to come knocking.
With an ultra-tight set of fiendishly catchy potential singles, and a string of dates lined up for 2009 (including a stateside debut at SXSW), Baddies are a veritable powder keg of potential. Be afraid, Planet Earth - Baddies are coming, and only world domination will do!
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Baddies – ‘Battleships’
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See Baddies (MySpace) live as follows…
7 Aldershot West End Centre
21 Sheffield Plug
26 Bristol Thekla
27 Crewe The Box
28 Birmingham Rainbow
1 Glasgow Captain’s Rest
2 Newcastle The End
3 Leeds Oporto
4 Hull Lamp
5 Preston 53 Degrees
6 Cambridge Transmission
7 Guildford Boilerroom
8 Southampton Hamptons
10 London The Macbeth
12 Nottingham Bodega
13 Wolverhampton Little Civic
14 Newport Meze Longue
26 Sheffield Fuzz Club
27 Manchester Moho Live