Next Wave #564: Babe

Pure pop with left field leanings, from north of the border...
Babe - Gerard Black - shot for Clash issue 93 by Liam MF Warwick

The search for the perfect pop song never ends. Gerard Black should know – the Scottish songwriter spent a good few years chasing after it. With his group slumping into an exhausted heap, the singer called up a few friends to try something different.

“I definitely wanted to write an album,” he says. “That was mainly because with my old band, we were always trying to write the most exciting pop song we could ever do. With Babe it was a proper liberation – there was no plan, I didn’t try to cram everything down into three minutes.”

Composed piecemeal across the course of two years, Babe’s debut album ‘Volery Flighty’ (review) is a delight. Glitchy production gives way to stunning melodies, with instrumentation that nods towards the artful synth-pop of Japan. Recorded largely live in the studio, there’s a freshness, a gleeful experimentation that floods through on every track.

“The album is pretty much all first takes,” he explains. “It’s a bit rough around the edges, which I prefer now – my tastes have changed, obviously. We were just inspired by not having any restrictions. Experimenting. Recording and producing for the first time, finding out what our limitations are.”

CHVRCHES’ Lauren Mayberry makes a guest appearance, following a stint as a cinema usher in Glasgow alongside Black. Fitting in perfectly, her soft, supple charms are a continual presence against the group’s often adventurous pop course.

“All the demos we were making had backing vocals, but I had recorded them myself,” the singer recalls. “I was getting bored of that and wanted someone else to interact with. We did all those songs in about two or three tiny sessions.”

Ever moving forwards, Babe is already tracing the next project. “I suppose I’ve got a bit better at producing,” says Black. “So it’ll sound… better! It might be a bit more sensual. It’s getting a bit further away from just a sad Scottish boy writing songs on his piano.” 

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WHERE: Glasgow/London/Bordeaux

WHAT: Pure pop with left field leanings

GET 3 SONGS: ‘Dot & Carry One’ (above), ‘Tilt’, ‘Aerialist Barbette’

FACT: The piano used on Babe’s debut album cost £50 from the Salvation Army. It never stays in tune, but that’s why they like it.

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‘Volery Flighty’ is out now via Moshi Moshi. Find Babe online here

Words: Robin Murray
Photo: Liam MF Warwick (website)

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