With hair larger than life and now spreading their roar worldwide, we get chatting with alternative R&B and neo-soul duo Lion Babe to discuss their musical success so far!
Jillian Hervey and Lucas Goodman have a way of making it seem as if they’re perpetually in motion. Not in the sense of busyness – although I don’t doubt that they are – but more so in a shared manner of thinking that leaves them susceptible to the creative whims of their imaginations.
Calling from their Brooklyn studio, the two halves of funk-soul duo Lion Babe are relaxed and ready for my questions, but there’s an air of creativity interrupted, as though our chat has interfered with a particularly compelling moment of genius. This, however, is just the way that they both seem to work. Like two birds poised to fly, Jillian and Lucas have taken the sweet spot that exists just before something is about to bloom and devised a means of making that moment eternal in their work. “Things are always blossoming,” Jillian says simply. “Once you have an idea you need to start working on it right away.”
Lion Babe met at a college party in the early ‘00s. Jillian had the voice, Lucas the production skills, and the duo delivered their first official release, ‘Treat Me Like Fire’, in 2012. The track – which features a sample of Eunice Collin’s 1974 single ‘At The Hotel’ found by Lucas in a Brooklyn record store – was enough to propel them to open for Childish Gambino at SXSW in March 2013 and inevitably sign with Interscope Records the following summer. The story behind their break out track is much like their sound – a sonic patchwork of R&B, soul and dance-pop threaded together with Jillian’s powerful, cruising vocals and Lucas’ artful melding.
Seven years down the line and Lion Babe have just dropped their second album, Cosmic Wind. It’s a 15-track spectacle that showcases all of the funk-flecked charisma of their first album, but with a new, introspective turn for the artists. “I think we’ve always been able to share our identity and sound as well as being true to who we are, but this record definitely felt like something we were waiting to make,” Jillian explains. “It was kind of our marker for what we thought was our true sound, what we draw from and what we do; our core.”
Uncovering this “core” has relied on a few pivotal steps since the duo’s inception, most notably the decision to go independent shortly after the release of Begin, their debut album. “It just allows us the freedom to go with what we think is best and do that freely because we’re able to make our own decisions,” Lucas says in regards to this. “We can move without anyone there giving us second thoughts or trying to put a block on us. Being able to just do what we need to do was always where we were trying to get to.”
“We can follow our impulses and intuition, which is also a message that we put out in our music,” affirms Jillian. This sense of cohesion is essential for both members of Lion Babe. Although their latest body of work takes the form of a free-flowing wave of sounds and influences, in truth it’s a meticulously devised project in which every detail has been carefully considered. Take the album’s collaborators – Raekwon, Leikeli47 and Bilal – three of the biggest names in New York-based talent, a shout out to city where Lion Babe first “happened”.
To say the album is cohesive isn’t to say that it’s predictable, however. Lion Babe are malleable in their meticulousness, particularly when it comes to sound, which can take listeners from a playful rework of the Pet Shop Boys in ‘Western World’ to the smouldering tones of ‘Sexy Please’ in two tracks. This is all part of the personal marker that the duo have laid down with Cosmic Wind. “We were really trying to make something that was purely us,” says Lucas, a feat that he and Jillian have undeniably achieved.
As Jillian asserts, “all great creators evolve”, and the arrival of Lion Babe’s Cosmic Wind tour is prompting just that. “We’ve obviously been developing our live show lately, so we’ve added a few new musical elements,” she says. But it’s also a time for celebration; Jillian will be turning 30 while they’re in Los Angeles, and Lucas already has plans for a party underway. “I think in that moment I just want true stillness and grown women shit,” she considers. “That’s kind of my vibe for 30.” It sounds slightly more relaxed than the rest of their tour itinerary, but you can almost hear the whirring of their brains on the other end of the line, as if they’re braced to start working on their next big project the moment we hang up.