More about: Babeheaven
Friendships made during your early teenage years always feel like they’re going to last forever. There’s something markedly intimate about having all of those seminal teenage experiences alongside somebody else, especially at a time when everything seems so melodramatically important. For Babeheaven’s Nancy Andersen and Jamie Travis, their childhood friendship has followed them vivaciously into adulthood.
The lifelong bond between the pair— after meeting on the sidelines at a father-and-son football group aged 13— has undeniably shaped their approach to music-making. "I think I’m lucky," singer Nancy explains, "I’m quite scared of stuff and Jamie’s way more like 'let’s do it!' I’ve always got this person on my shoulder, whilst I’m there freaking out he’s like 'come on, we’ve gotta do this.'"
Babeheaven wouldn’t exist - at least not in its current form - if it wasn’t for the enviously close friendship between the two. "I would never have got on stage [without] Jamie," Nancy confesses. ‘When we wrote ‘Friday Sky’ I was like cool, we’ll just do this in the bedroom and chill and you know, write a couple more. He was like 'now we have to form a band' and I was just so freaked out,’ she laughs.
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Since the success of the hauntingly woozy ‘Friday Sky’ in 2016 Babeheaven have played headline slots at Bush Hall and The Jazz Café, and adorned line-ups in support of Loyle Carner and Nilüfer Yanya. The duo have "absolutely" grown over the course of those years, and "a long break in the middle" allowed them "to evaluate what we were doing" and formulate their own vision of "what we were creating and how we were releasing it".
"We’re so lucky" Nancy says, "that we’ve had the time to do that and fans still want to listen to our music." After taking this step back, the pair completed their highly-anticipated debut album Home For Now earlier this year and the record is set for release next Friday (20 November). While most musicians might be daunted at the prospect of releasing a full-length debut so long after emerging onto the scene, Jamie - who commandeers the instrumental and production side of the band - is unphased. "I think it couldn’t come sooner," he says, "I don’t think it's scary, it’s part of being in the band and it’s fun. I find it fun."
After initially experimenting in a larger group, the duo felt drawn to one another musically and began working as a pair as they realised just how much they had in common. "We both have strong overlapping likes," Jamie says, "there’s a strong window where they overlap really strongly and that’s where our music sits, that’s what we make. I think if it wasn’t together it’d be quite different." Filling Jamie’s pause promptly - in a way that only comes with years of practice - Nancy continues "people who make music together… it’s so personal. I don’t think I could sit in a room with someone I’ve just met and write a song. From a lyrical perspective it’s so hard to get to a point where you know someone well enough that you want to even say stuff in front of them let alone sing it."
"It’s quite embarrassing to start off with. It takes years to build that kind of trust in someone so you’re not ashamed of saying whatever it is. We’ve known each other for such a long time, I don’t feel embarrassed to say anything in front of Jamie really."
While Jamie’s level-headed approach to the anxieties of being in a band has balanced out Nancy’s fear, she admits she’s no stranger to pre-show jitters and still feels uneasy laying herself bare in live shows. "I’m quite scared on stage. I really just stand in one place and get the song done."
A week before lockdown hit the UK back in March Nancy "started having singing lessons for the first time" and was "so excited to explore that side of performing." "I was really looking forward to learning more about how to breathe and hold myself on stage and be able to walk around and maybe even dance," she says, "which is something that I’ve never thought of doing. People have such amazing stagecraft and mine’s just kind of standing there and getting through the songs as fast as I can."
While the pandemic hasn’t been the "perfect time" for Nancy to work on her craft, lockdown has given her time to reflect on her stage presence and approach to live performances. "It’s been nice", she says, "to try and think about how I want to go back and start moving on stage and creating more of a character".
With socially distanced gigs starting up at some of the country’s most favoured venues - some of which Jamie’s heard to be "pretty good" - the band are eager to get back into playing live. While gigs in a post-COVID world are a far cry from what we’re all used to (with seated venues, a ban on singing and an inevitably more subdued live atmosphere) Babeheaven’s self-proclaimed "post-rave" ballads would be particularly suited to the new norm. "Our music’s not crazy dancey," Nancy says, "so I feel like it’d be nice to go and sit down!" "I think we wanna do one," Jamie adds, "because we’ve got the album coming out, it’d be a shame not to play a gig I think."
Having had US tours cancelled at the beginning of 2020 due to the pandemic, lockdown gave the band the time to complete Home For Now without the stresses of touring and the chaotic banalities of normal life getting in the way. "We were meant to be on tour in America for a long time, and we were gonna tour and then finish the album and release it," Nancy notes. "I was really nervous about releasing and writing an album but in the end it didn’t feel that hectic or intense. I think we were really lucky. Jamie lives five minutes from me so we could easily work together and it was kind of the perfect time to do it and just get everything done".
Releasing their debut album - especially one so long-awaited - into the current climate isn’t something the pair could have foreseen, but also isn’t something they want to define the record. There’s something familiarly reassuring about Babeheaven’s floating, tender melodies and - like freshly cleaned bedsheets or a car journey through the rain in the early evening - the band’s cosy, dizzying rhythms could certainly serve as a comfort blanket in the midst of all the pandemic-induced uncertainty. But Home For Now isn’t a pandemic record. "We haven’t written any songs about lockdown," Nancy laughs, "there’s not any pandemic hits in there."
The key to Babeheaven’s comforting allure is the authenticity and intimacy they bring to their songwriting. The band revel in keeping their lyricism as genuine as possible, even if it means exposing details that are slightly too personal. There’s a clandestine atmosphere to both the pair’s old fan favourites and the forthcoming album, reflecting the candid nature of the band’s conception. Nancy never intended for her songs to be heard outside of her bedroom and "never really thought about [them] being released."
"I just always wrote from the same place," she says, "then it’d suddenly be six months down the line and everyone would be like 'you’ve gotta release the song' and I’d be like 'oh my god that’s really personal' and now we’ve got to put it out and I’ve got to apologise to someone for saying this thing."
While exposing personal intricacies was daunting at first, Nancy has embraced being frank and forthright in her songwriting: "I’d rather just be real to who I am, and if it comes out being something embarrassing then that’s that." While their music is inherently personal, Babeheaven cultivate a take-what-you-need atmosphere for their fans, with their lyricism actively open for re-interpretation. "Everyone takes what they want from listening to lyrics," Nancy says, "someone might hear a lyric wrong, and you’ve created your own thing about it and suddenly you see it written down and you’re like 'oh,' like it’s completely different and not what you wanted it to be at all. But sometimes it’s nice for other people to interpret it in their own way."
"I think with music everyone has their own reason for listening to it," she concludes, "it’ll evoke something and it might not even be what I meant, but it’s nice for people to reappropriate it and take it for themselves."
Home For Now arrives 20 November via AWAL.
More about: Babeheaven