BANDSPEAK, BOSTON/NE BANDS, Music

Boston Hassle Interviews Babehoven

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After moving through four cities in four years, the rather nomadic duo of Babehoven has found their root in upstate New York. The current of calm and peace brought forth by isolation has given Maya Bon (guitars, vocals) and Ryan Albert (producer) the perfect atmosphere to immerse themselves in their world of hazy, slow-paced bedroom folk. Their new EP, Sunk, out now on Double Double Whammy, is a 6 song sampling of blue-toned goodness.

Bon’s winged voice glides over top Albert’s precisely muddled instrumentals, fostering a dreamy, borderline- sedative sound on each track. Lead single “Fugazi” is a thin slice of Bon’s ability to expand particular moments into universal emotions, examining that needling condescension of being told about a band you already know. Again, Bon’s talents as a songwriter are on full display as she spins stories of familial wounds on “Twenty Dried Chili’s.” Her voice weeps powerfully, cresting over and over, until her final undulation:

“I’m sorry I’m angry, too
I told you I wanted to kill you
But, I’m only afraid”

The seven-minute epic never wavers in its honesty. Each word seems to stream from an opening in Bon’s chest, some brite-white jet of light that’s been pressurized to the point of insanity, acting as a crown jewel of bands label debut.

Last week, Bon and Albert generously opened a window into their lives in solitude and talked with me about their upcoming tour, musical process, and favorite sports teams.

Ryan: What part of Boston are you in?

Boston Hassle: I live right by Fenway Park. Like Kenmore Square.

R: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m a wicked big, big Red Sox fan.

BH: That’s awesome. Yeah. Are you from the area at all?

R: No, I’m from Vermont, but you know, that’s kinda the team kind. It’s either that or the Yankees.

BH: Maya, do you have any sports allegiances?

M: Um, I do like the Lakers, but, not in any kind of real way. I just had a huge crush on Kobe Bryant as a kid. Like as a four-year-old y’know.

R: We, we were into watching the Olympics.

M: Oh yeah. I really enjoyed watching the Olympics. Yeah.

BH: What was your go-to event?

M: I loved the ice skating. I loved the flips and stuff with snowboards. Oh yeah, and we really loved the aerial skiing.

R: Maya loved Eileen Gu.

M: Yeah. I have a huge crush on Eileen Gu. That’s the only reason that I guess I like enjoy anything is if I’m romantically inclined. If there’s a hottie, I will watch.

BH: It’s a reasonable thing. There’s a reason every advertisement is trying to use sex appeal to get you to buy a product. It’s the same way with a sports team. You, you gotta get the hotties.

M: Yes, exactly.

BH: This kind of leads into one of my questions, with what you said about the Lakers. You, Maya, are at least from, uh, LA originally. But every time I was looking at articles to try to figure out, you know, what’s the history here, every time, there was a new city. You’ve gone from LA to Portland, to Philly, to New York?

M: LA, Portland, Philly, Vermont, New York.

BH: Okay. Wow.

M: Since 2018. It was really more like LA-Portland-LA-Vermont-Philly-Vermont-New York.

BH: And you guys live upstate right now?

R: Yeah. Yeah. We kind of just live in the woods.

BH: That’s great. I feel like that’s, you know, an inspiring place to be living if you’re trying to be creative.

R: Yeah. Yeah. Whenever we go into the city, usually any city, we’re pretty drained and overstimulated, and ready to go back and just be in the woods.

BH: Have you guys ever lived in the middle of nowhere before? Or like out in the woods before? I guess you’re from Vermont.

R: Yeah. I mean, it’s basically like where I’ve lived most of my life, except I lived in Knoxville, Tennessee for a second, and then I lived in Los Angeles where I met Maya.

M: And I’m actually from Topanga Canyon.

BH: Oh yeah.

M: Yeah. Outside of LA. So I grew up hiking all the time. That was kind of my processing space. And when I moved back to LA after college where I met Ryan, I was living in East LA, which felt, you know, very city-like, but still I was able to walk up into the neighborhood that feels kind of suburban-y and mountainy. And then, go to the Angeles forest or go home to Topanga and hike a lot. It wasn’t until we moved to Philly that I was like, oh, okay, this is a city-city, you know? And I don’t know if I’m really cut out for that kind of life, I need to be able to hike.

BH: I feel like that could be a pull quote for this. “I need to be able to hike.”

R: It’s true. We went on a hike this morning and yesterday

M: I like to hike almost every day if I can.

BH: 11:00 AM and you already went on a hike.

R: Yeah. Oh yeah. We’ve done a lot already.

BH: What’s the morning routine look like for you guys? It seems like your early risers.

R: Yeah. I usually wake up at like 7:30, I go downstairs, get a cup of coffee, come lay in bed, look at Twitter and news stuff. Around that point, Maya wakes up and I’m fully energized. And Maya is a slow waker-upper.

M: I’m a slow Waker upper in quotes compared to Ryan…I don’t drink caffeine in the morning. Like I’ll wake up and kind of slowly open my eyes. Ryan’s immediately like “Good morning, how’d you sleep!?” And I’m just, you know, kind of in my own world. And then slowly we meet each other at around I’d say –

R: 8:30 or 9.

M: And then I’m normally like, “Do you wanna go for a hike?”

R: And I say, no.

M: He says no.

R: And then I do it. (laughs)

BH: So how many stops is the upcoming tour? Five. Six.

R: Kind of split up into two… there are like six shows. Six or seven I think.

M: Yeah. I think. And then for, and then after that we have a couple of days and then we’re leaving for like a month and a half. And were gonna be playing basically every day for that whole period.

BH: Have you guys had that experience before?

M: No. No.

BH: Okay. So like how are you feeling nerves-wise? Do you have a biggest fear and a greatest hope? We’ll do a rose and a thorn.

R: Uh, the greatest fear is we get COVID and we can’t do South By Southwest.

BH: Okay. Reasonable. Very practical fear.

R: Or dying. Being like serious, my greatest fear would be dying on tour. (laughs)

BH: Specifically before South By Southwest.

R: Yeah. Before South-By. If we die in like Alabama. (laughs)

M: My greatest fear… I’m going back to LA for the first time in a long time. For the first time since I left in 2019, and I’m just a little anxious about like all the emotions that’ll come up. And we’re touring with a band for the first time. You know, you can probably gather from my songwriting, I’m a pretty emotionally charged person. Like I feel very deeply. So I’m just anxious about managing a lot of emotion on tour.

And also when I sleep and I’m in transitions, in between sleep and dream, I’ll see things in my sleep and get scared… I’m kind of just anxious about freaking people out while we’re all like sleeping on someone’s couch, or an air mattress in someone’s living room and I’m like, “whoa”, what is that? (laughs)

R: Rose – this is what I wanted to do with my life since fifth grade.

M: Yeah, the Rose is we sound really good, and we’ve only practiced once with our full band… I just feel like this is the best we’ve ever sounded live. My voice just feels very in control and I feel very comfortable right now. I feel ready in large part to take on this task and like emotionally, yes, I’m worried about being challenging or whatever, but also I’m kind of at this stage in my life where I’m able to handle all that.

I feel kindanxious in a lot of ways, but also on the flip side of that, we’re really prepared and we sound great and yeah, the people we’re going on tour with are so excited and motivated and really nice. They’re both just very like on the ball getting shit done and that feels, um.

R: Good.

M: So fucking good!

BH: What was the process of, you know, getting onto Double Double Whammy and you know, now doing this tour with them?

M: It feels like if I had a huge pile of ice cream that I’ve been eating and then someone just keeps adding more of my favorite toppings. Every time I think I’m done it’s just like so many more toppings that get put on, you know, hot fudge, caramel, some raspberries. It’s just you know, it’s just silly. It feels unreasonable. I’m so happy.

R: Also Double Double Whammy didn’t do the label song and dance that I’m sure everyone in the music industry is tired of it. It wasn’t like, “Hey, let’s get drinks”, “Hey, let’s go out to dinner?”, “Want to hang out?” Like, just looking to be our friends. They were very much like, “Hey, we love your music and we want to work with you, and we want to be friends,” and that’s definitely more of Maya and I’s vibe.

M: They just kinda got right to the chase. We had been wanting to be on Double level Whammy for a long time. Like, since we met each other, Ryan was, “You should be on Double Double Whammy”. And I was like, “Yes, that sounds good!” And it just now happened to be possible. It’s really the only label we want to be on.

R: There was other ones that would’ve been cool, but like, I’ve been really into Double Double Whammy since kinda their first release. Being obsessed with LVL UP and their demos and being like, “This is the best music,’ changed my life when I was in college, you know? So it’s just this dream come true to be a part of that roster.

BH: What can somebody expect from coming to see a Babehoven concert?

R: We’re in the process of changing right now. We used to work a lot with backing tracks for particular songs. And then also it used to just be a duo of Maya and I, so it was very stripped down, very like, “You need to pay attention to this.” Like if someone’s talking during our set, people will know that someone’s talking because it’s just very intimate. So, that is quickly changing to be more of a full band. So if people want to talk, it won’t be as awkward. (laughs).

M: Something that I’ve noticed is that when I’m on stage, I actually have to be a little mindful of this, but I can have all of a sudden, a super wide range of my voice because I’m anxious and it’s tense and I can just belt really hard. I’ll be like, “whoa”. I can sing all these things that I haven’t been able to do in practice. And over the years kind of figured out that that’s that I’m blasting my voice away. So I’ve been doing a lot more like falsetto work and I, just on my own, have figured out how to be more mindful with my voice.

But one thing that I would say is to be expected from a Babehoven performance is that… I guess this just sounds so conceited what I’m about to say, but I was gonna say that I’ve been told that my voice shocks people. Like people stop and listen, cause it’s like, shocking. I’ll do things that surprise people or hit a note that’s really intense and people often feel emotional.

R: We always get feedback that people just cry.

M: A lot of people start crying. I mean, I literally feel like a douche saying this, right? Like, “People say I’m really good at singing and it makes them cry.” But that is just what we’ve heard.

R: Theres usually people that come up after us and are like, “I just cried”. I’m always, like, I don’t know what to say. I’m sorry? Are you ok?

M: I always say like, “I hope it was cathartic”. That’s kinda the approach I try to take.

BH: I wanted to ask a bit about your songwriting process. In a lot songs you’ll have these referential moments where you reference, doing something like eating Thai food wearing Annies shoes or doing the crossword. Do you actively remember eating that Thai food and being like, wow, this is a critical moment, “It’s something that I’ll return to,” or is it something that you look back on when you’re sitting down thinking about writing the song?

M: Well, first of all, I’ll explain how I literally write, which is that I set up a voice memo on my phone, pick up a guitar and stream of consciousness write something, just sing it out with the chords that come out of me. Then I’ll go back and write it down, and I try really hard to not think too much in all of that. Like I just let my feelings and my subconscious brain produce this thing that I can then go back and consciously write out and decide what I like and don’t like. And often, you know, it’ll be just that. I’ll take exactly what I wrote and take out maybe a word or two.

But in these moments I’ve found that there are… It’s like a spiraling, it’s like an unwinding where I kind of often start with an event or a real time moment. We’re about to release this song “20 Dried Chilies”. It’s kind of the, the, the spiral of all spirals, I would say. It’s seven minutes, It’s kind of like “LA”, our song from Sleep, but it basically starts with me sitting in Brian’s old room that then became our room, and he had these dried chilies hanging on his window sill.

And I start with my place. I start with, I’m sitting here, there’s twenty dried chilies on the window, and then I kind of start to peel back one layer about how, I’m living in LA again, and like, what’s going on with my family, and my life, and some news I just found. Then I peel back the next layer, like, here’s how that feels from a historical perspective for me. Then I kind of come back to where I am right now. And then I go back another layer. It’s, yeah, a peeling of layers.

And that is true too, for the eating Thai food wearing Annie’s shoes. Who’s the housemate I’m talking about, who actually lives with us again, she Portland to the Hudson valley.

But yeah. It is in these moments of simplicity, sitting in the room, admiring the twenty dired chilies on the window, or waking up eating leftover Thai food, wearing Annie’s shoes, and realizing I can’t feel anything at all. It’s in these moments that I realize that I’m consciously processing my life, that I’m like present in the discomfort of it, all that then I know.

BH: Gotcha. So the moment, inspires the song writing, like you are sitting there, you and become conscious of like “Holy shit. This is my existence right now.”

M: And that’s just one example. There’s also times with Crossword, where I’m kind of processing a relationship. It’s not one moment, it’s a whole relationship of moments. That’s like, “Angus carried my bike up the stairs and I stood at the bottom and I’m not sure if I just stared or if I thanked him,” (lyric), and then I go off to talk about, how he managed the recipe job. It was all these things that this guy did where I was like, “I don’t know what I’m doing, or why I’m here.” It’s very existential. Part of it is just kind of constantly being like “I’m alive.”

R: It’s weird.

M: It’s very strange to me. It really is. Honestly though, I think about it a lot. It’s very weird to be here.

BH: Being alive is one of the most confusing things that’s ever happened.

M: And we’re just, verbally, like talking about it.

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