Babygirl: “Pop music is the best!” (6/15 at The Foundry)

The last time we caught up with Toronto duo Babygirl – comprised of Kiki Frances and Cameron Bright – was in November of 2021, when they were on the...

The last time we caught up with Toronto duo Babygirl – comprised of Kiki Frances and Cameron Bright – was in November of 2021, when they were on the road supporting Jeremy Zucker, which included a stop at TLA where Babygirl stole the show.  During our chat I discovered that, despite their penchant for “pop songs with sad guitars,” which is how they describe their own music, Cameron has also been a fan of industrial legends Skinny Puppy (and ohGr’s solo work) since he was a tween, something that I’m still finding delectable to process…

Well, last month Babygirl released their fourth EP, Be Still My Heart, courtesy of Sandlot Records, and last week they kicked off their first-ever run of headlining dates, which conclude on Thursday, June 15th, right here in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, at The Foundry at The Fillmore.  Last Wednesday Kiki and Cameron took some time to chat with me via Zoom about what they’ve been up to in the past year and a half, the subgenres of pop they’re currently most enjoying exploring, and their first headlining tour.

Izzy Cihak: The last time I talked to you was November of 2021, when you were on the road with Jeremy Zucker.  What have been some of the highlights of the band since then?  I mean, that was kind of like when bands were just getting back out on the road and playing live again.

Kiki Frances: I mean, obviously, new music.  We put out a new EP a month ago and have just been working on some other new stuff, as well.  And starting to get our headline shows together, ‘cause obviously there’s a difference in playing a 25–30-minute opening set, versus making our own, full headline set, which we hadn’t ever played outside of Toronto.  So, now starting to do that with Babygirl as the headliner is really exciting.

Cameron Bright: Yeah, it’s been a really cool process.  After that Zucker tour, I think we got back into the studio to make this EP with a lot more information about how to approach songwriting and producing music that’s gonna translate well in a live context…

Kiki: Equally for ourselves, kind of feeling the energy of playing the songs and kind of realizing the things that were really exciting, and wanting to play a show that feels fun, and feels really balanced with the different kinds of songs we like to make.

Cameron: Yeah, trying to make sure there’s a variety of grooves, so that the set isn’t living too much in one tempo range.  So, that’s where you get songs like “Sore Eyes” and “Starlight,” that are higher than average Babygirl tempos, ‘cause we were like, “We like having those peaks and valleys in the set!”

Izzy: Not to detract from your own music, but the last time you were here you were doing a cover of “Treacherous” by Taylor Swift.  So, I have to ask if you’ve managed to go to any of the shows on this tour, as it kinda seems to be the biggest thing in live music at the moment?

Kiki: Oh my god, I wish!  We’ve certainly been attending through everyone else [laughs].  We’ve been on Tiktok, basically feeling like we’re at the shows [laughs].  So, we’re grateful to everyone there that’s sharing the show.  But no, we haven’t gone to one ourselves.  But we are massive Taylor fans, so I would love to go to one.  There’re no plans to go to an exact show at this moment, but if we can make that happen, I would love that.

Cameron: Yeah, particularly if there are some international dates and we get to go in Toronto, that would be really cool.  We saw the Reputation Tour in Toronto a few years ago, whenever that was, and it was such a great show.  She’s just such a great live performer, and I think especially something like that tour that reaches across the whole range of her catalogue would be really exciting, because I love every album.

Izzy:  So, back to your stuff!  Like you said, you recently released your fourth EP, Be Still My Heart.  How do you feel like this batch of songs compares to previous releases, in terms of sound and even the process of writing and recording?  You mentioned sort of tailoring songs to something that would be easier or more satisfying to play live.  Is there anything else you’d say about this particular batch of songs?

Kiki: For me, it feels like kind of adding up the first three EPs.  I feel like that’s one of the cool things about putting out music and then having some distance from it.  You start to have a different kind of bird’s eye view of like, “These are some of the things that I really wanna bring into the next project, and these are some of the things that I’m okay to keep in that era – ‘Era,’ haha – that I don’t want to necessarily bring with me into the new batch of music.”  So, I think that this EP very much feels like there are different parts of each EP that are coming together in this one.

Cameron: Yeah, it’s cohesive in that way, because we’ve had time to see what stands the test of time the most across the other EPs, in our hearts.  And then we’re able to be like, “Okay, we’re gonna try to coalesce those into one statement that’s sort of a, ‘Here’s the culmination of the story so far on Babygirl,’” which I think has been really informative for us, going into now writing our next project, which we’re already actively pursuing.  It feels like this EP told us where we’re going, sonically, in a lot of ways, and what the process should look like.

Izzy: Have you had any favorite reactions to the new music so far, whether things you’ve read about it, or things fans have told you?

Kiki: That’s a good question!  I think it’s been really interesting to see which of the songs are connecting the most, because they are all our children.  We love all of the songs, and so it’s cool to get the chance to see…  I think right now “Sore Eyes” is maybe the song that’s connecting the most, but I also think that that’s something that’s really fluid in the current music climate.  It feels like songs can kind of have these peaks and valleys, and songs that maybe don’t seem to have much of a reaction can suddenly have a reaction, like a year or four years later.  You just don’t really know.  I do think, though, that we’ve gotten some really heartwarming feedback.  I don’t know, what about you?

Cameron: There are a couple artists that have reached out to us about “Always,” in particular, or shared “Always.”  It’s always meaningful to me when artists reach out or repost our songs, because it’s like a recognized real thing, where if an artist I listen to says, “Hey!  Loving ‘Always,’” because I know that “Always” is special, and maybe for me, I think right now it’s my favorite off of the project.  So, I like having a little bit of that external validation from other creative people that it’s as good as I think it is [laughs].   Obviously, it means the world to me that our fans and listeners and people who are discovering the project through this EP really like it, but there’s a special place in my heart for my peers in music giving me that little hit of external validation.

Kiki: Yeah, someone posted a reaction video where it’s just them sitting there, listening to “Always,” and just like headbanging…

Cameron: Yeah, like calling their family!  They’ll be like, “You’ve got to come in here and hear this!”  And then some little kids come in or something!  Stuff like that, having reaction videos to our songs is really cool, feeling like people are discovering us every day through these new songs, and they have an unpredictable new life ahead of them, as well, which is really exciting.

Izzy: You mentioned that you’re already working on new music, so I’m curious what direction that is going in?  Or are there any of songs on the recent EP that reflect where future sounds may be headed?

Kiki: I mean, yes, we are working on a lot of new music that we feel really excited about.  I don’t even know yet that I would say what songs would be indictive of where it’s going, because I feel like that’s something that we’re still forming and that is kind of in a bit of a fluid state right now.  Like, I think in general we’re always gonna have a guitar-forward sound, like it’s gonna be lots of guitars, and there’s gonna be the kind of balance of sugary stuff and some maybe more…

Cameron: Gloomy?

Kiki: Yeah!

Cameron: For me, the way that I see the branches of this EP reaching out are a song like “Born With A Broken Heart,” there’s definitely more like Americana, folk, and country derivative, really sad stuff that we’re working on that’s really special, that feels like it’s in that lane.  But then there’s some really like shiny, candy, sunny jangle pop stuff in the vein of “Sore Eyes.”  But then also there’s some stuff that I think’s a little more in the sparsity of “Always,” and the hip hop aspect, that little fusion.  I feel like that was our first time where Babygirl really, actively acknowledged hip hop in an arrangement, and I think that’s something that we’re gonna experiment more with moving forward…

Kiki: Which is hilarious, because making that song that day we were like, “We wanna make a song with the same groove as ‘So Yesterday’ by Hilary Duff…”

Cameron: The least hip hop song maybe ever [laughs].

Kiki: Just the groove, right, but it’s so funny to think that that was the reference.

Cameron: And then I think something like “Starlight” points to the fact that there’s definitely always going to be some sort of ambitious baroque pop with some electronic integration, as well.  So, it’s always fun for us to figure out what category each song belongs in and going, “Oh!  What is the voice of the production that best serves this melody and lyric?”  But yeah, I think that those songs off the EP sort of point in four directions that we’re sort of sprinting in all at once [laughs].

Izzy: You’re about to kick off an American tour, which actually wraps right here in Philadelphia.  What can be expected of the live show, both in terms of setlist and just general vibe?  This will actually be my first time seeing you headlining.

Kiki:  Exactly!  I mean, we’re playing songs from basically every EP.  So, I think that’s been really fun, to weave all of the songs together from such different periods of our lives and our time as a band.  That’s been really interesting to see the commonalities, but also how different things feel when they’re up against each other.

Cameron: Yeah!  A good balance of fan favorites and deep cuts.  We definitely have a couple in there for the Babygirl nerds [laughs].  We had one song that we put in the set at our Toronto show recently that we thought, “Oh, this is kind of a bit of an older rarity.  We’ll see if anyone cares that we play it,” and we saw that this guy in the crowd knew every single word, and came up after the show and he was like, “I discovered you guys through that song, so it really meant a lot that you played it!”  So, we put in a couple treats for the people who care about the deep cuts as well.

Izzy: On that note, have you noticed commonalities amongst the band’s biggest fans, or the people who seem to “best get” what you’re doing?

Kiki: Oh, that’s a good question!  I mean, certainly a lot of Swifties, since Taylor came up [laughs].  But I think definitely a lot of pop music fans, I’ve noticed.  But also, I think people that maybe aren’t typically fans of pop, but kind of have those exceptions where they’re down.

Cameron: Like, in the same way that maybe Kacey Musgraves can trojan horse country into the ears of those who might otherwise not listen to country music.

Kiki: We’re trying to do that for sure, because I feel like there are still…  I think, in general, maybe the “pop music sucks” thing is not the vibe anymore, but there definitely was a time where it was like kind of a dirty word, like, “Oh, you like pop music?  You’re just like mainstream?”  It was just like you were not cool if you listened to pop music.  I feel like that is not the vibe anymore, which I’m happy about, because pop music is the best!

Cameron: But we definitely grew up in that social context where pop was a little more stigmatized…

Kiki: Like, you had to listen to the underground shit that only two people have heard of, and that’s how you’re cool.  And I’m like, “Well, let’s do both!”  I think we’re still trying to grow quite a bit, and there’s still a lot of people that haven’t heard our music, and I think we’re trying to have that combination of still keeping it feeling honest and true to what we want to do, but also acknowledging how much we love pop music and wanting to reach as many people as we can.

Izzy: On the notion of growing, and reaching as many people as you can, you also mentioned that you hadn’t really played many, if any, headlining shows that weren’t hometown shows before, so I’m curious, do you have a particular favorite type of setting or venue to play, or one that you feel like is most conducive to your live show?

Cameron: That’s a great question!

Kiki: I mean, I think that’s something we’re still kind of discovering in this process, right?  Like, kind of just starting to explore what it looks like to bring Babygirl shows to different places, and I think that in terms of venues, it’s been fun just being exposed to different kinds of venues on the opening slots we did fall 2021.  We were playing in rooms bigger than we’d ever played before, and that was really cool, and we learned a lot from that.  But then I also love just playing at a super grungy bar…

Cameron: Yeah!  The dive bar thing is so intimate.  I think I really like the audience connection aspect of the small, dirty rock club thing.  But then, from an acoustics and sonic perspective, sound system, technical perspective, nice couch in the green room perspective, bigger venues are nice in those ways.

Kiki: Yeah.  I feel like we’re still kind of learning what we like, but there’s definitely pros and cons to the different sizes and styles of venues, for sure.

Cameron: Because it’s nice in the big rooms that they tend to have big subwoofers, so the bass is very much like in your body, which is nice.

Izzy: Considering summer is just around the corner, I’m curious if you have any favorite summertime music, whether favorite summertime jams, or just artists whose music you think is especially well fit for the season?

Cameron: Right away, what comes to mind for me is Fountains of Wayne Utopia Parkway, that album, maybe because it has “It Must Be Summer” on there.  And probably Pet Sounds, Beach Boys.

Kiki: The nostalgia albums, for sure, because you just wanna feel like a kid in summer, ya know?

Cameron: Like, bright, major-key guitar music that I’ve listened to for a long time, basically [laughs].  I feel like autumn and winter are a time for music discovery, for me, where I’m like locked up in a house, investigating scenes that I’m not familiar with.  And then summer I’m out and about in the world and just wanna be like, “What do I already know I like?”

Izzy: Finally, on a related note, how are you hoping to spend your summer, after these dates wrap, whether relating to the band or just anything you might be lookin’ forward to in your personal lives?

Kiki: Oooh, I love!  Well, personally, definitely some cottage time feels like a must.  I just want to be swimming in a lake, for sure, as much as possible.  And just spending time with friends, doing some bonfires, getting some snacks, and just hanging out around the fire with a bunch of friends.  That’s kind of the ideal summer to me.  And, in terms of music, like we said, we’ve kind of been writing a bunch of new stuff and I think we’re just gonna wanna spend the summer making a bunch of music, and really getting a lot of ideas down and starting to form what the next release is gonna be, as we are really enjoying what we’re doing right now in terms of the music we’ve started to put together, and also the combination of getting to play the music that we’ve just released and really celebrate it, and kind of get to know it even more through playing it live, and then also having that excitement bleed over into already being excited about the next thing.

Cameron: Yeah!  The momentum of coming off tour.  And basically, what we wanna do is just immediately rent a cabin somewhere that we can flip into a studio, and we can like create day-in, day-out as much as possible for as long as we can manage to.  Because the morale boost of coming off of tour gives to the creative process…

Kiki: There’s such an energy.  It’s like a burst of energy, so we’re gonna try to make use of that, for sure!

Cameron: ‘Cause the studio can feel very insular, so coming in off the road, where you have really tangible evidence that the work you’re doing reaches real people in the real world is very validating and makes you want to get back in the studio, ‘cause you’re like, “Oh!  Gotta make more songs for all these people!”

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.