Today rootshed.com had the opportunity to interview the lead singer of Lion Babe, Jillian Hervey. Lion Babe is fronted by Jillian Hervey and produced by Lucas Goodman.
New York City music lovers recently came together to celebrate new musical group duo for their music video release party. The night also marked their official first New York City show. Hosted at Leftfield in the Lower East Side, the packed audience was treated to an incredible performance of Lion Babe material, including the recently released debut single Treat Me Like Fire, as well as a cover of Erykah Badu’s classic Bag Lady. Directly after the performance, guests were treated to the Treat Me Like Fire music video premiere. While guests, including the man behind the mane, Chuckie Amos, and Ty Hunter, Beyonce’s stylist, watched the video, they enjoyed catered food from Cheeky Sandwiches.
Q: For those who don’t know yet, who is Lion Babe?
Jillian: Lion Babe is Lucas and I. We are starting out as a duo right now. The actual name Lion Babe just kind of happened, it made a lot of sense to both of us. For me personally I had several experiences to lead up to that name. During a safari to South Africa, I saw a lioness and had a very real exchange with the animal. At the time I was in college figuring out who I was, getting more confident in what I wanted to do in my artistry, finding myself. That experience of being in the wild in a place where life initially began for all creatures gave me a overwhelming sense of connection. Surrounded by nature and seeing that lioness sparked the necessity to really own my sh*t. From there I knew I wanted to literally change myself and my hair extensions was the first thing to go. Transformation comes in a lot of different forms, but going natural really helped me love myself. The lion became a part of me. I really embodied it, I feel strong.
Q: Can you speak more on your experience in South Africa?
Jillian: I’ve always been an animal lover my entire life, but that was the specific instance where lions kind of took over for me. And then meeting Lucas, a Leo, was the next piece to the puzzle. I’m a Gemini. It just works. Lion Babe is really how we both would describe our sounds. Both words consist of different meanings for different people, but for us, it was the simplest way to describe our creation.
Q: You just had your music video release party, what was the experience like as new artists? Getting that feedback from the crowd.
Jillian: The experience alone was incredible. People showed up. It was our first thing and people showed up. When it came to actually finding a venue, ideally we were looking for a place that had a screening room, a stage, a bar and whatever, but realistically we’re two kids in New York trying to do this thing. That’s why it was so satisfying, it’s been just the two of us, building from the ground up and just going at it. That’s why [it was held where it was] the Lower East Side was the area that I have come into my own and Lucas’ home. We were looking at all over Manhattan and Brooklyn when we realized, it had to be where it’s all been happening. It was definitely a relief to finally have something to show for all the blood, sweat and tears we have poured into Lion Babe over the past two years. It was our first splash. There was a lot excitement in the room. Everyone knew that this was the beginning of a new thing for us, but also the beginning of a new thing for a lot of people. It was a really big celebration of the people in our lives that inspire us and we finally got to share it. I felt very proud and just excited, so excited.
Q: We were all just standing up, holding hands, and crying.
Jillian: Afterwards, seeing people that came to support from all walks of my life was truly overwhelming. Of course, the only time I did loose it was as soon as I saw my father, and I knew I was going to. That man is a lot to me, so when I walked up to him, that’s when it all burst out and he hugged me.
Q: What did he say?
Jillian: My father is such an accomplished man and his stories alone are one for the books. He has been in the music industry his whole life so his advice means a lot to Lucas and I. His honesty in addition to support is what helps us stay smart and also allows another eye looking in the crowd for the things we can’t see. He was very proud though. He was excited about the turn out, he was like ‘I didn’t know you could get this many people’. I’m like neither did I!
Q: As new artists what is it like to be so positively received?
Jillian: Well I think when you put so much positivity, energy, and love into something, that’s what people see, and we strive to do that. The freedom I experienced as a dance major in college gave me so much, but the reality of being in school is that you are still forced to work under restrictions. This was the first time I just thought of something and did it, it was freeing. I think the reason people are attracted to it is because it’s raw and something new. Honesty always stands out. It begins and end with how Lucas and I feel.
Q: Watching the video, you can see that they’re not taking the stereotypical route.
Jillian: I was shaped in college into a performance artist. That’s what happened. I never really thought of myself as being one singular thing, I’m too young to know that. I think of myself as an artist and I feel no restrictions when it comes to how I want to portray what I want to portray.
Q: What is the next step? The EP is coming.
Jillian: I live for the stage, so I don’t think there’s a way to grow and expand our music without performing. Obviously, we’re working on the EP, but we’re booking shows and trying to build our fan base in New York. A new single is next on the list so stay tuned!
Q: What sounds, artists, and styles motivate and inspire you?
Jillian: Everything is coming from different places. I try to infuse all the techniques I had with choreography into song writing, so it constantly varies and of course is ruled by improvisation. I really respect Badu, she is a rhythm goddess to me. There’s never a time where I listen to her and I’m like “oh, she’s off, I’m not feeling it.” You feel it. You feel that inner rhythm within her. Those people are the people I really take from. It goes back to James Brown. Lucas turned me onto to Flying Lotus. People that spew out rhythm. Growing up the two major soundtracks my mom would play was Tribe Called Quest, The Anthology and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It’s funny because those two albums had such a strong influence on me without me even realizing because when I look back on my music, it’s all over the place. Everything is in there. Most importantly, I just love, love. I love, love songs, jazz like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. Their tone is the sound of their heart and nothing feels stronger than when you hear that. The first movie I ever saw was Singing in the Rain. That movie and The Wizard of Oz were the first movies I ever watched, and I still watch them. Old Hollywood has always been magical to me. I miss music. There’s a timelessness when it comes to those kind of sounds. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was huge for me. That was actually one of the first times I kind of switched gears. I grew up in a town with a bunch of white kids, which is totally fine, but I listened to ‘N Sync, Spice Girls and whoever, but that was kind of the first time I was like “woah, what is she doing? How did she make this?” Every song, I learned every word. I would listen to that thing on loop. That really changed me. That’s when I was like that’s how I want to sing, that’s what I really want to do. She changed the game for me. My dad, he worked with everyone so even the stories he’s been telling me my whole life made me have a certain appreciation for people in 60s and 70s soul music and rock and roll…. His favorite artist was Jimi Hendrix and him again, as a lyricist, changed my life. Castles Made of Sand was one of the most beautiful songs I’d ever heard ever and I just loved the imagery in it. I went through many stages like most do growing up. Still to this day, I don’t put myself into one category. My itunes goes all over the place. I’m very eclectic…with everything. Lucas has such an extensive knowledge of music and he has exposed me to a lot. Maybe down the line, we will know the adjectives to describe our sound but we are still playing around. Our histories always have a way of reinventing themselves.
Q: What is the writing process like?
Jillian: There’s times where I hear a full song in my head and I’m like Lucas, I just wrote a song. I’ll just sing it into my phone because it will just come out of me. Other times he gives me a beat. Sometimes words come easily and sometimes they don’t. Most songs take me twenty minutes to write. I have my journal, which consists of free writing, lists, drawings, randomness. If I ever feel really lost, I find myself looking in there, and sometimes something will just emerge from that. The responsibility of the songwriter (me) is to carry out whatever the feeling Lucas creates, most of the time we are on the same page but our differences usually make a harmonious clash. I tend to write about love because I’m always thinking about it. I think a lot though and struggle with overanalyzing. Way over. That’s the thing, I feel like I do that a lot and then finally when I stop thinking, that’s when it happens.
Q: Is dancing something you want to incorporate into the live show?
Jillian: Of course, I’m a dancer. Dancing grabbed me from the start and I have was never afraid to do it. With out dance I wouldn’t be singing today. I want to expose people to the underground dance scene through our music. My biggest heroes are most likely unknown to the “mainstream” audiences. I want to punch a whole through the entertainment business. People just try to put you in a box and I don’t see myself in any particular box. I’m making my own box. There’s no way I would be able to make the music I’m making without dancing…. There’s going to be times where I want to create a solo work that Lucas writes music to, and we shoot a video and that’s it. I might not even sing. It’s out there. Both are equally important to me. If music gives me the opportunity to be out there and have a larger audience, I’m going to do that, but don’t expect me to sing the whole time. I’m going to be doing everything. I want to act and I want to perform. So, I think it’s exciting and I’m just going to keep doing what I do.
Q: That’s great.
Jillian: All the people that I look up to, might have followed something and have influences, but the reason they are who they are is because they have all identified what makes them unique. I’m not looking to be the greatest pop star of all time. I want to be an artist. I want to influence people and I want to get people to think about the world, to think and talk to each other and connect. To challenge one another. In a perfect world my shows will be a place where people of all different facets of life can come together and celebrate and meet each other and start new experiences. I think our music reflects our experience in New York City. NYC is an extremely eclectic place, it’s always moving, it’s always different, and you feel different everyday. The only thing you can do is keep moving forward and document your life in some sort of way and share it with the people you love. It’s all about serious play. The world works hard to tarnish our imaginations but I understand how fundamental it is to have, to me it is the key to my success. This world is going in all sorts of directions, but I think all you can do is get people to think about things in a different way, because sometimes people aren’t even thinking. You need to have honest things in the world. Even if people don’t understand it, if it’s coming from you, that’s already more important.
Q: What were you wearing? The hair! Who did it?!
Jillian: I prefer to do things by myself, but I always bring in people who inspire me. Chuckie Amos, made my mane for the video and has been creating pieces since then for Lion Babe. The show hair was beyond. It made me feel like I had another attachment to myself. I’ve always loved vintage and I never like to have something someone else has. I looked around and I found a bunch of stuff through my friends at Found By, but once that hair was on my head, I was like I don’t need anything else! All the energy was in the hair. I wear black a lot, so once the hair was on it made sense to keep it simple. By simple I mean simply everything. I’m a boots and jeans kind of girl, but I always have to have some spice. The corset that I wore is a black velvet corset that was recently given to me by my Aunt who passed it down from my great grandmother. I put it on and it fit like a glove. That’s always how sh*t works. I’ve used the same couple pieces in all my work because they are sacred to me and they represent me. I need pieces with history, stuff that really means a lot to me even if people won’t recognize what it is, it is of value, another statement within the whole thing. It felt really great to be wearing that. I never met my great grandmother but I felt her on stage with me.
Moshe: Do you think of the fashion side to it all a lot?
Jillian: I think I’m always thinking of that. If you look at my blog, (jillonce.tumblr.com) there are so many different eras that I’m inspired by and so many different looks, but it’s never going to feel right if it’s not me. People ask if I’m going to get a stylist, but I honestly don’t know. I would feel weird having someone style me. It would have to be a collaboration. I’ve had those experiences and every time it happens I don’t feel good. What’s the point of putting all this work into something and then when you present it, it’s not you? Who knows though, I think when the right person comes along the help would be great.
Q: How did Lion Babe actually come together?
We met through friends and connected here and there for a few years. Ironically the first thing about Lucas I ever knew was his music. I introduced myself shyly at a college party and simply told him I liked his music. It stood out from the first moment I heard it. He became a random update on Facebook for a few years, I followed his music page after that night. I never do that. Years later, the universe threw us back together and we started to hang out in New York. Singing was still a secret of mine, but the more I hung out with him, the more eager I was to give it a try. I think he was oblivious of all the tension I had about it when it first happened, but the truth is, he made it a fun and safe place. I saw him work with friends and artists and realized that I was overreacting. The rest is history. I owe a lot to Astro Raw. I’m not surprised that he entered my life through his music. “They” say the universe works in mysterious ways, but I learned fate tends to be right in front of you, but you see it when you are ready.
For more information visit: http://lionbabe.com/
Additional reporting by Moshe Alpert-Eschbach