by Richard Archer, exclusively for LOUD WOMEN
|The Baby Seals: Amy Devine, Kerry Devine & Jasmine Robinson|
It’s my first interview assignment ever and I’m both excited and scared to be chatting shop with Jasmine Robinson and Amy Devine (bass thumper and traps basher respectively) of excellent Cambridge-based punx The Baby Seals. They’ve spent the day filming a video for a track from their forthcoming EP, ‘Lips Are Sealed’, and have very kindly agreed to meet me down the boozer afterwards – a few classy Guinness and Malibus later, my nerves are alleviated and it’s straight to business.
Give our readers a potted history of the band…
Amy: Kerry (Devine, guitars and vocals) is my sister and Jasmine has been a really good friend of ours for ages and this band started as an idea in the pub when Kerry had this song called ‘Period Drama’. The band got its name from when I worked as a support worker. I asked my manager where she was going for New Years Eve and she said “I’m off to see the baby seals in Hunstanton” and I thought she meant a band. She didn’t, she literally meant the animals!
Yours and Jasmine’s last band (The Centimes) was alternative rock and the ‘Seals are punkier. Was it a conscious decision to go harder edged?
Amy: I guess we have turned punky but it wasn’t a conscious thing – Kerry writes the songs, they just turned out that way.
Jasmine: But they’re poppy too. Kerry has a good ear for a hook. It just started as banter, with us just riffin’ off each other really.
Kerry’s solo material is very folky, in the run up to the band was she wanting to get into something heavier?
Jasmine: Not really, we wanted to do something different after the Centimes, and Kerry wanted to as well because doing things solo is a very different experience. This is us just hanging out together. It’s a big kickabout really, but with instruments. We’re like a band of sisters!
Amy, what’s it like being in a band with your sister? I imagined you’ve played music together before right?
Amy: We used to perform on holidays! And my dad had a band when we were little and they used to let us get up on stage and play stuff as well. It’s lovely being in a band with Kerry. She gets quite self-conscious sometimes because she’s very focused and driven and thinks it may come across as bossy. But we tell her she’s not, she’s got a good vision for the band.
Nothing wrong with being a perfectionist. Do you chip in with lyrics?
Amy: Not yet, but we want to.
Jasmine: The lyrics tend to come out of conversations we have. Brutally honest female conversation! Especially since we’re all quite close, what with Kerry and Amy being sisters, they tend to be issues we’ve talked about and Kerry will come back a few weeks later having written a song about it.
Do the songs take shape in the practice room or does Kerry turn up with the finished article?
Jasmine: She’ll come in and say “this is the riff and what not”, and me and Amy will fill in the spaces, see what sounds good.
So what song were you making a video for today then?
Amy: ‘Girl’. We’ve been covert filming in a major high street chain of toy shops!
Jasmine: The songs lyrics are aghast at the gendered toys that there are in the shops. One thing we saw in there today was a Disney serving trolley – what does that teach your daughter?? To be subservient??
Amy: Predominantly pink coloured princess toys. We saw a lot of that.
Do you have a favourite song from your band?
Amy: I love ‘Nipple Hair’, it’s quite a dynamic song. It start with a Southern-California punk/beach-y kind of vibe and then it slows down in the middle with a three-part harmony. The lyrics make it quite funny as well.
Jasmine: I really like the lyric:
“Some ariola’s are big and vainy / Some look like puppy dogs noses / Some look like they’ve been dipped in gravy!”
It’s so true!
Is that your favourite too then?
Jasmine: Yeah, I think it is. I enjoy playing that one, it sums us up quite nicely.
Amy: It quite a positive song, its not having a pop at anyone or excluding anyone.
What about Kerry?
Amy: She really gets into ‘It’s Not About The Money Honey’. I don’t know if that’s her favourite but I’ve noticed she really goes for it on that one.
Jasmine: She goes Kate Bush-esque and wild on that one!
With regards to your instruments of choice, are there any particular performers that inspired you to pick them up?
Amy: A few. I really liked Caroline Corr – there’s loads of female drummers but a lot of them are session players. There’s not many that are visible, in commercial music, it’s male-dominated. So I first saw her when I was something like twelve years old and I thought she was really cool. And I really loved Thin Lizzy, so Brian Downey was a big influence. My uncle Mitch was a big influence, he used to let me play his drums. It’s always been there in the family. And as I’ve gotten older, I listen to a lot of funky soul and Motown-style drumming.
Jasmine: Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, which shows how young I was when I first picked up a bass! I liked the poppin’ slap bass, even though I play nothing like that. I remember listening to ‘Aeroplane’ and I really liked that song, his bassline was slamming and I liked that his daughter was in the video too. I liked Incubus too – I don’t play funky bass but I’ve got an appreciation for it.
What is your favourite gig you have played so far?
Amy: This is hard! I liked the one we did in Brighton at Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar. The woman doing the sound was amazing, good stage, great monitoring too.
Jasmine: That was my favourite too. And there was a great audience there, really getting into it. Crowd-surfing at points! We got some really good feedback afterwards, people seemed thrilled that we sing about things that they talk with their girlfriends about. We don’t beat around the bush!
I’m resorting to job interview-styled questions now. If I was to interview your peers, how would they describe you?
Amy: Laid back.
Jasmine: I’m gonna compare us to the Spice Girls! Everyone liked them because they were just normal lasses, and there’s a class thing going on there as well. We’re working class girls.
Amy: The feedback we’ve had has been positive.
Jasmine: I was really frightened for a bit before we started gigging these songs, I didn’t know how people would take it – if they would be offended. But they’ve been really on board with it. All our songs are meant with good intention, there’s no malice.
Final question – where do you see yourselves in five years time?
Jasmine: Conquering the world.
‘Lips Are Sealed’ is available to pre-order now, ahead of release on 7 April from thebabyseals.bandcamp.com