Glasgow foursome Baby Strange's second album 'World Below' is both of its time, but also somewhat timeless, ruminating on some of today's most pertinent and universal issues - mental health, class divisions, and poverty. Vocalist and guitarist Johnny Madden tells us how it came to be.
You're about to release your second album, 'World Below' - when did you begin working on it? What was the timeline like?
We started writing it at the start of the first lockdown, we started just building demos up on my laptop, sending them back and forth, and once we got a rough idea of the direction we were heading, we managed to book out a couple of Airbnbs to stay in together to write and do more demos. We loved doing that, just totally in our own bubble.
What lessons did you learn from your debut that you put into practice for this one?
We've learned a lot since then. We've grown so much as a band and as people. A main thing we took away is not to get too ahead of ourselves, it's really easy to get overly excited when things are going well, but you never know what's going to happen. There have been a lot of ups of downs in this band, but we've come out the other side stronger than ever before.
Did you know what you wanted this record to be from the outset, or did it reveal itself along the way?
We had a rough demo of the title-track for a while, actually, and there was just something about it that we loved. That song really opened our eyes to what this record could become. It sounds bold and exciting, we wanted to push ourselves with this album, and I think we've done exactly that.
Do you write songs about social issues because it's cathartic, or because you'd like to impact change? What's the main motivation for you?
Both reasons, really. It changes from song to song, but a lot of the times when I feel like it's something cathartic, it's me trying to break down something that's happened in my life that has had a big impact on me. There are parts of the record where I write about my mental health, and I hope from being open and transparent about past struggles with anxiety and depression that it can normalise these feelings to whoever's listening. Another thing is that lockdown hit us all hard; that was a big reason why we wanted to create this place called 'World Below' with this album; it's about escapism, even though the place you're escaping to might not be the prettiest.
The collaboration with Hayley Mary from The Jezabels was fun, how did having a collaborator influence the way 'Only Feel It When I'm With You' came together?
Cheers! We've always wanted to collaborate with someone but could never find the right song or person until this track. Her voice suits this song so well, we can't wait to play it live with her. We met Hayley a few years back when she was living in Scotland; she was introduced to us by her fiancé Johnny Took who plays in DMA'S. They're both great people.
Do you have any other musician pals you'd like to collaborate with?
One of my oldest friends Salv who goes by the musical name Sega Bodega; we've been mates for over 15 years and have never done a track together, so I think doing something with him would be really fun. His newest album 'Romeo' is outstanding; saw him play live in Glasgow last week, and he blew me away.
Did you have any tracks that nearly made it onto the album, but you held back? How did you decide what to include?
There were a few. It simply just came down to what songs excited us the most. We had all 10 tracks decided pretty early on, though; it wasn't too hard for us.
Where do you hope this album takes you?
We want to play around the world. There are a lot of places we've never been to that we're dying to visit. We're looking at America for next year, hopefully, and we have a load of European dates this year that we're really buzzed about.
What else do you have coming up?
We're in the middle of planning some really exciting album release shows. We want to take it back to basics with these gigs and throw some parties; that's what we were known for when we first started. Our first gig was in someone's flat, so we're looking at doing stuff like this again. It's always wild doing shows like that, and we love it.
Taken from the July issue of Upset. Baby Strange's new album 'World Below' is out 17th June.
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