September 12, 2017

Interview: Baby!

Talking with BABY! about their debut album, moving cities, and sliding into DMs. 

BABY! is the project of singer/songwriter Kayey Honeycutt. She currently calls Boston home but her sunny indie rock reflects her Floridian roots. Her debut EP, Pick Me, came out this past April on the sublime Yellow K Records, and she quickly followed it up with her first full-length album. Sunny F.L. expands on the EP’s bouncy, beachy vibe, but it also explores darker edges and harsher textures that Pick Me only hinted at. It’s filled with songs that you’ll find yourself humming the rest of the day, and while it references “surf” sounds, it never sounds cheesy or contrived. At the center of it all is Kayley’s upbeat voice, a voice I got the chance to experience over the phone as we talked about Sunny F.L., moving to a new city, and orange juice. 

The Le Sigh: How long has it been since you’ve left Florida at this point? 

Kaley Honeycutt: Like a year.

TLS: Is there stuff you miss that you weren’t expecting?

KH: Good orange juice. All I can find up here is orange juice from concentrate, so that is not as good as the orange juice you have down there. What else do I miss? Wow, I feel bad, like I should miss more. Mostly just the people there. Yeah, but there’s a lot more going on up here.

TLS: Yeah there’s a line on your song “Getting Out” that goes “I know there’s nothing there for me.” Is that what prompted you to leave, not a lot going on in Florida so you had to go somewhere else?

KH: I mean, yes. I think central Florida can be a bit… you work really hard and try to build up the scene together. When I was living there I was in a booking collective and trying to put on shows and trying to get the scene going, 'cause it kind of dies and rebirths every now and again. So I was part the crowd going, “Oh yeah we gotta get cool stuff happening here again.” A lot of people end up moving away because you bust your butt and try and get a scene happening in Florida but, and if booking and promoting is your passion that’s cool, but if you are trying to be a musician and play out it's just really limiting. Everything is super far away from Florida. It’s way down there and there aren’t a lot of venues. Three shut down this year actually, and that happens a lot. It’s really tough financially too. There’s not a lot of jobs. I started applying for jobs in Boston before I got up here, and I got a job before I moved up here. I was like, I’m making more money and that puts me in a better place to tour and to record and all the stuff I wanna do with my music.

TLS: Totally. I went to college in a small town, Jackson, Mississippi, and I remember a similar feeling of everyone who was cool there being like “Okay, we have to build it it up and make it happen here. We can do it if we all work together.” 

KH: Yeah!

TLS: And so when I left I felt a little I should have stayed helped but instead I’m choosing, not the easier route because it’s hard to move away, but choosing to go somewhere else. 

K: Yeah. I think it’s not the easier routes because at that point, for me personally it was about choosing to prioritize yourself and your goals over the needs of your scene which is hard. But there’s still people down there working had and there always will be people working at it.

TLS: There are a couple songs about Florida on this record. On “Sunny F.L.” you say “I’ve got the feeling that something’s gonna change / I’ve got a good feeling about today.” Was that about the moment where you were like “I’m gonna move” or another moment? 

KH: I wrote that song before I wrote any of the other songs on the album and that was the first song I wrote for this project. I wrote it even before I got involved in the scene. It was a really old demo on my phone. When I wrote it I just felt ready to play my music out, super excited. Basically, what happened is at that point I was working full time doing in-house graphic design. So I quit my job doing that and I got a job working two or three nights a week at a restaurant and decided to just focus on making music. So I was feeling really inspired and and I was like, “I can have a career anytime I want, but I’m feeling really inspired and excited right now.” So I quit my job, moved closer into town and started a booking collective.

TLS: And when you decided to start making music and pursuing that, how did you choose in moniker BABY! What was the process? 

KH: I wanted a stage name because I didn’t want my regular name out there everywhere, but it gets mentioned anyways so whatever. I came up with BABY! because I hadn’t written songs for a very long time, and I’ve always been super emotional, like a crybaby, and I have four older brothers. I just cried a lot and felt really strongly about stuff and was definitely the crybaby of the house. I think I was just super sensitive and a lot of people didn’t really get that. I think that music is a way where I can get out a lot of things that I’m feeling in a way that people feel really comfortable receiving it. So, when I started writing and playing out and stuff and have it be well received I was like, “This is my way to process everything and my way to better connect with people and have them understand me.”

TLS: I love that it’s deep like that and it wasn’t just “oh this is a cute name.” 

K: I mean I am just a dumb baby, and I’m short, and I’m the baby of my family, so there’s that too.

TLS: As someone who is working on a project where you’re writing all the songs, or are the main writer, and you have a band that is changing [members], what are some of the things you like about that and what are some of the things you dislike? I would imagine it would be frustrating to find people play shows with you all the time as a backing band. 

KH: You know, when I played in Florida I played with different people every time. But when I moved up here people are really, really happy to be part of a project where the music is already there and I’m spearheading it saying, "Look we have these shows, these are all my plans, if you’re into the music you can play with me." I feel like I got really, really lucky and I have a live band that really loves playing the music. A lot of people up here take music really seriously and are excited to be a part of a band and a part of a project where we’re trying to do stuff. I think especially with the Conservatory of Music for Berklee up here that there are a lot of musicians who are really skilled that aren’t necessarily songwriters. I think they kinda look for people like me. They look for someone who has the content and they know they could really be a strong asset to that kind of person. It’s a really good match I think. Right now I have a person filling in for the summer named Leah but my main guitarist is this person named Jen, and he’s amazing. He’s an amazing guitarist who defiantly spruces up the parts a little bit and that’s his touch but he’s not a songwriter and he’s really excited to have some direction.

TLS: I also know that you record this album with Riley from Death Tremors. Their music is a pretty different vibe from yours, what about their music made you want to reach out to Riley? 

KH: I didn’t know him. I found his band through this blog in Florida and I thought the recordings sounded great! There’s this one song, I can’t remember the name of it but it's the one that kinda hooked me. I was like “Hey, who records you guys” and they were like “We do.” I met up and showed him the demos and he loved them and we hit it off. He’s one of my closest friends now and how I got into the local music scene up there.

TLS: What about the song hooked you? 

KH: Dang, you have to hear it it’s so good. I can send it to you after this. It’s an instrumental, super high energy, just drums and guitar and vocal samples and I think… If you hear it you would get it. I don’t know. I just heard it and I was like, “Yeeaaah this sound is awesome.”

TLS: I’m very down! (Editor's note: The song is called "Sat in Blood" and you can listen here) Which demos did you send to them? 

KH: I think I had “Weather Girl” and maybe “Sunny F.L.” That’s it. We met at a coffee shop and I played it for him on my phone.

TLS: Was this in Florida or in Boston?

KH: This is all in Florida. I recorded the whole album in Florida.

TLS: In terms of the album vs. the EP, the album in general seems more low-key. There’s still songs like “Bite My Tongue” and other songs but in general it’s a bit more moody. Was that on purpose or just something that came out? 

KH: You said the EP was more moody?

TLS: No, I thought the album seemed more moody, at least to me. 

KH: Really? Hmm. Yeah, well the the EP was more one-off. I wasn’t really sure what to do with [the songs] and it was kinda just fun songs. I definitely knew which songs I wanted for the record so the EP was just like, “Ah, here are some songs I know aren’t going to go on Sunny, F.L. and aren’t going to go on the next record so ill just put 'em out.” I thought the EP was more moody.

TLS: Really? Well “Backup Plan” definitely takes it to a darker place closing the EP. 

KH: The songs on the album, there are some more pretty moody or emotional, but they’re mostly like “I’m super excited! Yeahhh I’m writing music! This is awesome.”

TLS: So a song like “Getting Out” is more excited about leaving rather than being wistful about it? 

KH: Yeah, no, I was super stoked. I wasn’t feeling trapped. I was feeling ready. Like, alright this is it, this is what I want to do, this is what I’m gonna do.

TLS: You mentioned that you have the next album planned, or at least some idea of it? 

KH: I have some demos that are potentially on it. I’m recording right now and trying to just go through them. I’m writing all the time and then there are some songs where I’m like, “Oh this could potentially be on the next record."

TLS: And how did you hook up with Yellow K? How did that come to pass? 

KH: They found me through Instagram. I used to post videos of myself playing, and they literally found me right when I wrote the album. I followed them and didn’t realize I did it somehow and they were like “Oh you followed us” and for some reason Mitski was following me? And I had a song up on my account, like linked in the top, and they were probably like, “Oh here’s some cool indie artist” and I was just like, not! Then they found the song and started messaging me through Instagram. They slid in my DMs.

TLS: It went down in the DMs. 

KH: It did. I thought it wasn’t real at first. I was like *laughs* who is this?

TLS: And when you made the move, why did you choose Boston over any other city? 

KH: I just knew some people here, like a person who was a music writer, and I just started hearing about the music scene more and more. I was like, “That sounds cool.” I kind of wanted to move where I had more reach and so I was open to where I would end up. I was looking at New York too but I couldn’t find a job and I landed a good job here. The reason why I wanted to move was to get to a bigger city and make more money and have access to traveling and touring and this ended up being a good spot for that.

TLS: When you go on tour do you have anything you do to not go insane or burn out having to interact with people all the time? 

KH: Actually, I’m super extroverted and I really get a lot of energy from being around people, so I don’t usually feel to burnt out. I play a lot of shows in Boston, and go to a lot of shows, and host shows in my house too, and try and go to shows 3-4 nights a week anyway. I like being around people and I like going to shows.

TLS: It energizes you as opposed to exhausting you? 

KH: Yeah, for sure. Usually, we’ll try to stay with friends and whenever we go we hang out after the show and it’s good! It’s a good time.

TLS: That’s lucky. 

KH: Yeah, I feel bad for introverted artists who have to go on tour.

TLS: Well I think that’s all the questions I have except for a final “fun” question: If you could have any musicians play in your band living or dead, who would your picks be? 

KH: I’m obsessed with Karen O. I used to be super obsessed with her in high school so probably her. She would be my guitarist slash vocal harmony *laughs*. Uh, dang that’s a really hard question…. Dang you stumped me here.

TLS: Only the hardest hitting questions. 

KH: Yeah it’s super hard question. I’m taking it really seriously, trying to think of musicians who would work with it. “Who would vibe with the music?” I guess artists I’d wanna to play with … I don’t know. Karen O.

TLS: Maybe it’s just a stripped back version of BABY! With just you and Karen O. 

KH: Maybe the front person from The Cranberries, and then we need one more member, someone more funky, more wacky.

TLS: You could get the drummer from Guerilla Toss. That’s definitely wacky.

KH: Oh yeah they’re crazy. They’re all wacky. Ok I’m tapping out of this question 'cause I just don’t know. *laughs*

Listen to BABY! on bandcamp.

Mo is a writer who can be spotted at the gig dancing like a squid. Follow him on twitter @sadgayfriendx. He also helps books shows at a Brooklyn house venue called The Bronze.