Interview: Babe Club
The night we met with the Charleston-based band Babe Club, it was soul-crushingly cold downtown. This wintry backdrop was a stark contrast from the last time I had seen Jenna Desmond and Corey Campbell perform, which was a classically sticky South Carolina evening while they were still a part of SUSTO. Desmond and Campbell now find themselves paving their own path with this new band, debuting the project to the world with a single called “Hate Myself” and a short tour up the East Coast a few weeks ago.
We sat down with Babe Club ahead of their set at DC9 to discuss the band’s creative direction, the value of supportive musical communities and how we can all become a part of their inclusive club of babes.
First and foremost, everyone please introduce themselves!
Jenna Desmond: I'm Jenna, I sing and play guitar.
Corey Campbell: I'm Corey, I play guitar and do back up vocals
Julius Deangeles: I'm Julius, and I play the drums.
Mary Alice Connor: I'm Mary Alice, and I play keys.
Kevin Early: I'm Kevin, and I play bass.
JD: We have this special scenario where we are a new band so we're trying to nail down some members to tour with and Mary Alice, Julius and Kevin are in another band from Charleston called The High Divers, so they're all really good and they play really well together.
MAC: We love their music so much that we'd play with them any time. It's so cool that it worked out.
JD: Nooo, stop it!
That's so sweet, though! There is clearly so much love between your two bands.
MAC: I wish there could be two of us.
CC: They're our best friends.
MAC: There's also Luke, my husband and the fourth member of The High Divers, we all four lived together.
JD: A very musical house.
I saw on your website, "anyone can be a babe." As you assemble your "babe club," what that process has looked like, and how you would like to see your perfect line up assembled?
JD: Corey and I sat down to try and find some band names a while ago, and we both toured in another band called SUSTO, who has played here a lot in D.C. Basically, I got tired of living on the road with a lot of guys. There's a big age gap so I felt like, I was dreading to meet people who were aligned with the same ideas. You basically live on the road, so it was weird to have no female companionship.
CC: I was in SUSTO for four years, and she was in the band for three years, and when you go on the road, you're just in a van with the other people in the band. You don't get to follow up on your other friendships at home, so it’s just a bunch of dudes in a van. The dudes are great, but Jenna was missing out on her female friendships that she's had all throughout her life.
JD: Which was also on me, because I was bad at maintaining friendships, but it’s hard on the road. It's hard when you have a job that you just start, and you're doing it all of the time, and you don't really get to socialize.
CC: Now, we're trying to bring that into our job. Just diversifying the line up, and also I feel like we were playing supporting roles in SUSTO, and now we are stepping out and being our own thing, and so we also get to align ourself with the genre of music that we like, too.
I’d love to know more about your musical partnership —Corey, I understand that you taught Jenna how to play bass?
CC: At that point, I had been in SUSTO for a year and a half, and we were looking for a bass player. Jenna and I had started collaborating earlier that year, and we started dating midway through that. We were at Jenna's home visiting her parents, and were on the plane coming back to Charleston when I got the news that our bass player pulled out last minute. So, I looked over at Jenna and said, "You know what? I bet you could learn how to play the bass and kick ass at it."
JD: Meanwhile, I had just gone home to tell my parents that I was going to play music full time, even though I didn't know how I was going to do that. I was writing a self-positive note in my notebook over and over again, writing "I am creative! I can be a musician!" And then Corey asked me that, and I was like "YES! I can do this!"
CC: The next morning, we woke up at 5:00 a.m., and just started playing bass.
JD: I had never picked up a string instrument before.
CC: She had played piano—
JD: —Which was a huge help learning the bass.
So you at least had a musical background as a base. That is amazing! And to backtrack a little bit, how does you new band's mission and Babe Club message come across in your music?
JD: We only have one song out right now called, "Hate Myself," but I have this one song called "Need a Girl," and it talks about needing a person to confide in, and to tell them things that you don't get to talk about when you don't have genuine connections with people. That is what I want Babe Club to be — I want it to be an open kind of place.
Psychology is cool, and it stipulates that when you are in groups of five people, everyone ends of making this weird decision together, and then you all silently become a unit. It's hard to see through to who you actually are, and that's what I want Babe Club to be like, and I think the lyrics reflect those ideas.
CC: Yeah, they're all not just self-discovery, but about having a strong sense of self in whatever world you're living in. Finding your place in the world.
JD: Most of the songs right now are young-adult themed, I feel like a young adult novelist.
So, not young adult novelists, but a young adult band?
CC: Yeah! And, luckily enough, we are young adults.
JD: I feel like when I graduated college, I felt like I would just automatically do something. I didn't really get what you had to do after graduating, and I still don't get it. I'm playing music of course, but it takes a lot to figure out what it takes to get you to be able to tour and do all the things.
"Hate Myself’s" sound is very dreamy, which seems to be a stark contrast to what the lyrics are. That explanation helps, and it makes a lot more sense to me now.
CC: Oh, yeah.
What does it feel like to have that song out in the world?
JD: It feels really good.
CC: That song was kind of a funny process. We had been recording with Wolfgang Zimmerman, who has recorded with SUSTO and a lot of Charleston bands; The High Divers did their first album with them — we had been working with him at first, but then he moved to a new studio and things got a little bit too expensive for us at the time, and I was like, "I bet we could record ourselves." I got some studio gear and we started self producing, and the very first thing we did in the studio was this song.
JD: We actually wanted to record another song, and we had Julius come into the studio and I was like, "Wait guys, I think I have another song coming on!" I think we went to get lunch and I wrote some lyrics, and when we got back, we jammed on it a little bit.
CC: I was so upset! We had been on the road a lot, and we had come home for just four days, and two of those days we had spent working on another song, and all I wanted to do was finish something! But, Jenna felt really inspired on this other song, so we switched gears. But, that's the first song we ever put out, so it was pretty awesome. That was also the first song we ever recorded and self-produced.
And there she is, out in the world!
CC and JD, in unison: There she is!
Musically, what is on the horizon?
CC: We have a few songs in the pipeline to get mixed that are finished tracking, a lot of songs that are mid-tracking, and some songs that are written but haven't started tracking. We are probably 40 percent through a full-length album.
JD: We have a lot of songs written, but really want to get through recording a full-length record.
CC: It's definitely going to be more than that in the end — we have 15 or 16 songs in the works right now. We're trying to figure out whether we should release an EP and then an album, or maybe we don't! I don't know, but it's cool.
JD: We put "Hate Myself" really last minute because we had just booked the tour, and had just left the other band. We initially booked the tour because we had time off with that band, because they're going to a new album cycle. We decided to book a tour because we hadn't have this much time off in three years, but then we quit and put the song out. So, we're starting very fresh.
CC: The song is a little flag saying, "What's up, world? We're here!"
How do y'all see yourself as a part of the Charleston scene, if at all?
CC: We definitely see ourselves as a part of the Charleston scene. Everything we've ever done is with people from there and because of people in that scene.
JD: I've learned a lot about what we are doing now because of people in that community.
CC: We got to inherit the knowledge and skills of the people in our community who helped us out.
JD: It's cool because Justin (of SUSTO) became friends with Ben from Band of Horses, and he put us onto that knowledge. He's been touring for a long time and we've learned a lot from him. Having a small community is really crucial to you growing, because you get to put yourself out there, and people are forgiving.
CC: And you really get to invest in those people, or they get to invest in you, and it's not one million people in one place.
JD: We support each other, because you see people in town and think "Oh wow, that person is really young but talented, and I can't wait to see how they grow." I feel like that's what happened to me, because I was playing some silly open mics. We both used to play at King Dusko, and I'm so glad that nobody now knows what that sounded like! I think that's what is cool about Charleston. But yeah, we want to tour a lot.
CC: We're trying to get on the map, and we aren't slowing down at all. We left a nationally touring act to jumpstart our own tour all across the country, Europe, Australia — anything, everywhere.
Are there rules to the Babe Club? How can we all be a part of it?
CC: I guess the one rule is that you just have to be yourself.
JD: Yeah! And be kind! Just be nice to people.
All photos by Meredith Wohl.