“At the beginning I thought everything would fly out. You write a song and then you’re like, ‘Let’s release this, now.’ No. I think that’s only how it works if you’re a Soundcloud rapper. You’re like: ‘Sick, upload.’”
Nancy Andersen is reflecting, with a laugh, on how long it’s taken the band she’s in to put out their debut EP. She fronts Babeheaven, a smooth, sometimes synthy, sometimes delicately guitar-plucked west London band. And a good couple of years since they initially starting making music together, it’s finally time for their first major release. “I want to do things right and make it really nice,” she’ll tell me later, “and if we kept rushing through, it wouldn’t have been worth it. I want to make music that has a bit of longevity, not something that’s here today and gone tomorrow.”
We’re hanging out on the first floor of an old three-storey building that’s tall yet narrow, with a spindly spiral staircase. True to the band’s west London roots, we’re just off from Golborne Road, which itself is a stone’s throw from the less touristy end of Portobello. This is where Babeheaven write their elegant, rich, yet hazey, spacey songs. And it’s a family hub too. Nancy’s dad works from the floor above, writing jingles. He’s got a load of stuff: VHS boxes of a TV nature series he worked on called Predators (the name is written in a strange 80s sci-fi font), books, records, a rectangle-guitar – like a Gretsch but run-down. “Then this is all of our junk in the corner,” says Nancy, pointing at some other stuff. Truly, it’s a spectacular array.
Jamie Travis, who completes Babeheaven (they perform as a five-piece band live, but record as a duo) is here too. I’m sipping a mug of fresh aromatic tea in a Prince Charles and Princess Diana wedding mug (Nancy’s dad collects these kind of things). I think Jamie might have some water. We’re meeting up to talk about the new EP, a new track called “November” that we’re premiering below. We’re also having a laugh, because Babeheaven are a laugh (check their Instagram for some jokes).
Musically though, they take things seriously. Theirs is a classic story of childhood friends who didn’t think their first release would do much. They met through a fathers-and-sons (“and Nancy”, since she’s a daughter) football team, where they both played with their dads, and bonded in their early twenties when they both worked boring jobs on the same street (Nancy in an antique store; Jamie in a fruit-and-veg shop). But “Friday Sky” became a slow-burning hit – the kind of thing that would make you instantly smash the re-post button on Soundcloud, in that early-mid 2010s era when Soundcloud could break bands.
Since then, they’ve done a lot; and also not a lot. They’ve toured with several rising UK names including Loyle Carner and The Japanese House, and they’ve sold out a headline show at the Scala in north London. They released two double A-side singles in 2016. The first saw the soft and lush “Heaven” join up with “Friday Sky”, while the second featured a pop song about Domino's (“Ode To Dom”) and a grand slow-builder “Moving On,” which sounds almost like Portishead if the trip-hop group used colours instead of black and blue. They teamed up with impressive lo-fi US rapper Deem Spencer last year too, on the first part of another double A-side – “Your Love” / “It’s Not Easy”. So really it’s a selective wealth of material, just not released at the speed that you might expect.
It’s hard to imagine these two not being involved in music, or at the very least something creative. That being said, they do both work day jobs to keep money in their pockets. Nancy temps at a casting directors, while Jamie does everything (read: nannying, music lessons, cooking pizza). “I like to think I’m a bit of an entrepreneur,” he says, grinning. They returned in October of this year with “Fresh Faced” (watch further above) – a rudely addictive tune that soars high and dives deep, like the Cocteau Twins but with less reverb and a fiercer, faster pop bite – after deciding to slow down and figure things out.
Thematically, the songs on the EP are “personal songs, lyrically, based around family and relationships and things I found difficult because I find it’s easier to write about things,” Nancy explains. And so the EP deals with the happiness and anger and other emotions that those relationships can stir up. To follow “Fresh Faced,” they’re putting out “November,” which we’re premiering above. Give it a listen. To me, it sounds wistful in a way that Babeheaven fans won’t have necessarily heard before, in that it feels a lot more overtly sad, with Nancy singing a ballad of sorts about falling back on people. It’s dark too – the production forms like a nebula of grey-clouds on a moody night. If this is your first time hearing Babeheaven at all, then you’ll have lots to dig into.
Early next year they’ll be headlining the Jazz Cafe, which they’ve just realised sells food (the venue has a viewing platform with a restaurant) and they’re wondering what’s on offer. “Rotisserie chicken”, Nancy jokes. Or “a three-course seafood dinner,” riffs Jamie, as the two fastly go back and forth. “Maybe we should get a customised menu, and I’ll do the pizza,” he offers, before Nancy quickly replies: “Just before you go on stage you’ll come out in the full outfit, sweating.”
Sitting here as they chat and laugh feels like being with old friends – somehow warming and infectious – and that makes sense, because that’s what Babeheaven are. They’ve known each other for years and it shows – in the way they run jokes on-and-on, with speed, sometimes so fast and over one another I can only hear them when going back through the transcription and laughing. Really, it’s a good thing they’re back. “We took time off to learn stuff and I’m really happy we did that,” says Jamie. Nancy grins: “I’m really happy we did it too.”
You can find Ryan on Twitter.