This interview was originally published on Noisey UK.
I first interviewed Lion Babe in 2012 for UK's Clash magazine, back when they had one palpitating slow burner called “Treat Me Like Fire.” Now they’re signed to Interscope, touring the world, producing with Pharrell Williams, and have a track with Childish Gambino. Would it be outrageous for me to propose the notion that I broke them and am therefore responsible for most if not all of their career success to date? Listen, that’s not for me to say, I’m a humble man, but it’s a logical trail of thought.
Since tickling the world’s neo-soul pop glands with that “Treat Me Like Fire” gem, the New York duo of Jillian Hervey and Lucas Goodman have pursued their careers in music much like a real lion might, with majesty, ferocity, fur, and funk. Whether it’s the no shits given “Wonder Woman,” the Dilla-esque summer jam “Jump Hi,” or the glossy club rap of new single “Impossible,” Lion Babe make the kind of universally sexual songs that you can drop safely at a house party without knowing the personal preferences of anyone around you. Even the junglists can’t argue with Hervey's pitch.
With their debut album still being pieced together on the factory floor, Lion Babe have found themselves round-tripping across the Atlantic all summer; for festivals, shows, studio time and general galivants. On their latest UK visit we took them to the middle of nowhere for a two person festival where they didn't have to do anything but show up.
Hello Lion Babe! How are you?
Jillian: Hello! We’re good!
The first time I talked to you guys was in 2012, right? That was that early on?
Jillian: Oh my God. That was the first interview we ever had. How are you? It came with that picture in the park, right? Wow, that’s so crazy.
That’s the one. So I can start telling people that I broke Lion Babe?
Jillian: Yeah go for it.
Excellent, that’s settled then. Did you enjoy this photo shoot?
Jillian: Yes, it was very 60s and Woodstock. Also, we’ve never been to the English countywide, and it was on my to-do list obviously.
Lucas: I passed out on a swinging bench.
Where was it?
Jillian: I was passed out in an Uber on the way here, but when I opened my eyes, the first thing I saw was a pony and I knew it was going to be a good day.
Everyone in Essex has a pony—it’s law. Did you go to many festivals before you started playing them?
Lucas: I went to Bonnaroo and stuff like that at high school.
Jillian: It’s weird for me: I think growing up in Westchester, if I was making a move to go and see a big show, it would be Britney at the Continental Arena, not a cool festival. I guess I went to a few at college. But this run of festivals we’ve played in the UK has been my biggest exposure. They are all really cool.
UK festivals are more about mud, blood, shit and survival, whereas American festivals are a bit more clean, glamorous and air conditioned?
Jillian: I found out that the bottles of pee thing was a real thing this year. I thought it was a myth.
That’s a true British festival trope.
Jillian: I mean, I haven’t fully experienced it yet, but supposedly it gets quite barbaric at places like Glastonbury and people start throwing pee at each other in bottles.
Yeah, that happens. It’s become a bit of a thing. Have you heard of the "piss poncho"? It’s when you wear a really, really long raincoat, so when you’re standing in the crowd at a stage and you don’t want to walk to the toilets and lose your spot, you can just crouch and release.
Lucas: OH MY GOD! That’s so sneaky.
You need to look out for people in macs who smell bad.
Jillian: That’s out of control.
So you’ve been spending a lot of time in the UK. Have you done anything except shows and work?
Lucas: We definitely get some off days, where we go to the movies or, erm, just don’t do something.
Wow. That sounds pretty wild. #Tourlife
Jillian: Well, we try to fit in as much as we can. A lot of times we’re working in west London, but if we end up east for a photo shoot or something, then we’ll go for as much food as possible or grab drinks at a cool bar. It’s nice after a studio session to find a late night milkshake spot or something. One day we want to come as tourists and ride a double decker bus.
You need to go to the dungeons and be given a little fright by an old man in a wig. You need to eat fish and chips on a beach.
Jillian: We did go to Brighton a few times. I think I got fish and chips once, but it might have been a donut. The hot fresh donuts are good.
I’m not gonna explore how you can mix fish and chips up with a donut. Have you had a fry up?
Lucas: What’s that?
But everything is totally fried. Bacon, eggs, sausages, beans, tomatoes...
Lucas: You guys lo...
Black pudding, mushrooms, white pudding, hash browns, fried bread.
Bubble and squeak.
Lucas: You guys love to fry things.
Everything must be fried. How have you not seen this?
Jillian: That’s so strange. I’ll have to time it right though, because that’s a lot of fried food. Fried beans? You can fry beans? That’s crazy.
You can fry anything in life, you just need a pan, oil, and determination.
Jillian: We missed out on fried toast.
I saw you on Sunday Brunch the other week with Ian McKellen. Did you hang out with him?
Jillian: That guy—he had about seven cups of tea. Between all the commercial breaks, they offer a tea, and he’s a tea maniac. He took one every single time. It was a marathon of drinking. I think I went too hard.
God with experiences like that I'd imagine you never want to leave the UK.
Lucas: We’re leaving tomorrow. Then we’re in New York for some shows, finishing the album, more shows and festivals. So we’ll be back here in a month.
Do you have a Lion babe tour bus?
Jillian: Not yet, but we saw one the other day. A huge bus with a giant lion on it. It’s our dream to get that one. The sun was shining behind it and it looked so cool. I was like “What is this bus? WHERE DOES IT TAKE YOU!?”
How do you pass the time when you’re traveling?
Jillian: I like to have all the little things I know. If we’re in a weird place, I’m like “I can light a candle here!”
You light candles? Why do you light candles?
Jillian: It makes me feel better.
Do people not get freaked out when you suddenly light candles?
Jillian: A little. There was a bad smell on our tour bus one time, so Lucas decided to light something. But there were no candles, so he just burned paper, which smelled so much worse. We just started smelling this small fire instead.
Did you have a leaving party when you left New York to start this journey or did it all just happen?
Lucas: There was no time for that.
Jillian: I’m still waiting to have my birthday party from two months ago.
What would you have for a party?
Jillian: Probably some type of gathering. When we went back to New York, our first show, everyone who could make it came out, and that was like a reunion party. We saw our friends we hadn’t seen for months. They came and enjoyed themselves and saw what we do now.
We should talk about “Impossible” because it’s your next single and we’re supposed to talk about things like that.
Lucas: Oh yeah, we should. We did this one with two of our friends, Joel Compass and Linden Jay, who are writers and producers here in London. We are about to release the album, and we’re doing so many shows and festivals, that it was cool to have a song that can really get the energy going whenever we want.
Is it a weird moment when people who have known you all your life now see you onstage as a soul pop lioness?
Jillian: No, I’ve always loved performing. Even when I was a dancer I would get extra excited if I knew my parents were coming to watch or something. In my most recent show, my grandma who’d never seen us play was front and centre. Just as I was starting “Wonder Woman”, I noticed her and I was like “Wow, I never thought I’d sing this song to you.” It immediately got me so hyped to sing for her. Then I was like “Okay, I’m gonna body roll now Grandma, I hope you don’t mind”. She loved it though, and she knew all the words.
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Photographer - Tom Van Schelven
Stylist and Art Direction - Kylie Griffiths
Set Design and Props - Penny Mills
Hair - Sami Knight using Unite
Makeup - Crystabel Riley
"Impossible" by Lion Babe is out on 8.28.