Vivian Girls’ singer/guitarist Cassie Ramone formed The Babies with pal and Woods bass player Kevin Morby during a break from their main bands, trading vocals and songwriting skills to create songs that have a ramshackle charm to them. For their second album the East Coasters brushed off their characteristic slacker aesthetic to highlight Cassie’s endearing (or, to some, annoying) and slightly off-key croon. We talked to the songstress about social structures, work ethic and Twitter.
Interview by Basje Boer, photos shot by Nick Helderman in Amsterdam
‘I like people who are creative, have a sense of humour, are spontaneous. Go on adventures. People who have a good spirit. I like weird people. People that are kind of… crazy’
Who was the first friend you ever made? Do you still know him or her?
‘I guess it would be my friend Joanna. She was about two or three years older than me. My parents are from Poland and they moved to New Jersey in the Seventies. They had a lot of friends who were also from Poland and this girl Joanna was the daughter of close friends of theirs. I’m not in touch with her any more ’cause… well, she’s kind of nuts.’
Were you part of the Polish community back then?
‘Me personally? Not exactly. But my parents definitely were, and I guess I was by proxy.’
Are your parents still part of it?
‘My mom is really into the Unitarian Church community. She’s also an artist so she goes to a lot of art classes. Those aren’t exactly Polish communities but you know, all her best friends are Polish.’
So how did you select your friends when you were growing up?
‘Growing up in Hackensack I would just be friends with the kids in my neighbourhood. There was this really cool girl named Tamila who lived a block away from me. And this really cool guy named Robert who lived two blocks from me. Then I moved to Ridgewood, where I lived till I was 18, and there weren’t any kids on my block. So I guess I just… I don’t know… I just became friends with anyone who wanted to be friends with me. ’Cause I was kind of a weird kid. In high school I was friends with a lot of bad kids who ended up as drug addicts and up to no good in their later lives.’
How do you select your friends nowadays?
‘I like people who are creative, have a sense of humour, are spontaneous. Go on adventures. People who have a good spirit. I like weird people. People that are kind of… crazy.’
‘At the end of the day, I wish that the internet didn’t exist’
Do you think you’re part of a network of friends? Like a social structure?
‘Absolutely. I think that in Brooklyn – and all over America and the world – there’s definitely a very large network of people. And I feel like, at the end of the day, everybody’s connected, even in different cities and countries. That’s a pretty special thing to be involved in. It’s nice to know that everywhere you go there’s always going to be a little part of home there.’
I imagine your recording sessions as just one continuing relaxed Sunday afternoon. Am I wrong?
‘Our two albums were recorded very differently. We recorded our first album over the course of two years – like, a weekend here and a weekend there. So that was definitely relaxed. But almost too relaxed, you know. It took such a long time. And then our second album we recorded over the course of two weeks – in LA. That was definitely more high pressured. We were in the studio for more than 12 hours a day, constantly working. It’s actually what I prefer. I liked being in the studio, going: “Okay, we’re gonna do this, we’re gonna get this done.”’
So you like structure?
‘Yeah, I do. Because otherwise it’s really easy for me to get off track. This makes it easier for me to focus.’
I saw you are quite the tweeter. What are your thoughts on these new social networks like Facebook and Twitter?
‘I wish they didn’t exist. I mean, it’s the modern world: you’ve got to do it. It’s a useful tool for self-promotion. But at the end of the day, I wish that the internet didn’t exist. I wish that cell phones didn’t exist. I believe that digital media really confuse things and make people distracted – well, it makes me really distracted, anyway. But whatever, I just try to go along with it.’
The Babies play at Poppodium EKKO, Utrecht on 15 June, show is free for Subbacultcha! members. Other live dates: 16/06 – Paradiso, Amsterdam; 18/06 – Vera, Groningen.