The culprits for hit track Can’t Stop being stuck in my head constantly are Brisbane’s Babaganouj. Two parts Go Violets, one part Inland Sea and one part Yves Klein Blue, this four piece are quickly becoming one of the most exciting acts in the country. Their 2014 singles Too Late For Love and Bluff captured the hearts and attention of many, and their latest single Can’t Stop continues to do the same. Taking out The City Sounds competition in which they won the opportunity to record at Applewood Studios with legendary producer Magoo, that was only the start for the band. They’ve since supported Veruca Salt, The Lemonheads, Smudge, The Coathangers, toured their own music and played on each Blurst of Times date last year, so it’s safe to say things are going along pretty smoothly for ‘Nouj.
Currently on tour again for that damn earworm of a single, I can assure you this is not an act to miss. The boy/girl harmonies of Charles Sale and Harriette Pilbeam are enough to make you melt, with Ruby McGregor and Jack Gleeson each bringing more than enough skill and charm to fill things out very nicely indeed. We got to have a quick chat with Harriette as the tour leads into their second date: a home show in Brisbane for their single launch. We chatted about dream duets, what it was like working with Magoo and what the best era of The Veronicas is. Check out their remaining dates below!
So the tour kicked off last week in Toowoomba – how’s it all going so far?
Yeah, really well! Toowoomba is always fun. Jack is from there so there is always a number of people we know and a number of people we don’t know, and it’s always a massive night no matter what night of the week it is!
You’ve played there a couple of times beforehand, haven’t you? Are you getting used to the crowds?
Yeah we’ve played there 2 or 3 times. Ruby and I played there with Go Violets as well. I really like going there, it’s always so different from everywhere else we play. I guess it’s kind of like the Wollongong shows too.
Yeah, it’s like a completely different audience in a way!
I’m from Townsville originally so I can totally understand that. I think it’s because they so rarely get interesting or cool bands playing there, that when it does happen people go crazy for it and want to make it the best night ever!
Yeah! There were girls in heels and I heard a girl vomiting in the bathroom at like 11pm.
Can we expect anything different this time around from your previous tours? Any new stuff going on, apart from the new songs?
We’ve got a fresher set than usual. We’ve been trying to play some new songs. Ruby has started singing as well, which is really exciting! She has a completely different style from Charles or me, I guess. She really brings the 90’s Aussie vibe into it with her songs.
Yeah, that’s what I’m most excited about!
Will we hear those songs being released any time soon, or is it just a “live” thing at the moment?
It’s more just a live thing at the moment. We recorded one of them with with Magoo earlier in the year so it’ll be in the EP, but only one of them is recorded. For the moment anyway!
Things are really picking up for you guys as a band lately – it’s really exciting!
I’m curious, with you all being in other bands previously, what made you realise this was the one you wanted to focus on? How did you make that transition?
It was a really gradual transition, from my perspective at least. Charles and I have been doing Babaganouj since the beginning of 2011, but it didn’t really come together until the last 12 months or so. Being in that City Sounds competition was really good, even though it was pretty small. Recording with Magoo was amazing, and going up to Applewood was too. It just started to feel different I think. We got to play with lots of new bands and in different places. I think the first three years was a big learning process for me and Charles, and then getting Ruby and Jack on board really solidified it. So yeah, it’s only really been the last 12 months that it’s really come together!
What did you learn from your experiences with your other bands that you have brought to Babaganouj? Or were you using Babaganouj to learn for the others?
No I think I learnt heaps more from Go Violets. It was completely different, like Babaganouj didn’t have a label or anything like that. We only really got a manager in the last year. I learnt a lot from Go Violets that I’ve been able to now bring to ‘Nouj. We are trying to really do ‘Nouj properly and not just taking every offer that we get, you know? Doing what we really want to do, learning from our mistakes and taking from positive experiences. Saying yes to gigs just for the fun of it if we really want to play it, whether we get paid much or not. That’s the main thing I think; we’re doing it for ourselves and we’re doing it for fun. We take it seriously too, but we’d never do anything we’re not comfortable with.
One of my favourite things about ‘Nouj is the duet styles of you and Charles – it’s kind of refreshing in a way. Do you have a favourite duet you sing with him?
Oh, I don’t know! I think Too Late For Love is still my favourite Babaganouj song. Charles wrote that at least a year before we released it, but I think it’s still my favourite song to sing with Charles. It reminds me of the earlier days when we first started singing together. When I first joined the band, I didn’t know Charles and I was still quite nervous about singing and stuff like that. I think Too Late For Love is when we first kind of got into both of us singing and started doing the boy/girl thing and not just Charles singing. It was really good. Singing Too Late For Love still makes me really happy.
Do you have a dream artist you’d want to do a duet with?
Oh my god, I don’t even know. That is such a big question! Me personally, I don’t know, but as a band probably someone funny like Hoodoo Gurus or something! That would be awesome. Actually, there is this song called Happy Birthday Helen, it came out in 1993 or something, and it’s by a band called Things of Stone & Wood. Charles and Ruby actually got to do a duet with them because we covered their song!
I watched that!
Yeah! It was filmed in Melbourne! It’s so funny, it’s just a classic Aussie film clip. They heard that we covered it and invited us to play with them. I was overseas so I couldn’t do it, but Charles and Ruby were saying how fun it was. That is probably our dream duet fulfilled already!
You’ve already ticked it off the list!
Pretty much! *laughs*
You cite the 90’s as a big influence in your music, but there is also a lot of pop going on as well. Do you have any secret or not so secret pop loves?
Yes! This is perfect timing because on our drive to Toowoomba we made a “guilty pleasure” pop playlist. Charles and I love Charli XCX *laughs* It’s really awful! We found out she wrote that Icona Pop song, *sings* “I love it!” It used to be on triple j all the time! We love her. I also love Ariana Grande…
Oh, me too! I love her!
*laughs* Okay, good! I don’t think the others love her but I definitely do.
She has such a great voice.
When she sings, you know it’s her. When she sings live, you know she’s actually singing. She’s my favourite. Ruby and I are also really into The Veronicas. That’s definitely a main guilty pleasure. We don’t like their new stuff though.
Yeah, stick to the 4Ever era.
Everything pre-Billy Corgan.
Going back to working with Magoo; obviously that is massive. Did working with him differ much from how you’ve worked on tracks previously? Was it a completely new process?
It was a bit different. I think everything we had done before then was done with our friend, and we’d always record at Plutonium or somewhere in Brisbane that was really familiar. Applewood was pretty far away, on the way to Ipswich. The process was pretty different; we just banged everything out in a couple of hours and everyone was really serious. I think when we do things in Brisbane, we muck around and experiment a bit more, and with Magoo that didn’t happen. Everyone knew what they were doing. He was great though! We got it all done in two days as opposed to coming in every day for a week and doing everyone’s parts separately. I think you can get more done that way.
Do you think you would take elements of that for future records – going in with a bit more of a plan? Or do you prefer having that freedom in the studio?
I think we would probably do a bit of both really. I think it would be good to get all the basic parts recorded in a day or two and then spend a day just adding in random stuff. That’s what we did with Can’t Stop anyway though. I think that’s the best way to do it!
You’ve supported some massive acts recently – The Lemonheads, The Coathangers, Smudge – what was the most memorable show for you personally?
For me, and probably for most of us actually, Blurst of Times has definitely been one of the highlights. It was our first festival slot, even though it’s a tiny little festival. We got to travel to Sydney and Melbourne with some of our best friends like The Creases, Jeremy Neale and everyone else on the line up. The Brisbane show was perfect for us, the sun was setting and they did the set times really well so the bands didn’t clash. Everyone always had an audience. It was just the perfect festival.
Blurst was one of my favourite days of last year too! It is such an awesome festival.
Yeah! It was so good, you just looked around and all your friends were there. I felt like everyone we knew was there, whether they were in a band or not! Playing and going was definitely a highlight for me.
Can’t Stop seems to be almost the exact opposite of your last single, and my personal favourite ‘Nouj song, Bluff. Is this a story line unfolding before us? Things were bad and now things are good, is it a secret plan of yours?
I wish we had thought of that! We should start telling people that… The order of the singles was kind of planned. We knew from the start of last year we would do Too Late For Love first, and then Bluff and then Can’t Stop. We thought that was just a better flow because Can’t Stop is so different to the rest of our songs. Getting to Can’t Stop via Bluff was better than just going straight to Can’t Stop. We didn’t think about it in terms of a story line though! I’m really glad you pointed that out!
You can have that! You can tell people you thought of it.
Yeah thanks, Emma!
What else can we still expect to come from you guys this year? You’ve got a film clip dropping this week, and you’re on tour now, what else does 2015 hold for you?
We’re trying to tour a bit more, and we’ll be releasing an EP at some point. I can’t really confirm when, but it’ll definitely be happening. It’s been a long time coming, our last one came out years ago. We’ll tour that and I hope we get some more international supports! They’re crazy. That’s one of my favourite parts of it. We only started getting those in October last year and we had four awesome ones in a row – Veruca Salt, Lemonheads, The Coathangers and Smudge. That’s one of my favourite parts. I hope we get to play some new places too!
Babaganouj tour dates:
Friday, March 20:The Brightside, Brisbane
Saturday, April 11: Brighton Up Bar, Sydney
Thursday, April 16: The Bridge Hotel, Castlemaine
Friday, April 17: The Grace Darling, Melbourne
Saturday, April 18: The Barwon Club, Geelong