By Neve Dawson, Second Year English and History
Epigram speaks with Babybird as they commence their UK tour and bless Bristol with their presence once more upon the Fleece’s stage. Stephen Jones puts aside his stuffing of envelopes filled with old Babybird CDs and tapes to pick up my call and answer a few questions.
Retired from the limelight and glitter of Top of the Pops and international TV performances, Nottingham’s finest is once again on tour, soon to perform at the Fleece - a venue that is becoming an annual pilgrimage for the band.
Babybird started as the alias of Stephen Jones, the band’s frontman whom I had the opportunity to call on a sweltering, pint-calling Friday afternoon. Jones built Babybird from his bedroom – his songwriting sanctuary, with bands such as Joy Divison making Jones cast aside his childhood flute and instead begin chasing the glamourous ecstasy that is band life.
This passion blossomed with his purchase of a four-track machine that catalysed the creation of lo-fi recordings and over 400 eclectic pop songs. With the eventual signing to a major label, Babybird evolved into a four-piece iconic enough to rival Britpop’s dominance over the charts. 1996 saw the release of ‘Ugly Beautiful’, the infamous Babybird album attributed to the band’s initial success. Today, Jones bows down to the album’s success due to it enabling the band to “do what we do now” 27 years later. Since my childhood, ‘You’re Gorgeous”, “the one [hit] everyone knows”, has had a permanent place in my playlists; from ‘Dad’s Music’ on my iPod first generation to today’s ‘On Repeat’ playlist created by Spotify – a platform which the band continues to dominate with their 250,000 monthly listeners nearly three decades after their formation.
The original line-up remains to this day, Drummer Robert Gregory and Guitarist Luke Scott accompany founder Jones on their first gig in six months commencing in Bristol and ending in London on Coronation Weekend. As wittily expressed by Jones, this is a problem easily avoided, due to ride-or-die fans “probably not being royalists”, equipped with band merch and tinnies rather than patriotic flags.
The tour marks Babybird’s fifth visit to Bristol since 1995 – moving inland to Redcliffe rather than playing on one of the “various boats” Jones describes having played upon previously. Jones reminisces about his childhood and describes vivid memories of wandering around Bristol as a child; visiting Clifton Zoo and looking across Bristol’s harbourside, awakening his intimate connection with the city in the present day as he looks to go on tour once more. Touring is “dead easy” for the band, the freedom of no longer being signed making the travelling more of a lads holiday featuring a rather large tour bus, rather than something dictated by the record label.
When asked about producing new music, Jones immediately signposted his Bandcamp profile, joking that the platform is his way of “being lazy and going back” to his college days and what he “found easiest”. It can be said with ease that Jones’s “itchy feet” for new material have not ceased since 1995. 140 singles have been released in the past ten years, varying in their genre from soundtracks to the orchestral genre, this overall marking the preservation of Babybird’s iconic “underground” aura, that ride-or-die fans have craved since the start.
Featured image: Sonic PR
Have you listened to Babybird?