The NYC duo on astrology, style inspirations and their addictive new album.
There is something transportive about the sounds of Lion Babe. Put on your headphones and imagine yourself in a psychedelic space – sitting on a velvet chair in a full of flickering candles and shadows, air thick with patchouli; or laying down on a rooftop staring up at a sky filled with stars.
At once retro and futuristic, Jillian Hervey and Lucas Goodman have created a magical musical formula – a study in ying and yang, zen and lit. Since the release of break out single ‘Treat Me Like Fire’ in 2012, it has been quite a ride for the New York duo. Known for their electrifying shows and eclectic style, they have collaborated with everyone from Childish Gambino to Pharrell, wrote an original song for HBO’s Insecure and wooed audiences at Glastonbury, Afropunk and Coachella. Along the way they have become darlings of the art and fashion worlds – Jillian recently shut down NYFW with an unforgettable sashay.
The past few years have been about transformation – growing up, evolving their sound and setting up shop in their very own studio. It’s a mood that defines their new album Cosmic Wind which reconfigures their electro funk soul sound for 2019, with a deeper maturity and introspection in their songwriting and collaborations with Wu Tang’s Raekwon, Bilal and Leikeli47. As they get ready for the next phase, we caught up with Jillian and Lucas to talk astrology, new beginnings and reppin’ NYC for life.
Hi Lion Babe – tell us about Cosmic Wind, how has it been inspired by the transformations in your own lives?
Jillian: Since our first album we’ve moved into a new studio space, we’ve entered our thirties, it’s a time when you start to get to know yourself a little bit more. That’s really when you get to know yourself and who you are. That kind of change is personal. The album reflects that but also a lot of the things that are going on in the world right now. We knew what we wanted to call it and the vibe early on but having a new space, we were just writing and writing and writing.
Lucas: The songs just kind of came out that way naturally in the writing process. It was a natural flow.
The title Cosmic Wind – there’s definitely a cosmic vibe to a lot of your music. Is astrology a big influence for you?
Jillian: Astrology has always been in my life. Its symbolism has always inspired us and we’ve expressed it in our music and visuals. These are tools we can use. There’s always lessons in everything. It’s about being aware of lots of different things – of the journey, of patterns and of opportunities. That’s what I get from astrology. As cheesy as it is, we’re all made of stars and it’s good to remember that. We try to stay connected to that part of life and to stay connected to what’s happening.
With everything that’s going on in the world right now – is it important to you to have positive messages in your songs?
Lucas: I think definitely yes , the words and the concept, we try to think about what we would tell ourselves first before what we would tell others. What would motivate me? What would inspire me? In the climate of today, there is such a shift. It’s needed.
Jillian: A lot of the songs when writing them, it always felt interesting because it wasn’t on purpose. I could be singing them to a lover, to a friend, but also to myself. The messages can be personal but also very universal.
What’s the dynamic like between you two in the studio? Do you have a typical routine for how you work?
Jillian: Just having our own studio space now has been really amazing, it’s a dream for us. We have a lot of fun.
Lucas: Being in the studio is when we are happiest. We try to create a vibe, a moment and that’s something that hasn’t really changed since we first start. We might have some music, an idea, a mood – we’ll have the mic set up and then try to capture something that inspires us and makes us feel good. We go with the moment, then refine it down from there.
How do you keep the energy and passion for the music as you had when you first started?
Jillian: I’m more excited about making music now than I was when we first started. I was kind of oblivious about the fact that I was about to become a musician and just my own insecurity of not knowing what I was doing. Now I feel comfortable with who I am and what I do and I have clear concepts. That’s very exciting. I came from a dance background, at first I was so critical of myself and introspective, now I am not so critical and I enjoy the creative process.
Lucas: Before it was trying to figure out and experimenting and having these kind of happy accidents which do feel great at the time. We still try to have those, but now our tools are sharpened and our skills, when we have a concept or an idea we can communicate it so much better.
You’ve got some brilliant collaborations on the album. How was it working with Bilal and Raekwon?
Jillian: We love Bilal. He’s a New York homie, we love his voice and his music. It’s awesome to be at a point where you can just send a text Bilal and say come over and next thing your dog is sitting in his lap and you’re just vibing! We had him over a few times to listen to what we’re working on. Then this song came about and next thing you know he worked on it with us. It’s a New York sound and a New York record and we love having that representation with Bilal, Raekwon and Leikeli47.
It’s a New York family.
Lucas: To be a part of the Wu Tang legacy with our record was a dream. That music was so inspiring to me when I first got into production. We had the record and we thought about his voice on it and his style and it was just right.
What’s inspiring you in New York at the moment?
Jillian: There’s so much going on in NYC right now, especially in Brooklyn. It’s really fun for us to get out and see what people are doing who are just getting started. I try to see a mixture of new stuff I haven’t seen but then also hit the classic jazz clubs and see artists when they come to town. We saw Lauryn Hill last night and she was amazing. ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ changed so many people’s lives. To hear her do those songs, the room was electric. She always flips the songs.
Jillian, your walk was incredible at NYFW. Who are some of your favourite designers right now?
Jillian: Shout out to The Blonds! I loved being a part of that show. I love Cushnie – very classy, sexy and feminine, Chromat always have a really fun show. At heart I am of course always a vintage girl but there are so many new and interesting designers and people are making their shows much more of an experience and much more creative. Studio 189 are also really good friends and I love their clothing, we just wore them in our video for
I just love people who are grass roots and who are conscious of the materials they are using.
There’s something both nostalgic and futuristic about your music. If you could go back to any era what would it be?
Lucas: 1967-19977 is a very cool time – people like Sly Stone are a big influence. It would have been way different to have been an older age in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it would have been great to be a twenty something then there was so much new stuff going on for the first time. But even today is great to be around as you can listen to all the old stuff and what’s going on now.
Jillian: It would have been so cool to perform with Josephine Baker in her time. For people going back can be scary of course, but I love the idea of being around Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone and hanging out with James Baldwin.
What’s the most inspiring place in the world you both have performed?
Lucas: Once we performed on top of a castle, a fortress in Ibiza. That was pretty cool!
Jillian: We always love Japan in general, walking around you can get so inspired. Because it’s kind of grey, the mood is just go and make music. One day we’d love to make a record there.
Where do you want to see the sound go next?
Lucas: One thing about the sound with this album that we’re really proud of, soul has always been abig part of the music – this time we have really honed in on our version of that, it lives throughout the whole project cohesively. We want to further refine that and make it always interesting , always have some sort of flow.
Are there any genres of music that you would like to experiment with that you haven’t?
Jillian: I would love to make a jazz record. I love to turn up but I also love slow moody ass songs! That’s not what Lion Babe is so that would be cool. Sometimes when Lucas is DJing towards the night and it’s 3am in the morning and he wants to clear people out, he’ll turn on some mash-up beats that are kind of a jazz trap vibe. We want to do a trap jazz album, there you have it – that’s exclusive to HUNGER!
Lion Babes’s new album ‘Cosmic Wind’ is out now. Stream the album here.
4 April 2019