It’s become an unwelcome routine during music interviews to ask the artists if and how the pandemic has affected their single/EP/album/at-home instrumental mixtape for dogs’ release. Typically, this is followed up by a brief explanation of a delayed release schedule, some light lamenting of their insular WFH set up and mentions of reluctant tour cancellations before a reminder of how grateful they are for the unplanned downtime and extended writing or recording window.
For London-based five-piece Babeheaven, however, the enforced lockdowns during 2020 and 2021 had a unique impact on their releases – both their debut and sophomore albums were written, recorded and released during the pandemic.
“I found that for the first record it gave me space to write and slow down,” explains vocalist Nancy Andersen of the successive releases. “For Sink Into Me it was a lot harder – I tend to write about day to day things and with not much going on and no change, I found it tough to find things to write about. There were a few moments where I didn’t think I would have anything to say, but those moments passed and some songs came really easily.”
Babeheaven is a band guided by mood over messaging, and their creations during lockdown have resulted in a collection of tracks imbued with feelings of disillusionment and disconnection. In particular, Nancy explores the sudden loss of two close family friends within 12 months, and the loneliness that comes with loss, while also admiring the human desire for comfort and connection.
Without this, she admits, it took a toll on her writing. “I think it’s hard to make music and not be able to perform,” she says. “I felt I lost the connection with people who listen to our music,” she continues. “I love meeting people and hearing their stories, singing to people, trying to reach them and form something special. Without that, I found writing difficult too.”
Below, Nancy and Jamie share the inspirations behind their sophomore album Sink Into Me and their creative process.
‘Sink Into Me’
“We were thinking about the title of the album for a long time and couldn’t think of anything that clicked,” Nancy starts. “After making the album artwork and looking through lyrics, Sink Into Me felt like the perfect pairing for what we had made.”
When naming the album, Nancy was drawn to the lyrics in Sink Into Me, which she shares is her favourite song from the new album: “When I was writing the lyrics they felt very special and close to me. Making music or creating anything in general, there are always moments of development and change and that song lyrically and melodically felt like a step into something really nice for me.”
Elsewhere on the record, Nancy took songwriting inspiration from the natural world. She adds, “‘Erase Me’ is also a song I’m really proud of – I originally wrote it from the perspective of a moth being attracted to light, but looking back at the lyrics, I think they also have a lot of connection to me growing up without my mother, how that affected me and how I have developed as an adult.”
Discovering new sounds
For many budding musicians, sophomore albums can feel like a place to prove themselves as an artist – if your first release is a huge hit then there’s pressure to maintain that, and if it doesn’t make the impact you’d hoped, this is your second (and sometimes final) chance to make your mark. Artists often rely on their newfound stardom as easily accessible songwriting fodder, combined with new stylistic confidence and increased hype-team support. For Babeheaven, however, they faced a different problem – ensuring their music didn’t sound the same when it had been created in the same environment.
“It was a conscious decision to move away from things that we did on the last record,” explains bandmate Jamie Travis. “I was listening to quite a lot of Stereo Lab and Warpaint and bands like that, which gave inspiration for the instrumentals on the album and made me want to write more as a band rather than sampling and producing.” The new album includes a feature with features guest vocals from the rising Brooklyn rapper, Navy Blue.
The single’s artwork features a striking black-and-white body print painting designed by the British artist and model, Kesewa Aboah. “Kesewa and I grew up together, she is one of my best friends and I have made some body prints with her in the past, so it felt like a natural decision to work together,” says Nancy. “She had been testing out using a black pigment which I found really exciting, so I called her up and we made the cover together a week later. I love the way it looks like I’m floating into the abyss.”
I ask them how working from home during the pandemic affected their music-making process. “I think it made us want to change things up a bit,” says Jami, “Moving away from a really layered and produced sound with lots of samples. We did a lot more studio work and playing as a full band as we wanted the songs to be a bit more natural and a bit more classic in writing style.”
While some have suggested that her lyrics contain a romantic meaning, Nancy laughs as she discusses the unlikely inspiration behind the title track’s lyrics. “In some reviews of the album these lyrics have been called erotic, but while writing this song I was thinking about the clouds that engulf London on a grey day and how I want to fall into them,” she explains. “ I like how lyrics can be interpreted and for some listeners, they come off as something different to what they are. For some reason, the lyrics of that song really feel like an expression of how I feel most days, it’s the song I come back to all the time.”
Listen below to Sink Into Me, available on all streaming platforms now.
Enjoyed this story? Help keep independent queer-led publishing alive and unlock the BRICKS WORLD Learner Platform, full of resources for emerging and aspiring creatives sent to you every week via newsletter. Start your 30-day free trial now.