March 3rd saw Baum Jr, a new artist fresh out of Manchester release new single “Sunset and the Coalpit. With a unique way of creating infectious synth-rock music, Baum Jr is a serious prospect coming out of the Manchester scene that seems to go from strength to strength with each song released. The concept at first seems strange; with a rock background combined with synths and 8-bit sounds you’d be forgiven for thinking the songs were going to be a bit shit; but “Sunset and the Coalpit” is as far from that as you can get.
The song opens up with a catchy indie riff that is layered with a thumping synthetic drum track and trippy synths. As the 80s style vocal drops into the track you can imagine yourself watching it live, in a dark room filled with an incredible light show and getting lost in your own imagination. Similar to The IT Crowd theme tune, it has a “fist pumping beat” that is drenched in electronic tones but is somehow, unmistakably, a rock song at heart.
“Sunset and the Coalpit” is an excellent example of how a stunning rock vocal doesn’t need a rock backing to excel. Am I a big synth fan? No, and I’ll forever deny synths are better than guitars but a number of artists in 2017 are taking me to the dark side and Baum Jr is one. There is so much energy, so much passion and the quality of the production and vocal distracts me from just how “synthy” the song is. I honestly believe the song is outstanding; it has every component of an exceptional rock song, and every feature of an 80s pop song and it just works. The video that accompanies the track is also a work of art and I urge everyone to go watch (below). I had the pleasure of speaking to Baum Jr just before the release of the track, it was a genuinely lovely chat, one of the best I’ve had in my three months of blogging and hope to catch up with him later in the year. Here’s what we spoke about.
We started by talking about the sound of Baum Jr, although described as “next gen 8-bit” I wanted a bit more depth to that. “It’s a bizarre one because I’ve been in bands for years and I had software on my computer that I used to play around and programme electronic music with but I only ever knew rock music I don’t understand all this EDM and dance music. All I had was a bunch of electronic stuff and I grew up playing megadrive a lot and I think the sound is just sort of came naturally from that but then you realise technnologies moved on 20 years and everything sounds a bit different and all the bleeps and bloops don’t sound like they used to. All of a sudden I had these songs just sat there with all those 8 bit sounds in but with a modern day sound.”
It would be safe to assume then that Baum’s musical background is in rock but also heavily influenced by electronic sounds..”I remember the very first song I ever heard in year 9 was All the Small Things, I remember that being on a Now CD and thinking “what is this, I need this” and I think a couple of years before Offspring and Limp Bizkit hit the scene.” Unfortunately nu-metal was the era I grew up in but looking back it was a good era. i saw Limp Bizkit recently and it was emotional thinking back to it being one of the first thing I heard.”
The new single was released just recently, I asked what the song was about and how he came to write it..”The song, every song that I ever write never really has a topic as such it’s always about the moment that I’m in when writing. I don’t like to use metaphors, it’s like charms on a bracelet, every song is about the moment right there and I think it was just a song when I was pretty angry at things and just came out that way” The accompanying video is “based on Dante’s Inferno” which came from Baum thinking about the lyrics and noticing it was loosely based on that theme. There will be a part two, the story will finish and it will follow the story spot on so we should get to Lucifer eventually.”It’s like a diary, like a journal how things turn out. The songs have got a bit happier and there will be anger.”
The B-side for the single is a cover of Apologies I have None “Foundations”; being such a different sound to the lead single I had to question why. “Yeah they’re a band I discovered about 18 months ago I was in a weird living situation at the time and couldn’t get home until about 11 at night and had to wait in Starbucks to catch my train, Spotify recommended AIHN and the only way I can describe it is when I was young I used to get really excited about a song coming out, as you get older I never got that excitement and on some level they’re just a stereotypical punk quartet and there was something about them that gave me that buzz. The lyrics were very similar to something I was writing, the lyrics are very open they don’t hide what they are and no metaphors and I really dig them now.”
And how was the recording process of the new single?
“Everything’s done myself, the only thing I don’t do is play drums. They all start differently. I’ve got 13-14 on the go at the moment, I don’t have a process as such. If you set a time you force yourself to write but I’ll just have them on my phone and tend to have enough going on at any one time. It always starts really simple with piano track then build some electro around it.”
In recent times Baum Jr has tended to go with this format of original and cover. “I like the format. Mainly because you write your own song, put it out there, but there’s something about your own music, you don’t hear it like everyone else because you think about the background and don’t hear it how you want to. The covers something I’ve always done for fun, there’s something nice about putting your own touch on someone elses song but still hearing that original song. Again I just pick out songs that are key at some point erm and whether or not I put them as part of the single I just keep doing them. I’m recording in April and do 2 EP’s in August, 4 track original 4 track cover, after that I might do something different but not decided yet but there’ll definitely be those 2 EPs in the Summer.”
And have you plans to take it on the road at some point?
Yeah I’ve always wanted to. I know enough good musicians around me who’d want to do it but it’s a really tough call. Its a lot harder than i thought it would be doing it on my own,. You also start to know that band night shave sort of trailed off a bit. As much as I want to go out, I’ve made the decision to get online presence then my thought it get these two singles out there and when the EP comes out I’ll have eight recorded tracks and then maybe go out and play the two EPs. I’ve never sang in a band I’ve always had an instrument so the idea of being on stage with nothing but a microphone is getting me closer to wanting to go out. People shouldn’t expect anything quiet though, it’ll be pretty energetic.
We then discussed an exciting venture, a music collective, that many of our favourite bands including Stillia are in. “A couple of record producers put this thing together, they mentioned they wanted to start this thing with a few musicians that are there to help each other out and this was about four five years ago and I don’t even think Stillia were on the scene then. As time’s gone on people have gone in and out of this collective and the idea is that all the bands help each other, if someone’s got a new single, you get a retweet from them. When you go to a gig everyone comes down if their local it’s all about social media presence and promotion really. We all record in the same studio and the studio (sugar House) put on night themselves which is just a party night and you can go into the group, ask any dumb questions and it’s just musics a hard place to let on where you get anywhere so it’s great to be able to share information.
What has now become my favourite question was answered beautifully by Baum, if you could do anything about the industry what would it be? “I would change the fact that pay-to-play ever existed. The idea that if you want a gig they say we’ll put you on with a small band, buy fifty tickets and whatever you make on them is yours. There should be a better way to get gigs than getting fifty of your mates down. After you’ve played everyone leaves and a new crowd comes in. You just can’t get around it. It used to be like 15 people and that was fine, we can do that, nowadays though it seems, even up to 75 people they ask for.”
Dream tour? “I’d probably say, I’m gonna say a band that nobody will remember. Do you remember a band called “A”?” Baum asked. (Now embarrassingly, I do know who A are and we had a lovely 5 minute discussion about their old songs and how they should still be about). “Everyone thought of them as a one hit wonder but they had about four albums, they were the first band I ever got into really. I literally own every song, every album, they were the first band I ever heard using samples and I’d never heard that before or for a long time after. It’s not that they’re massive, but they were my first tattoo, and I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today without them.”
A genuine delight to speak to; good luck with the new single and excited to hear the new stuff later in 2017.