For a band that has yet to release any music here in the States, Baby In Vain have made a surprisingly big splash on this side of the Atlantic. The Copenhagen trio have wowed audiences at SXSW, and, more recently, on their just completed tour opening for The Kills, with an intoxicating combination of gritty stoner blues and volatile energy.
Like the best live performers, the three young women of Baby In Vain – drummer Benedicte Pierleoni and singer/guitarists Lola Hammerich and Andrea Thuesen – proved to be the complete antithesis to their steely onstage personas. When I caught up with the trio before their amazing set at the Roseland Theater here in Portland, they were quiet, humble and still a little dazed from another long drive between gigs as they discussed the status of their debut album, their early influences, and balancing their lives back home with life on the road.
How have you been enjoying this U.S. tour?
Andrea Thuesen: I like it here. This tour has been fun but really tough because we have been driving, like, 25% of the time that we’ve been here.
Lola Hammerich: More. Like 100 hours in 16 days
AT: We didn’t get to see much so yes, I’m looking forward to doing something else.
How does touring here compare with playing shows in Europe?
AT: We haven’t been touring like this. Usually we’re flying in on a Friday or Saturday and then coming home the next day. We haven’t been on a long tour. I like this kind of thing even though we have to sit in the car for a long time. I don’t know what to expect about a European tour and how people will be different or not be different.
LH: I really like the American audience. They’re really cool from what we’ve seen in other countries. So that’s nice. And it’s just huge. Huge as hell.
I know that you have been working on your first full-length. Is it finally done?
Benedicte Pierleoni: Almost all done.
AT: We don’t know when it will be released because we don’t know who will release it. We don’t have a label yet. We hope we can release it in January or February. Nothing is set in stone, unfortunately.
It took you a while to finish recording the album because you were juggling school and work, right?
BP: We were playing a lot on the weekends, too, so it was difficult for us to find 10 consecutive days to spend in the studio.
LH: We had taken our time as well to make the songs better in the studio this time. We spent a lot of time in the studio. All the other songs we’ve recorded…we’d record something like six songs in four days. I think maybe we got a bit lost with this album because we took our time.
AT: And there’s no one pushing us. There’s no label saying that it has to be done by this time. We kind of made our own deadline. Hopefully soon someone will say, “This is the release date and it has to be done.”
Has that been a difficult thing to manage being a student or having a job and concentrating on the band?
BP: Well, in Denmark we get paid to study, so that’s why I’m doing it. For this [tour], I just like getting up in the morning and seeing other people and having the music be the focus. That’s the priority but it’s nice to have something else while we still are not doing this explosively much.
AT: I’ve been working for a couple of years, and it’s been difficult to make it work. Hopefully I will begin studying when we get home because it’s more flexible than work. I don’t know. Hopefully it will get easier somewhere down the road when we make a lot of money. [laughs]
What do your families think about you going on the road and playing overseas?
BP: I think they miss us right now.
AT: I think that they just think it’s good that we’re doing something. It’s not like we’re three outrageous teenagers who do a lot of crazy stuff. We’re pretty down-to-earth young people so they trust we will take care of ourselves. This particular tour we’re driving so much can’t get into trouble.
When you started playing music, what were you listening to?
LH: I was playing without really listening to anything. I started playing when I was young. Then I eventually made friends who played music as well who introduced me to rock stuff. I only started to listen to discover my own taste when I was 12 or 13 when I got into Kyuss very heavily.
AT: Music always been a big deal in my house. My dad listens to everything. He knows every new band and reads music magazines. So it’s always been a part of my childhood. This sounds like a stupid cliché, but I really started to get into it when I dropped out of school. I started hanging out with these guys who played in a band. They introduced me to a lot of rock music and a lot of the heavy stuff.
BP: I’ve been playing drums since I was seven years old, but I never really rehearsed. I became a huge Green Day fan when I was 12 or 13 when American Idiot album came out. That’s when I was like, “I wanna be a rock star!” Now I don’t listen to Green Day anymore. It’s very nostalgic but…
AT: I loved that album when it came out. That one and Stadium Arcadium. But I can’t listen to it anymore. [laughs]
Do you feel like there’s anything about your sound that is particularly Danish or Scandinavian?
BP: A lot of electronic stuff and indie bands, they really sound Scandinavian or Danish when you listen to it, but I don’t know with our music.
AT: The music that we play is not really a thing in Denmark. I don’t see who we would compare ourselves to. I’ve listened to a lot of Danish music. The good stuff because it’s there. Because Denmark is the smallest country ever and Copenhagen is so small, everyone knows everyone somehow. It’s not hard to get involved with playing music when you’re parents are also creative. But I don’t know if it’s been a directly inspiration. Most of the stuff I listened to was the ’80s and ’90s pop music that I really love.
How do you feel the sound of the band has changed since you started playing together five years ago?
BP: I guess we were heavier, kind of stoner stuff. I feel like it’s still the same thing but we’ve just become better musicians and songwriters.
AT: Even if we don’t really feel it, when time changes and music changes and everything changes, there’s a natural evolution to our sound.