Big Hair & A Bigger Voice: Backstage W/ Lion Babe
Lion Babe’s journey to stardom was written in the stars. The experimental soul duo, comprised of singer Jillian Hervey (daughter to actress/singer/entrepreneur Vanessa Williams) and producer Lucas Goodman, met at a college party, where Harvey was entranced by Goodman’s music. The feeling was mutual. They kept in touch through MySpace, and reconnected years later in 2012, when they were in New York City pursuing music–at the same time.
Since then, they’ve collaborated with artists like Pharrell Williams and Disclosure. Their live performances take their music to another level. All while switching in between tempos, it’s impossible to take your eyes off of Hervey’s gravity-defying mane, ballerina trained dance moves, and shiny outfits.
Fresh off a North American tour, on which they opened for Disclosure, and a song placement in Victoria’s Secret “Very Sexy Flirt”commercial, Lion Babe has had a wild ride of a year. We caught up with Lion Babe while backstage at their sold out “Red Bull Sound Select Presents: 30 Days in LA” show, and recapped their breakout year.
How did you cultivate the confidence you exude on stage, especially as a new artist?
Jillian Hervey: When I was growing up, I didn’t have many references of women of color, or anything around me, besides [in] my family. All the women in [my family] are so strong. But, I think it was my love for dance. Performing [was] kind of [my] escape: working on my craft, training, and feeling accomplished. I am the most comfortable when I get to be myself on stage. It is only continuing to grow when I do that. My confidence definitely came with growth, becoming a woman, and choosing to embrace it.
What were your career aspirations before you became musicians?
Lucas Goodman: Since I was 12, I’ve always loved music. I thought it’d be awesome to do music. But, I didn’t necessarily know how I was going to do that. I thought it’d be awesome to be creative for a living.
Hervey: Way back, I wanted to be a marine biologist, but then I was like, Oh! I’m not doing science or math, so let’s move on. I’ve always loved art. I think dance was definitely the driving force. I saw myself either in a company or doing my own work, in New York and in the New York art scene. All the things that I’m doing now are kind of a different version of what I wanted to do. I’m still getting to perform and set up my own show, and I think it’ll lead to more artistic opportunities.
Lucas, do you sing?
Goodman: Not really, [not] anymore. [Laughs] I did a little, back when I was playing in a band with my friends. But, it’s not like how Jill sings.
Hervey: One day we’re going to put a song out and he’s going to be singing on it. Just wait!
“My confidence definitely came with growth, becoming a woman, and choosing to embrace it.”– Jillian Hervey
Did you have an idea of what kind of music you wanted to make when you first started working with Lucas?
Hervey: Honestly, no. I was dancing a lot, and seeing a lot of performance art. A lot of the people I was seeing were incorporating either singing or talking on stage. I thought, I kind of want to play around with that. But at the time I met Lucas, he introduced me to James Blake and Flying Lotus; it was the first time [where I heard] a kind of vibe where I was like, I would love to sing something similar, [but] a little soulful, a little psychedelic, and a little weird. But besides that, I would say the one album was Lauryn Hill‘s [The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill]. When I was little, just listening to the words and how it was all put together, I [would think], If I were to ever do this, I would want to do it similar. I would want to have that kind of voice.
What was your biggest “Mama, I made it!” moment?
Goodman: There have been a lot of those moments. When we signed a record deal–that was a big moment, definitely. And, later on when we started doing our shows. They all meant a lot.
Hervey: I think the first one was when we were played on the radio in London. I was like, Why would that happen? He knew who Gilles Peterson was and I didn’t, but he’s huge. He was freaking out and I was like, What? I started looking into it, and then was like, Whoa! This is wild! Suddenly we’re this new thing.
Favorite guilty pleasure song of 2015?
Hervey: I don’t know if I feel guilty about it, but D.R.A.M.‘s “Cha Cha.” That was definitely my song; I’m going to remember this year.
Goodman: Probably, [Future‘s] “Fuck Up Some Commas.”
Favorite place you visited in 2015?
Hervey: Japan. We were only there for two days, but it was amazing and we always wanted to go as a band. We felt like Lion Babe had to be in Tokyo. For the 48 hours we were there, we got to do as much as humanly possible. It was amazing, with the best people ever, we can’t wait to go back. And, the food? OMG.
Favorite outfit of 2015?
Hervey: I categorize it in different ways–I think my favorite hair outfit was [from] Afropunk, in Brooklyn, because I had a Mohawk with rainbow braids, and it was amazing. I got on the main page of Tumblr with that hair, and I was freaking out! Clothing wise: I’ve had a lot of fun wearing crazy, sequined leotards [while] on the Disclosure tour; that always makes me smile.
All photography shot exclusively for Milk by Dyan Jong.