When ashes of Arizona’s The Format were blown up north to a clear LAKE near Washington’s Puget Sound, Baby Island was born. They’re a power pop trio with a tinge of sadness and dreamy sincerity, and quite possibly the perfect party band for that party among good friends where denizens want to groove but also want to be introspective, having the lyrics ask them, “What’s your place in the world?” Fans of The Feelies, Chris Cohen or Cleaners from Venus will immediately understand Baby Island’s blending of well-crafted pop and soft mournful vocals, as well as their crystal clear, yet surrealist production.
Formed in 2010, completing their self-titled cassette in 2012, Baby Island enjoys a loyal following by those lucky enough to see them at their mostly Pacific Northwestern dates and mini tours, as well as listeners who find the band through its connection with LAKE and The Format. Mystery man Nick Dubesa holds down the drums while Mark Buzard riffs on guitar. Eli Moore plucks the bass, sings the songs and hones in on the recording’s production, while Ashley Eriksson sings backing vocals and the occasional lead.
Their newest offering Break The Lease was recorded in the same grange hall on Whidbey Island as their first tape. It shares the sense of real space and classic character that recording in an old dance hall can infuse. Rumor has it Ike and Tina Turner used to frequent this very grange hall and without much of a stretch you can sense their tight grooves and minimalism filter through, as well as the endless abandon of the audience. Break The Lease holds true to the succinct sense of pop that shines so brightly on Baby Island’s first offering. The songwriting made enough of an impression to be included in Dave Eggers’ own Believer magazine’s issue on cassette culture, with a song featured on the actual accompanying cassette. Where Break the Lease veers in new directions is with more tempered layers of sound and a certain flowery sparsity. Mercury Life, could easily fit on an early REM record with its 12-string jangle, and natural sound, while others like Endless Meaning have a haziness and undefined character which is pretty new to the band. A great cover of Love is Code by Art Pop Punks Nodzzz and the title track Break the Lease build upon the garage pop sound explored thoroughly on their first tape and fit right in for fans of the sunny and fuzzy sounds of La Luz or Thee Oh Sees.
Baby Island is a band of music lovers, and it really comes out in their songs. They are lifelong musicians who’ve cut their chops touring around the world as band leaders and back up members in a litany of different projects. They know how to work and have potential to grow and share their unique take on garage pop with a wider audience. Their sound doesn’t hit you over the head with brash vocals and grading guitar leads so prevalent in the genre. Instead Baby Island stresses the atmospheric and ethereal ends of the spectrum and draw you inward with a deep subtlety. Up to now they’ve trafficked mostly in the Pacific Northwest DIY music community. One where cassettes, personalized and homemade, more akin to art than merch, are the main medium. That’s their bread and butter and they love it. But this is a band more people should hear, and why not start with you?