Maybe it's that love for Johnny Thunders that connects us all in life, and if it's not then it should be. With influences stretching from 60's Motown to Chuck Berry and The Ramones, Baby Shakes are a rock n’ roll/punk band from New York City fronted by Mary, Judy, Claudia and Ryan on drums. With 4 singles, one EP and 2 full length albums since forming in 2005, not to mention excessive touring through the years, seems natural that word has long begun to spread about this band. We caught up with them following their return from an Asian tour that recently landed them in Japan, we talked about their plans, particularly the release of their 3rd full length "Turn It Up", scheduled for May 19, along with a set of shows and festivals already lined up for the near future.
"We never dreamed we could get ourselves and our music out there to the other side of the world."
Hey, so how was the tour?
Hi!! Amazing! We just got back from Japan a few weeks ago and we had a blast! We toured with Gorilla* from Tokyo. They were fantastic tour buddies and a great band too! The shows were packed, the audiences were thrilling, and the bands we played with were all incredible. The people are genuine and generous; they are very proud of their culture and very knowledgeable about music from all over the world. They really love music and they know how to party! It’s a great city for rock n ’roll.
Having formed in 2005, what with social network taking off a shortly after that, what's changed in the underground since then?
It’s a whole lot easier to get your music and show/tour dates out there these days- especially to international audiences. When we first started our band we used to make photocopies of our DIY flyers at Kinko’s. They were cut and scotch taped together (this was before we learned how to use Photoshop). We’d all split up and cover ground in different neighborhoods with our tape guns to post flyers at bars, record stores and on telephone polls. Now we can make announcements and send out our music and flyers to the whole world from our cell phones on our lunch breaks. We never dreamed we could get ourselves and our music out there to the other side of the world… it used to be a mission just to spread the word about our shows in the East Village/LES and Brooklyn all in one day!
You're also preparing to release your 3rd album, has the sound changed from some of the earlier releases?
We’ve been told that this album is a bit heavier and more punk. We think it has a similar raw punk vibe as our first 2 singles except with a couple of glammy rock n’ roll songs in the mix. We definitely tried to explore and experiment a little without going out of our realm. Our sound as a whole has evolved but the spirit is still the same and it definitely sounds like a Baby Shakes record.
How did you all meet, by the way?
Judy and Claudia met at a punk show at CBGB’s when they were teenagers. They both had studded jackets, pink/blue hair and collected UK ‘82 and ‘77 punk singles so it made sense that they’d become friends. They used to jam out to Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers songs together in their living rooms. A friend of ours (the artist Avi Spivak) knew that we were looking for bandmates so when Mary moved to NY from Seattle he introduced us to her at his DJ night. We all got along so well and when we heard Mary sing we knew it was the perfect style for the kind of music we all wanted to play and she played guitar too. As for Ryan… we’ve had many drummers in the past but he was definitely the missing puzzle piece. We met him through friends when we needed a drummer for a show.
That early era of CBGB’s especially was so special and diverse, how much of that plays a role in having formed the kind of band you did?
Yes! It plays a big part, as we mentioned Judy and Claudia met at CBGB’s and always used to go to punk shows there. Claudia is from NY and used to go there as a teenager (sometimes she’d have to sneak her way in or try to trick the bouncers). Judy used to fly up from Atlanta when her favorite bands were playing (back then you could get round trip flights for about 80 bucks!). Ryan also used to work at CBGB’s right before they closed and right before he was legal to drink. We all love The Ramones and NY Dolls so that era of music is a huge influence on our music.
So what's the best food you had on tour so far?
Claudia: Ramen in Japan!!! So many different kinds and they’re all yummy!
Ryan: It is such an honor to be able to go on tour and eat food from other cultures. I told my old man I was getting fat and he recommended boxers from his youth. I will literally eat a shoe if it is deep fried. My favorite is the miso spicy ramen place at this place in Shimokitazawa… but also burritos.
Judy: FUGU (deadly Blowfish!), but the most unique and amazing dish was this Hokkaido soup curry we had at Rojiura Curry Samurai in Tokyo.
It's pretty hard to be able to live off of music nowadays, do some of you have jobs or other activities when the band comes off tour or isn’t in the studio?
We all have full time jobs. It would be a dream to be able to live solely off the band but we have to work to be able to do what we love. We always try to keep busy on music projects even when we’re not touring or recording.
What gear do you use?
Claudia: Rickenbacker 4003 bass. Fender rumble 200 combo amp.
Mary: Custom Telecaster Guitar. Vox AC15 amp.
Judy: Rickenbacker 620 Fireglo, 350 Jetglo with a Fender Blues Deluxe.
Ryan: I use a 1965 Rogers Dayton blue sparkle kit, I love it. The snare is a dynasonic from around the same year. I put Evans Calf tone 56 skins on them. I also use Zildjian New Beat, 14" from the 60's.
What’s next for Baby Shakes?
Our new record will be coming out this month and Burger Records will be releasing the cassette version. We’ve also got a new single coming out on the Italian label Surfin’ Ki and on Base Records in Japan. This July we’re playing the Burger Boogaloo in Oakland, CA with some amazing acts (Iggy Pop, Guitar Wolf, and Buzzcocks just to name a few). We’re also doing a few dates out west after the Burger festival. Some international tour dates are in the works for this fall but we’d really like to try to get over to Hawaii and Australia sometime in the near future because we’ve never been.
And is it The Beatles or The Stones?
Claudia: I love them both…I don’t want to choose one.
Ryan: Stones. But the older I get the more I like Beatles. How about, The Seeds?
Mary: They are so different to me, I love them both!
Judy: It used to be The Stones when I was younger, now it’s definitely The Beatles.