Emerging from Copenhagen in a squall of killer riffs and ferocious punk energy, Danish three-piece Baby In Vain are set to release More Nothing; one of 2017’s most exciting guitar albums. They are singer-songwriter-guitarists Lola Hammerich and Andrea Thuesen Johansen and drummer Benedicte Pierleoni.
The heaviness of the music they make together is underscored by the dark wit of their lyrics. The band say their songs simply reflect raw human emotions. “Sometimes life is dark, I think most people can agree on that,” says Andrea. “Often we write about the things in our lives that are somewhat painful, weird or incomprehensible.”
All three are still in their early 20s, but if their debut record sounds like the work of seasoned pros that’s because it is. They started early. Lola and Benedicte first jammed together when they were 12 and 14 respectively, on an after-school music programme. They soon kicked out all the other members of their band. In 2010 they met Andrea at a mutual friend’s show. She asked: “Don’t you want a third member?”, and added that she’d already thought of the perfect band name: “Baby In Vain.”
Andrea had been inspired by the Soulsavers’ song ‘Unbalanced Pieces’, when Mark Lanegan sings: “Mother, mother, in vain.” “I just thought it sounded so goddamn cool,” she says. Back then, Lola was already writing heavy, stoner rock influenced by her favourite group, Kyuss. Before long, Andrea introduced her to a galvanising swathe of new bands including Soulsavers but also Sonic Youth, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and The Jesus and Mary Chain. “I think we just combined everything we liked and made up a genre of our own,” says Andrea. “That’s what made sense to us.”
The band’s distinctive sound would inevitably be shaped by their early decision to do without a bassist. “Lola and Andrea both wanted to shred their guitars,” laughs Benedicte. “Neither of them wanted to play the bass.” As their sound has evolved they’ve grown out of the need to compensate for their unusual line-up. “When we first started we were aware of not having a bass,” explains Lola. “Now we don’t really think about it. Our sound is already pretty heavy as it is.”
It’s a sound they’ve honed in countless frenetic live shows. They were hand-picked by The Kills’ Alison Mosshart to join her band on two tours in America and one in Europe, and were praised by Thurston Moore while supporting Chelsea Light Moving. Having built such a fearsome live reputation, their next challenge was to capture their sound in the studio. “Sometimes I think we kind of did it backwards,” observes Andrea. “We were a live band first and we had to learn how to play our songs in the studio in order to record them.”
To do that, the band decamped from Copenhagen to the suburban town of Bredbury, near Stockport in Greater Manchester. There they took up residence in Eve Studios along with longtime PJ Harvey collaborator and producer Rob Ellis. The band found him to be a wise and encouraging influence on their style. “He’d say things like ‘John Peel would like this song’ or ‘Kurt Cobain would have sung it like that’,” remembers Lola. “He made us feel confident and helped us perform the best we could. It felt like we had something to live up to.”
“Rob turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to this band,” adds Andrea. “He treated us like peers, and respected us as musicians and human beings.” After six years playing, writing and touring together, Baby In Vain’s debut record came together in just 11 days.
The album is full of incendiary heavy rock songs packed with riffs, as on breakneck, opening track ‘To Heaven And Back’, which sounds like Queens of the Stone Age moshing with The Distillers. As Lola recalls: “We recorded it upon waking up to the news that Donald Trump would become the President of the United States, which led to the working title: ‘Fuck Trump Yeah’. We channeled our aggression and frustration into it.”
‘Transcendent’ is a Sonic Youth-influenced wall of detuned guitars that sounds like My Bloody Valentine at their mightiest. It’s a tune that the band believe “captures the essence of who we are.” For Andrea, the song became an extension of her innermost feelings: “I was very anxious the whole time we were recoding this,” she says, “So it seemed appropriate and relevant to write about anxiety. The song is about how it consumes you and leaves no room for rational thinking or any other emotions.”
While anyone who’s been lucky enough to catch Baby In Vain live will attest to their ability to rock out, tracks like the hypnotic ‘Lowlife’ prove they can slow things down as well. The lyrics recount Andrea’s observations of a deeply unhealthy relationship a close friend found themselves in. “It’s about someone who was close to me, and the person he was in a relationship with turned out to be mentally ill,” she says. “It had a great impact on my life, and I had a really hard time making sense of it all, so writing about it felt like the obvious thing to do.”
While anger and frustration hovers like a storm cloud over much of the album, there are moments of respite too. Closing track ‘I Have Your Eyes’ is a love song Andrea composed for her boyfriend, although its true Baby In Vain style, it’s not your typical romantic ode.
A battle between darkness and light plays out throughout More Nothing’s eleven tracks. It is as if whenever storm clouds are gathering, whenever the weight of the world feels too much, Baby In Vain are there to cast off gloom and despair with the sheer power of their riffs. Though the band are often modest of their talent, their ambition is endless. Benedicte says: “I want to make people’s days better. I want it to be life-changing for young people.”
Listening to More Nothing it’s clear they’ve succeeded. From the raw materials of the painful, weird and incomprehensible, Baby In Vain have made a heavyweight gut-punch of a record. It will definitely make your days better. It might just change your life.