why pharrell faves lion babe are the future of soul
We catch up with the dynamic duo about crafting a new kind of Wonder Woman.
When Jillian Hervey performs live with Lucas Goodman, it's pretty obvious where the duo's name, Lion Babe, comes from. Hervey's hair becomes a mane as she twirls around the stage, her movement channelling the same free, flowing dances she does in the band's music videos. And babe? The black leotard with fishnets she rocked at Fendi's Midnight on Madison event drove that point home. Fresh off the release of their Pharrell-produced track Wonder Woman's new music video, the first single from their upcoming untitled album, they broke guests off with an earful of their signature sound. That meant a fair share of soulful crooning from Hervey paired Goodman's production, which nods to the likes of A Tribe Called Quest, Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill. Before they took the stage, we caught up with the two backstage about their process and working with icons.
On Wonder Woman:
Jillian Hervey: At the time [we were about to work on Wonder Woman], we were floating around with Treat Me Like Fire, our first song, trying to figure out what we were going to do. After we signed with a label in the UK, we went to Miami and worked with Pharrell. We're just two music lovers and were overwhelmed by the fact that we were working with someone like him. I was like 'I do feel kind of like a superhero right now! It's sort of surreal that this is happening.' So that's how Wonder Woman came about.
Lucas Goodman: It was just one of those awesome situations where you're able to work with one of your idols. He's totally influenced us and we grew up listening to him. All of the advice he gave us just really rung in our heads for the next week.
On the Wonder Woman video:
JH: This video's process was interesting for a lot of reasons. We'd never done anything that was green screen-based, so that was a challenge, but also it was interesting to see what we liked and how we could stretch ourselves. I think it was a real homage to the retro. It's funky and kitschy and cool, but free-spirited. Obviously I love the classic 70s version, but I wanted to recreate Wonder Woman and identify with her. I wanted to make her as a woman of color would see her. It was kind of taking women who are Black that I tried to emulate as a young girl and bringing them into this new lens like, 'Oh this can be Wonder Woman just as much as she can be.'
LG: Also, as Jillian said, we definitely wanted to pull the funk in with this one. A lot of our other records have a more soul vibe, but we also pulled from James Bond and classic TV shows from the 70s this time around.
On Pharrell's process:
JH: That day, I think he was in like six other sessions; he sort of goes around and checks in on people. But I think he knew we had a sound that was a 'Lion Babe sound' and he definitely didn't want to take away from it. He just wanted to guide us. He was so good at helping us hone and learn what we're good at, what we're not good at, and how to refocus that. He would come in, suggest some stuff, bounce and then come back to see where we were at. It still felt like our thing and he was adding to it.
On the 'Lion Babe sound':
JH: This idea of 'future soul' keeps coming up. We connect to classic soul music, but also to the idea of an actual soul and what that means. It's this genuine following of what's feeling right inside. Because of how we've grown up and what our parents liked, our sound is very eclectic. We're really pulling from a lot of different genres but the core of it is, 'oh, this just feels good.' And obviously we're new kids; we're young and we have these ideas that people haven't had before.
LG: It's a lot of pulling from influences that are older and even things that are brand new, like something some kid just did on their Soundcloud. We're pulling them all in and collaging them together.
On the new, untitled album:
LG: We're definitely aiming to bring back a certain feeling, like when you listen to a CD or a record the whole way through and it really feels like a part of a period of your life. We're just trying to bring that to other people because there are so many albums that we love that are connected to memories.
JH: I'm a recent college grad just trying to make my way, so I don't have many Fendi clothes in my closet, but today is very exciting because I'm feeling gorgeous in all this! As a young girl, I didn't really get high fashion but [Fendi] is so artistic. They [are still all about] creating something new and being groundbreaking, and that's something I think Lion Babe really identifies with.
Text Mikelle Street
Photography Mitchell McLennan