Interview: Babybird lead singer Stephen Jones

It’s almost a year since Stephen Jones had a heart attack. He’s been to the gym for the first time. Lost a stone and a half. Blood thinners. The works. He and the band, Babybird, approached gigs last December with a nervous energy. Made it though safely. It turned out to be fun. Again.

Simple decision. Keep going. Have a road trip. Which looks like this:

11th May BRISTOL The Fleece
12th May LONDON Omeara
17th May MANCHESTER Deaf Institute
18th May GLASGOW Hug and Pint
19th May SHEFFIELD – Plug

We phoned Stephen Jones for a chat.

So, what stage are you at right now?

I had a heart attack back in June last year, and it put a stop to a lot of things. We did two gigs in London in December, just to see if I would keel over or not, and I didn’t.

I survived them, so I think we’re just taking it easy. It’s just five in May, including Glasgow, obviously.

Are you looking at the set list for this tour in a different way?

Well, I’ve always written about that kind of subject anyway, quite dark subjects. I haven’t written about heart attacks, I’ve written always about the dark side, the David Lynch type of side of life, so it’s always been there, but hopefully it’s done with a sense of humour as well.

So yeah, set list wise it’ll just be what the band like. They all have their favourites, and there are a lot of new songs that I’ve been putting out on Bandcamp, so it’s just getting a mix, but at the last gigs we did in December in London it was almost about 45 and that was all old stuff, because we didn’t have time to do any new stuff. So I don’t know where it’s all going to fit it. We might do two sets, but we’ll wait and see.

What about your prolific writing habit, is that still part of your life? Do you still write every day?

I still do. Have you heard of Bandcamp? Over the last five years, I’ve probably released about 100 albums, so I haven’t stopped.

I think that side of me has got a bit worse. I just produce a load of stuff, but it’s got that punk ethic in a way.

I mean, it’s the internet, but, it’s got that DIY punk ethic thing, which I was old enough to remember, so it’s nice to do that.

Was your determination to get your music out there a big part of the impetus behind Babybird’s breakthrough?

Well, that was very, very early on. That was back in 1995. So we released… well I did, I released five albums in a nine month period.

And they just got the attention of the NME and lots of different magazines.

NME used to do a top ten, so Melody Maker and Sound and all those magazines used to do that.

So that just got attention because we did it in a very different way and we did it ourselves, that’s when the record companies got interested, after that, because they hadn’t really seen that approach before, not in Britain.

People had done that on four track recorders… I think Bruce Springsteen, a lot of people had done it before, but, I think the nature of it being five albums done in a very short period grabbed people’s attention, and that’s where it started.

Getting back into Babybird mode.. You’ve written and recorded and performed under lots of different names, prolifically, actually. Is Babybird distinctive from other iterations of your writing, or is it all just a version of you?

It’s a version of me. I mean I use the Babybird name every now and again now, but I have a lot of different names

It’s weird, because Babybird’s always going to be shackled with one song and one album that was big, so I tried to move away from that…

It’s just brilliant, doing the gigs, the two in December was fantastic.

It was like getting on an old bike again, and it just felt like it’d been yesterday, because we hadn’t done gigs for six, seven years.

So it was very odd when you’re getting back to it, but it felt really easy. I think there’s no pressure now, I don’t feel… particularly after my heart stuff… I had success the first time around, to have it again is a bit greedy really.

But I’m very happy with it just being different this time around, and doing it for the enjoyment of it, I think that’s what these five gigs will be.

Book tickets for Babybird at The Hug and Pint.