Amsterdam based trio My Baby will make their Adelaide debut at WOMADelaide in 2019 and ahead of their arrival we had a chat with Cato to learn more about the band, their latest WOMAD UK experience, the character that drives their songwriting and their experiences with the Serbian border and refugee crisis.
WOMADelaide: How was WOMAD UK? It looked like an amazing lineup!
Cato: That was brilliant, I think it was one of our best shows of the year. It’s always hard to say you don’t want to exclude any other great festivals. It’s such a good vibe at WOMAD, there are so many music lovers and such an attentive audience. It really stood out in that way. We felt at home and welcome coming there as a band. I think it’s one of the gems in terms of festivals in England.
WOMADelaide: Now we’re really excited to have you at WOMADelaide, have you been to Australia before?
Cato: We’ve been twice, I think it was 2014 and 2016, if I’m right. We’ve only played a few shows here and there in Sydney and the NSW side, Byron and Sydney and up that coast. We’ve never been to Adelaide or Melbourne so it’s all pretty new. It was the first time I’ve ever been to Australia, it’s pretty far away from Holland, so I’ve never been anywhere in our lives. For me and our drummer [Sheik] it was the first time and for our guitarist [Daniel] he is Kiwi so he has been a few times for holidays, so he can show us around and he has friends in Australia and connections. We had a few days here and there [to explore] but we were also traveling quite long distances, like 10 hours drive from Sydney to Byron, so we were also seeing a lot from the car!
WOMADelaide: You’ll also be doing WOMAD New Zealand, which must be exciting for Daniel to return home for?
Cato: Yes that’s true! It was always on the top of our list as well for WOMAD NZ. Almost every year for the past five years we’ve been to New Zealand in our winter, your summer. Coming back to New Zealand it feels like our second home country now because Daniel is half Dutch and half kiwi, he’s been going back and forth from New Zealand and Amsterdam. It feels really nice to play such a renowned festival in New Zealand. We’re also growing in his home country to become a well-known act which is extra special for him, of course.
WOMADelaide: Have you had a chance to look at the lineup so far and is there anyone you’re excited to see?
Cato: A band called BCUC from South Africa will be joining us as well on the lineup. We’ve done a tour with them in South Africa two years ago, we’re really excited that we’re going to see them at WOMAD, they’re a great band so we’re really happy to share the stage with them again in a different part of the world.
WOMADelaide: When you listen to My Baby you hear rock, funk, blues and so many sounds and it can't really be described with just one phrase, where did My Baby take inspiration from to get this sound?
Cato: It’s really hard to describe for us as well, especially if you just have to say one genre, it’s just too hard to captivate our sound or put it into words. We started out more rootsy and more blues driven, over the years we blended our sound with so many different styles with everything we’ve heard and everything we’ve taken inspiration from. At some point, we were not scared anymore to expand our sound with all the flavours we picked up and found interesting. At first, you’re kind of worried that it gets too wide, but at some point we realised that we, as a three piece can have a signature sound of our own, the way the guitarist plays, the way the drummer drums, the way I sing.
A lot of times people say we developed a new sound, but I would never say it’s new, but maybe the combination of styles is fresh and not done by many other bands.
WOMADelaide: You mention that “My Baby” isn’t just a band name; you see it as a central character in the band’s story. So what is “My Baby” and how did you all come up with this idea of the character?
Cato: That started at the beginning of the band. Being a three piece and being a band, I’m the singer but I never felt I was the ‘main’ songwriter in the band and all three of us didn’t really feel like putting our personal stories into the songs. We wanted something a bit more wider than that and also a message that is outside the three of us. We thought it would be nice to develop a character that has thoughts from the three of us and is a combination of all our characters. We could just create this figure as a fourth band member, a character we could write from and write about. It has been easier for us to write through this character than write through our personal life. That’s where the name for the band came from, from this figure, we called her My Baby. I could, and still can become her on stage but also sing about her and I would feel that character while being on stage.
In our minds she has always been there and we’ve always got inspiration from her. For the last record we thought it would be nice to really write the record accompanying a story the guitarist Daniel wrote about her. And this took her to a new level.
WOMADelaide: It’s also mentioned that ‘Borderline’ is inspired from your experiences at the Serbian border and the refugee crisis, what lessons did you learn here and how did it affect you?
Cato: We kind of wrote a story, within the story, because we also wanted something of that and our experiences in this album because it was just so fresh for us and we were writing the album while we were filming this documentary. We actually wrote it in the story as this girl was on a bus ride watching out of the window and she would see the refugee camps, it was her vision on that and what she sees. That’s how we wrote about our experiences on the border into the album. We did do the documentary about it, which was a very special thing to do because we were chosen as Ambassadors of Freedom for this year’s Liberation Day in The Netherlands. We celebrate every year our freedom and the fact that our country is free and the fact that the people of Holland feel free. It gets celebrated with live music; everywhere in the country there is live music.
Three bands get chosen, and we as a band got chosen as the Ambassadors of Freedom we got the liberty of taking a subject for us for the whole theme of freedom that we would want to feature. So we chose the fact that we are a band and we travel a lot, we pass all these borders and we just come from where we come from and our country is stable and within the European Union. Just because from where we grow up we get this passport that we can travel every border with, live around the world and go where we want to go.
Where as other people it is a big struggle just to cross the border, or to live wherever they want to live. So we took that subject on and made a documentary that shows that a lot of people cannot do this and have all these limitations. The poverty and the whole situation in Serbia is hard to watch and very ugly. We took the documentary to show the people that we have this freedom and we take it for granted and we don’t really know what it means to have that freedom by birth or just visiting and having a passport. It was interesting and heartbreaking to do but it felt good to have that opportunity.
Written by Thomas Jackson
My Baby are playing on Saturday and Monday at WOMADelaide