Earwig + (Re)Masters Spawn a Reunion: A Conversation with Freda Love Smith

By Adam Parrilli
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In early March of 1988, the power pop trio Blake Babies entered Fort Apache Studios in Cambridge, MA, and came away with 12 demos of songs for what would become their debut full length, Earwig. In 2015 the band rescued the forgotten “basement tapes” from those sessions, and are now releasing them on VINYL as part of a Pledge Music campaign. As exciting as that is, the band is set to play a matinee gig this Saturday July 23rd in Evanston, IL.

The Minimal Beat spoke with Blake Babies drummer, author, and Northwestern University faculty member, Freda Love Smith about how this whole reunion business got reignited, and also what may lie ahead. So without further adieu…we present…10ish Questions with Freda Love Smith:

The Minimal Beat: Was there something special about Earwig or those sessions particularly that you guys chose this as the basis for / to coincide with the reunion?

Freda Love Smith: It was a case of chance and surprise more than thoughtful choice. John stumbled upon the demo tapes in storage, and gave them a listen without much expectation. The surprise was that they sounded better than we remembered, representing the sound of the band at a point in time that hasn’t otherwise been well-documented, with versions of the songs often distinctive from (and in some cases stronger than) the final versions on Earwig.

TMB: Which of the 3 of you first rekindled/reignited the Blake Babies here in 2016? And how? You guys have been in steady touch?

Freda Love Smith: I’m usually the instigator, or attempted instigator, but this whole current project arose organically from the discovery of the demos as well as from ongoing conversations we’ve had about reissuing our back catalogue. It all seemed to come together with very little stress this time!

TMB: Which came first? The idea to play the Boston & Evanston one-off gigs or the Pledge Music project?

Freda Love Smith: The Pledge Music project came first. Our friend and manager Jay Coyle (he’s overseeing the Pledge campaign) suggested we add the shows as Pledge items, I don’t think they would have happened otherwise.

TMB: Can you reflect on your experience using Pledge Music thus far? John wrote an update recently and as I fan it’s cool to hear directly from the artists you are “supporting.”

Freda Love Smith: I like using Pledge Music; I like the direct connection between musician and listener and I like sidestepping the normal (in my day) machinery of the music biz, which can be slow-moving and frustrating.

TMB: Branching off, can you tell me a bit about your book? The genesis of it?

Freda Love Smith: My book, Red Velvet Underground: A Rock Memoir with Recipes, documents a year of cooking lessons I did with my oldest son Jonah before he went away to college, while also flashing back to my own experiences when I was his age, moving to Boston, forming the Blake Babies, being a musician on the road. Food and recipes function as a bridge between these two seemingly disparate phases of my life. I loved writing it, and I’ve had a blast promoting it. Fun fact: my son Jonah will be selling merch at the Evanston show!

TMB: How was practicing alone preparing for the Boston reunion? Practicing together?

Freda Love Smith: My first few practices alone were kind of harrowing. The songs were harder, faster, more complicated than I remembered! Some of them cracked me up—so young, so goofy, so sincere! A couple of them moved me to tears, I hadn’t expected that. I literally sat sobbing at my drums. Fortunately I got past that stage. By the time we met to practice in Boston I was reasonably confident and most of the songs came together weirdly easily. We definitely had some sonic kinks to work out, and a few bits were trickier than others, but we have a solid connection to fall back on and we fell right back on it.

TMB: Any tricks up your guys’ sleeve for the Evanston show? Will it be a slightly different set? Covers?

Freda Love Smith: We are adding a few different originals and a new cover—we wanted these sets to be varied.

TMB: Lastly, is it too premature to consider a more full fledged reunion? Will there be new Blake Babies music? A tour? The festival circuit in 2017

Freda Love Smith: We don’t have any plans for now, but I’m not ruling anything out!

Head over to the Blake Babies’ Pledge Music page to purchase, records, DVDs, and/or Admission to Saturday’s gig in Evanston, IL, here.

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