Because I Love These Yearbook Pictures– In Conversation With Baby Queen (Again)

Baby Queen on The Yearbook, the Taylor Swift school of Song Writing, and being the most stylish person at Reading and Leeds

The rise of the artist known as Baby Queen has been, quite simply, astonishing. This time last year the Medicine EP wasn’t yet out, yet here we are not long after the release of The Yearbook, a mixtape – don’t you dare call it an album – that has pushed the Baby Queen game on to a whole new level. Potentially even more astonishing, we managed to get another (last time HERE) interview with her. Better make it a good one, and not forget to hit record on the zoom until halfway through asking what some of the maddest months of her life have been like… oops…

BQ: I played the last big festival, and I was exhausted. I’ve had like the worst chest infection as well, so it’s good to be better.

CUB: How were festivals? Obviously Reading and Leeds happened, what was that all like?

Baby Queen: Oh my god, insane. I completely didn’t expect firstly to experience what it felt like to do it. Walking onto that stage is the biggest high in the whole world that I never anticipated, and then I didn’t think anyone would come. To have people who came, especially to those Reading and Leeds shows – there were so many people there and it was so – it was just like a massive shock to the system. I was completely overwhelmed. 

CUB: Which stage did you play at reading?

BQ: Festival republic

CUB: That’s not a small one by any stretch! It looked like it got pretty packed out.

BQ: It was a big tent, and fuck, it was crazy. It was CRAZY. Yeah, I’ll never forget it, that reading show was the best thirty minutes of my life.

CUB: How has the Yearbook’s release gone? It seems different place now, it’s a way bigger thing than the Medicine EP was. 

BQ: It’s been, I think just really cool to… I’ve always felt like the music on the EP and the music on the mix tape are from the same family so its really cool to put the mix tape out and close that door for myself so I can focus creatively on the next thing that I’m doing, and to end that chapter. Obviously, as I end that chapter everyone who’s listening starts that chapter, but it’s really nice to have everyone see that – it adds a new dimension to you, people learn more about you with every song they listen to. I think for me the relationship with the listener becomes stronger and I’m glad that everyone can live with those songs for a little bit. I’ve been living with them for a fucking long time!

CUB: Did you mention elsewhere that ‘Narcissist’ was the last old song to make its way out into the world?

BQ: Yeah, literally everything from now onwards… except there’s one song on the album that I forgot about from around the time of ‘Raw Thoughts’. It’s more of a sad song, but I did forget about that and there’s a very good chance it’ll make an appearance. We don’t know yet. But all the singles coming from now were all written this year. It’s cool. My writing has developed and changed quite a bit, and I’m just better than I was! {laughs)

CUB: That’s hard to imagine, but I’m looking forward to it. 

Before the new era comes up, with the yearbook I did want to ask, you had all the characters. Firstly, which one was your favourite look or look and song pairing, and which ones go with ‘Fake Believe’, ‘I’m A Mess’, and ‘Narcissist’ because we didn’t get those as singles so haven’t got their characters as corresponding covers.

BQ: So, my favourite song on the mixtape is ‘Raw Thoughts’, my favourite character is the goth from ‘These Drugs’. ‘Narcissist’ was the plastics, the girl with the blonde hair. ‘Fake Believe’ was the prefect, and ‘I’m A Mess’ was the nerd.

CUB: Clarinet girl?

BQ: Clarinet girl, yeah.

CUB: Ugh, we (i.e., the fandom) love her. Obviously, there’s also those two spoken word tracks (that don’t have their own characters), why did you choose to veer out somewhere so uncharted? They’ve definitely had a really good reception from all the fans despite being such a different artistic approach.

BQ: I think there was this track that I always had, in what is now called ‘Baby Kingdom’ it goes {imitates the synth line} and I always knew that was how I wanted to start that body of work, but I also knew that I didn’t want it to be a full song. I went through poetry and stuff I was writing around the time of ‘Raw Thoughts’ – I didn’t want to write something new for it because that felt untrue to where I was at the time of all this music. I just came across that in my notes app, like “this is the story I wrote”, and I thought that was the perfect sentence to start this whole thing on. I did that one, and then when I was in Dover Beach, I was also writing a lot of poetry and that story felt unfinished as well. Also, that little thing at the start of ‘Dover Beach’, the piano bit, we added that at the end and it was gonna be an outro, but then I said let’s start a new track because it’s got its own sort of life, and then we just merged the two things and yeah. I think it’s really nice for me to have those moments in the mixtape because I hate melodies and instruments, I only like words. I find everything else to be really annoying, so to just have the freedom to be able to say words that don’t rhyme and put them wherever you want was nice.

CUB: ‘Dover Beach Pt.2’ definitely makes more sense to me with the poetic inspiration, and it feels so meaningful that I’m always moved to have it come on. With ‘Baby Kingdom’, hearing that live over the PA when you come on? Mind. Blown.

BQ: That’s how we have to open the show

CUB: The hype is gonna be immense.

BQ: Oh, it’s gonna be insane, its going to be in-sane. I cannot wait for those shows. I’m gonna be singing ‘Walking Around London Town’.

CUB: Honestly, I think the kingdom is more excited for that than anything else.

BQ: Yeah, literally that song and the Jodie Comer song and that’s it.

CUB: Going back into the Yearbook, I’d like to discuss ‘Fake Believe’. It feels like a branch out into a political direction, as well a certain song from a certain Ms Swift’s 7th album…

BQ: So true, that’s so true. When I wrote that, especially that bridge “the art of knowing is knowing what to ignore, I skipped every class in this school of thought”, I was like Taylors gonna sue me! Luckily she doesn’t know I exist…

CUB: was it directly inspired by that song, or did it come about more organically?

BQ: I think that started with a track idea my producer sent to me. I started with the chorus, and it was very led by the concept I think, but when I went to write certain parts of that song my Taylor Swift song writing training really shone through. There’s a couple of moments in the mixtape where that happened, like on ‘These Drugs’ with the melody on the verse, and then with ‘Fake Believe’ I really revealed to the public that I went to the Taylor Swift school of song writing.

CUB: There is no better school. Building on that, the bridges/middle 8s in the Yearbook are incredible. Was that really something you learnt to focus on because Taylor does it so well?

BQ: So middle 8s right, Middle Eights. This might come as a surprise, but I hate them. I find them so annoying and its, I’m currently writing my favourite song ever and I’m stuck on the middle eight. You know when you’ve written the song and the choruses are already there and you’re like ‘fuck, let me…’ – and I think what happens is I put off finishing the middle eight for so long that when I sit down to finish it I have a renewed energy. I’ve got a weird relationship with them, let’s just establish that. I think that at the same time, for a song like ‘You Shaped Hole’ I thought it wasn’t lyrically good enough, it was just too simple. What I like to do is shove a lot of intellect and complexity into the middle eight so everyone can be like ‘oh you are actually clever’ then it takes you back to the chorus.

CUB: Just sprinkling in that spice…

BQ: Yeah, I feel like that’s what it is. It’s a little bit of intellectual bragging and then we go back to the pop chorus. I feel like there’s nothing I hate more than somebody who writes a middle eight that the song would’ve been better without. It has to add a new dimension of information, take us ten steps further than we already are. You’ve got to punch them in the gut and then take them back to the chorus. 

CUB: ‘American Dream’ does that with its saucy little moment. What was it like making that track with May-A when she’s across the world?

BQ: I wrote the song in Bath, at the beginning of last year. I wrote it on a guitar on a single string, so it was hard making it into an actual song because there were never any chords, just a single strong. It was hard and when we worked on it initially it was just my voice on the song. May-A and I were speaking, and I sent her a bunch of music, and she was like ‘that’s my favourite one’. I guess it was pretty easy, the music video was the thing that was more difficult. Its easy to get a dry vocal recording and mix it in together, so once we decided we wanted to do it withing the next week it was done. With the music video, that was a who other thing…

CUB: Off that video, it continues your excellent outfit design with Amy Stephensons.

BQ: Its phenomenal right?

CUB: Yes! Its always so good to see artists who don’t just focus on the music then have no aesthetic, I love to see it when everything is cohesive and clearly thought out.

BQ: Especially for something like Baby Queen, something that’s so colourful and has so much life in it, it would be a disservice to the music to not bring that to life. Amy and I work a lot on bringing the sound to life in the visual, and I think that’s the sort of deal that you make in music. I feel like I have the responsibility to give the music the best visual life I possibly can because it deserves that. 

CUB: I guess it helps create the atmosphere too, right?

BQ: Exactly, you create a world where the listener feels like it can take them away from reality. All my favourite artists had some sort of world that I could get completely immersed in and felt like it was outside of my reality. 

CUB: There’s been some very iconic looks, so what’s your favourite thing that Amy has given you to wear live?

BQ: It’s got to be the Pokémon suit, that and the leather jacket from ‘These Drugs’ which is iconic – I love that jacket with ‘damned if I do, bored if I don’t’ on the back. But the Pokémon suit, I am just obsessed with Pokémon, and she was just like “I’m gonna paint Pokémon onto a denim suit for you” and I was like “no fucking way”! I felt like an absolute legend walking around that day.

CUB: I imagine it’s a hard look to pull off.

BQ: I got so much attention, but it wasn’t for me, all these people were coming up to me like can I photograph your outfit. I was like wow; this is what it feels like to be cool! 

CUB: Finally, if anyone is reading this interview who hasn’t listened to you yet, what do you say as your elevator pitch to get them to go out immediately and obsess?

BQ: What I would say is that there is no pop music that exists with lyrics that are as good as mine. No, what I would say is if you were to make pop music, if you were to turn a Rick & Morty episode into pop music then you’d get my music. I love Rick & Morty, and it’s really intelligent, so that’s what I’d say.

CUB: You need a really high IQ to understand it. {laughs}

BQ: Yeah, that’s it, you really need to think about it! {laughs}

Are you convinced yet? The Yearbook would be in strong AOTY contention for me, were it considered an album by its creator. Its 32 minutes are consistently impeccable pop perfection, going deeper and hitting harder than the already exceptional Medicine EP. If you can derive any joy from the last three decades of Pop, this mixtape will blow you away. Just don’t blame me when you can’t think of anything else for the next three months.

Header image courtesy of Chuff Media

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