Interview with LAVA BABY - Oct 21, 2002
“Major record labels are signing so many bands and so many get pushed aside....”New York rock-pop band Lava Baby were featured on Hitquarters Talent in March 2002 and have since signed with independent label Liquid 8, who have reissued their initially self-released album “The Big Muff” (2001). The band—members Robyn, Miss Brown, Jen, Marc and Peter—are currently touring and promoting the album. Hitquarters reporter Jean-Francois Méan speaks to Robyn, the lead vocalist.
Why did you opt for signing to Liquid 8?
It may sound like a cliché, but they really understood where we were coming from. They got the idea and they weren’t trying to change anything. They loved the record, thought we were great live, and that was it.
How did the deal happen?
Hernando Courtright represented us at the time. He would set up about two showcases per month and get people to come to them. One of the labels he took our record to was Liquid 8, and they came down to a showcase and loved it. Liquid 8 is a small independent label, but with major distribution.
What are the important details of the deal?
They own the masters. That was the most important thing for them as far as the deal was concerned. We had basically recorded the album at that point, but when they came along they gave us some money to record a few more songs for it.
Did you have legal representation when you negotiated the deal?
Yes, we had a lawyer.
Do you have any other deals?
We will probably sign to a really good booking agent called Evolution soon, who will put us out on the road as an opening act in January. We're still looking for a manager and publishing hasn’t happened yet, but we are about to sign a deal with a publicity firm. Three of our songs were used in Dawson’s Creek and MTV has licensed the whole album for the Real World show. We’re also going to be on a show called Strong Medicine in October.
The album “The Big Muff” came out in August?
Yes, it came out recently and so far we’re doing really well on college radio. They're doing a lot to raise awareness of the band, and then the record company is set to start a commercial radio campaign for which they’ll hire radio promoters. I don’t know what the sales are yet; we’re waiting to get the whole team in place to push the record.
Is playing live important to you?
I was so nervous at first, but now it’s the best part of it. You have to play live, put on some kind of a show and have fun up there. For us it’s one of the few opportunities we have to express ourselves in a genuine way.
Did you book the shows yourselves?
Yes. It’s a drag being the lead singer and having to call up places and ask. But on the tour we’re doing now, another band was booked but they dropped out, so we filled in for them. Hopefully, Evolution will put us on the road in January and that will be it.
How did you build your fanbase?
Our fanbase was built on the Internet. We had chat rooms and if somebody mailed us and showed interest, we’d send them our first album for free. We would sit up all night on the computer, surfing and trying to find anyone who had a web site who might be interested in the band.
Is it important to have a fanbase when approaching music industry people?
Yes, build your house and they will come.
How did you record your music?
We recorded the first album, “In The Right Place”, in two days, in a room in a building in New York called the Music Building. Everything was done live. The second album, “The Big Muff”, was recorded in more typical circumstances, over two weeks in various recording studios. We financed it ourselves.
I borrowed money from my parents; and Marc, the guitar player, and Andrea, the drummer, had an apartment that they sold so that they could put the money into the record. We’ve just done what we've had to do.
How much of your own money have you spent on your music career?
Altogether, probably $80.000!
With hindsight, do you think you spent money on things that were unnecessary?
I think there’s always going to be a certain amount of unnecessary expenditure, because sometimes you think, “We’ll do this and it will be great!” For example, Marc made this brochure to get people to buy merchandise and not one person bought anything! We now have thousands of brochures, which is a real waste of money.
What do you think of A&Rs?
It seems to me that everybody just goes for what is supposedly cool at the time, which I find hilarious because you think people would learn. I mean, what are you going to do with another band like Creed? We already have that, try to find something new. It’s just funny to me how hype starts. Right now the hype is all about the Strokes, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and the Liars, and in a few months it will be about something else, like it always has been.
Have you noticed any differences between independent and major label A&Rs?
Independents have a lot more say and a lot more vision. They’re always ready to go out on a limb and get things going, like the guy who signed Creed to Wind-Up (Joel Mark – Ed.) when nobody else wanted to sign them. An artist has more freedom at an indie, a freedom you can almost touch, whereas majors seem to work more like machines where you’re just part of a process.
What media attention have you received?
Larry Flick from Billboard was the first person to write about the band. He heard our CD and wrote a couple of pieces on us. He was very influential, and so was Chuck Eddy, the music editor of the Village Voice. He just loved the band, understood where we were coming from and raised awareness of the band. We have also been featured in a magazine called Teen Beat and on the TV channel VH1 as the best breakthrough artist.
Is it important for artists to be knowledgeable about the industry?
If you had asked me two years ago, I would have said yes, absolutely. But in the end, I think you’re better off just taking risks. There are too many books out and everybody has an opinion on how it should be, but I think you’re better off not even listening.
What would you change in the music industry?
I often hear about what it was like in the old days and how people used to develop acts, but I think that’s over. Major labels are signing so many bands and so many get pushed aside. Imagine being a small indie band signed to Interscope, who have Eminem. They’re not going to deal with you, because developing artists is out of the picture.
With hindsight, what would you have done differently if you had known what you know today?
We learned the hard way about trying to be whatever was happening at the time. When teen pop was happening, even though we were an edgy kind of rock band, we tried to be cute on stage. But it wasn’t us and it was obvious. You have to forget all that and just be who you really are.
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