Baby Shakes released their second full-length record, Starry Eyes, last August. With Mary on lead vocals and guitar, Judy on lead guitar and vocals, Claudia on bass and vocals, and Ryan on drums (they eschew last names) they’ve toured the US and Europe, and just toured Japan in February.
They’re favorite band is the Ramones, and it shows: they want it, they own it, and they’re pulling it off. I caught them at Hotel Vegas on Saturday, and though they opened up the day (four youthful-looking gunslingers in a dark room with a cement floor, dig, like it could be some teenagers practicing in a garage) they got people in from the backyard quickly. Mary pummeled out the rhythm and led the charge, her left leg doing the Elvis; Judy laid licks on top, stepping back and forth; Claudia plunked droning root notes, doing the head nod; and Ryan kept a sharp snare popping.
Mary’s vocals are simple, unadorned, and when the other ladies chime in they create great harmonies. The overall effect is that wonderful school gymnasium sound, and they’re so clearly hearkening back to ‘60s girl groups, there’s no hint of artifice when Mary rips out an “All right,” or Judy peels off a “Sha na-na.” Just fun.
I caught the band via email to talk about lunch boxes and Coney Island.
Mary: Japan is definitely one of our favorite places to play. Everything about it was so amazing…the people, the food…AND the best rock n’ roll bar is there, Poor Cow Stay Free! Free! Fifi [from the bands] Teengenerate, Firestarter, The Tweezers and his wife owns that bar.
The new “Summer Sun” video is so fun. For a second there it looked like we were going to lose Coney Island completely to gentrification. Do you ever hang out at Ruby’s when you’re out there? Frequent the Mermaid Parade?
Claudia: I’ve been going to Coney since I was a kid. I used to spend a week making my costume for the Mermaid Parade when I was a teenager. Now it seems too crowded… But where in NY isn’t? I saw Cheap Trick at Coney once and we partied at Ruby’s after. I still go to Coney a few times a year during the season– that’ll never change.
Claudia: Old Cyclone is way better!!!! It’s more thrilling, it made you feel like you cheated death afterwards…And you probably did.
Mary: I haven’t tried the Thunderbolt but the last time I rode the old Cyclone, I felt like I was going to die. Haha. The bar that held you into your seat was way too loose and I kept feelin’ like I was slipping out of my seat!!
Last fall you told CMJ.com that you wanted to get a cronut and spit off the side of the Williamsburg Bridge. Did you really wait in line for a cronut? Don’t you know it’s all about rainbow bagels now?
Mary: Yeah, we still practice in Williamsburg. We split a tiny practice space with five other bands to make rent. There’s not many places left to hang out but luckily Clem’s and the Gutter are still around.
Claudia: Williamsburg used to be the scariest place to visit when I was a teen. But I used go thrifting out there. Domsey’s was the best, you could get lots of vintage clothing for real cheap. You used to be able to fill a bag and they charged you by the pound. Now Williamsburg is like Disneyland, they should charge admission at the Bedford train stop.
You often get compared to the Ramones (from Forest Hills), but not for nothing, Claudia and Ryan are from Queens—what part of Queens, specifically? And is there something about Queens that’s just more… I don’t know, “greaser” than Manhattan?
Claudia: Almost everywhere in NY is getting cleaned up so there’s barely any grease left. I grew up in Ozone Park/Woodhaven. We were most famous for The Gattis, the Gambinos, Tony Danza and Cyndi Lauper. Forest Hills is 15 minutes away. Neighborhoods change so rapidly, though, in New York, for better or worse. People used to move out to Queens to get away from the grittiness and crime in Manhattan and Williamsburg. Now it’s the opposite.
Ramones are our favorite band, it’s an honor to be compared to them.
Judy: Sushi, onigiri or chicken on the bone
Mary: PB&J sammy and fruit by the foot.
Ryan: Ham sammich
Judy: Hello Kitty.
Claudia: She-Ra (Princess of Power).
Ryan: Brown paper bag.