Scrolling through a cascade of pop punk bands, you’d start to notice they kind of all appear the same. Once in awhile one member will look a lot different, or they’ll have at least one female (typically the vocalist). That’s where Baby Got Back Talk stands to the side of the pack.
Frontman G’Ra comes with a point of view a lot of others in the scene don’t have, and he’s joined by his buddies Jake, Derek and Rhiana who tends to the violin. With a look and a sound that doesn’t scream cookie cutter, Baby Got Back Talk have that and a crafty sound on their side. We talked with the whole band about everything from diversity to Jagged Little Pill and everything in between.
Kendra: Growing up a mixed kid in a small town, and then being one of like three black people at The Used back in the day – I instantly fell for “Historically White College.” Over the years I’ve noticed more diversity in the pop punk scene crowd, but the bands are still lacking. Does that ever get discouraging?
Rhiana: That’s awesome! Glad you like it. Growing up a mixed kid in a small town, I was also one of the three black kids at punk rock concerts! While the general homogeneity of punk rock still exists, I personally don’t find that to work against us. The genre itself has its roots in appealing to those that want to carve their own musical identity, which resonates with us greatly. The fact that we are breaking out into fairly undiscovered territory in terms of punk rock and a more diverse representation is rather exciting. If anything it encourages us to be at the forefront of such a powerful emerging movement.
Kendra: Your new album, Take This The Wrong Way, just dropped but let’s get personal and talk about the last time you did indeed take something the wrong way?
Rhiana: I take everything the wrong way. I sometimes put clothes on the wrong way.
Jake: I’m directionally challenged. I literally take the wrong way all the time. Even with my phone.
Kendra: Adding a violinist to the mix makes minds wander to Yellowcard. Were they an influence at all?
Rhiana: I’ve only ever listened to one Yellowcard song and it was half of “Ocean Avenue,” so I’m definitely not thinking of them as an influence. Although maybe I should be? They were successful. Personally, I listened to the Vitamin String Quartet a lot – they did string versions of punk songs. Their Nirvana album was my favorite.
Jake: As you can imagine, we get that question a lot. I think G’Ra and I are much more familiar with Yellowcard than Rhiana, and she’s the one playing violin so…not as much as you might think. We’ll occasionally reference them to try and figure out what has worked for them, but the larger goal is, of course, to use the violin to create our own sound.
Kendra: We’re going to get back to influences in a second, but first we have to talk about our shared love of Alanis. Are you planning on seeing Jagged Little Pill when that musical comes through NYC?
G’Ra: Feels safe to say our band would not exist without the Jagged Little Pill singles that dominated radio in the late ’90s, so yeah, I think I probably owe it to Alanis to support the musical. Even if it’s trash, which seems all too plausible.
Derek: Jagged Little Pill was a tremendous album. Alanis and the 90s’ in general had some real special music that I hold dear to my heart. I will go and support the musical as well.
Kendra: Now on a more serious note, you have a lot to say about what that idiot from Cute Is What We Aim For tweets about. Do you feel like we need to just blackball that guy from life already?
Jake: YES. Sixteen-year-old Jake is really sad because he loves Cute Is What We Aim For. But we need to have zero tolerance for bigotry, and we need to call out people who bring it to our scene (or anywhere, really!) or try to pretend that it’s not a problem.
Kendra: As promised, back to influences. Working with Eve 6, The Matches and Allison Weiss…if you had to choose, which would you tour with, do a duet with and just cover?
G’Ra: That’s a can’t miss proposition any way you slice it! I think we’d have to duet with The Matches (a Jon Devoto guitar solo on a BGBT tune would be lit), cover Eve 6 ( we could do a gnarly “On The Roof Again” I bet) and tour with Allison Weiss, who seems like a rad person to hang out with in addition to being a terrific songwriter.
Kendra: What’s going on with you guys for the rest of the year now that you have this new album out and about?
Rhiana: We’re most definitely going to be riding the popularity of our new album like Atreyu rode Falkor. We’re planning some performances around the city and also working on new things to keep people excited.
Jake: Shows! We’ve been working on these songs for a while and we’re all really excited to play them for other people.
Derek: Shows, shows, and more shows. It’s gonna be a great thing to share these awesome songs with the masses.
Kendra: Circling back to diversity…let’s make a mixtape all about that when it comes to the pop punk scene. Five songs, let’s go!
Rhiana: Animal Alpha – “Bundy” They might lean more to the alternative rock side (and they’re from Denmark – punk is a love that infects the world!) The lead singer is fierce as hell, even in a baby pink lolita dress.
G’Ra: Mint Green – “Take Care” Catchy, moody punk/indie stuff from Boston. The vocalist/guitarist/main songwriter is a black woman which is rad to see.
Pure Hell- “No Rules” All black Philly punk band that preceded Bad Brains. Sometimes I play this song first thing in the morning to set the appropriate tone for the day.
Sister Munch – “The Latest in Fall Fascism” Vegan hardcore punk with witty, acerbic, badass feminist socially conscious lyrics.
Royce- “Nothing Ever” Beautifully aestheticized misery. Los Angeles quartet of mostly POC playing a groovier version of that early Get Up Kids sound.
Also, keep an eye out for friend and former Speedy Ortiz guitarist Devin McKnight’s new band Maneka.