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  • Vasili Papathanasopoulos


Baby Beef's new single, It Stings, is out now!

Image: Supplied.

What stings more: heartbreak or hot sauce? For Sydney based trio Baby Beef, it's both. Having recently released their glimmering new single, It Stings, we caught up with the group to chat about the release and more.

Tell us a bit about your musical background and how Baby Beef came to be…

HEW: The collaborative musical journey for Mr. Christian Values and I started in the 90s when we’d used my brother's webcam to film us miming along to our favourite songs. It was as horrible as you’d expect, but so beautiful. Puberty got in the way for a few years but once we got bored of discovering masturbation we finally started a pop punk band. That was the point music showed me its potential for a very exciting future. I just had to get over my stage fright, which is something I carried with me through all the bands I’ve played in over the years, until Baby Beef. Baby Beef is confidence, baby. There was a flame that sparked from those 90s webcam sessions that certainly still burns inside of Baby Beef today, in our studio, on our stage and in our hearts.

You’ve just offered up the first taste of your sophomore EP with the release of It Stings, which captures the lingering feelings post-breakup and the push to get through it. What inspired the conceptual nature of the track?

CHRISTIAN VALUES: The song is a reflection on a past break-up, inspired after I found the words “It doesn’t hurt, it just stings” written in an old journal. Just reading them again awoke a familiar physical sensation of gnawing stomach pain and crawling skin that used to set in during moments of intense emotional internalisation, overwhelming the senses.

The experience of encountering that ex-partner in a social setting with their new love is gruelling – from the foreboding lead-up, the ridiculous speculations your mind throws at you, the frustration that you can’t get them out of your head, to the well-meaning friends trying to look after you and distract you when all you want is to be back in a time where none of this was happening.

Looking back, I felt there were some commonalities to the experience that made it worth sharing as a song. And perhaps given how long ago it all seemed, the song came out with a nostalgic doo-wop feel to it which we leant into as we built it out into a Baby Beef track together.

You’ve always flirted with nostalgic sonics that draw influence from past musical eras, with It Stings sounding like a more resolved sound. How do you think your sound has evolved since you began and how did you land on the soundscape and overall genre present on the track?

H: Our writing and recording process has always been driven by experimentation, which makes each of our songs its own little offshoot or evolution of our works before it. ‘It Stings’ was no exception to this. Of course there are sounds we love, certain drum machines and synths from bygone eras, but the goal is to continue to challenge what Baby Beef sounds like. I think the common thread in our music is honesty and embracing vulnerability.

We’re used to hearing Hewett’s lower register, with It Stings marking a shift into higher, dreamy vocals that are synonymous with the 80’s. Is this an indication on what to expect from the forthcoming EP? And if not, what’s in store?

H: It Stings has the most left-of-field vocal stylings on the EP, but there are definitely more of these moments than on the first one. Many of the songs this time around have been collaborated on via long distance. I was initially scared of this process, but in the end I believe it gave each vocal performance its own unique power to say something: we all have such strong individual voices that come together beautifully, to create something even stronger. From the new EP you can expect a deeper dive into the darkest and lightest corners of our souls and everywhere in between. It’s a documentation of stepping further into adulthood, whatever that is.

Apart from heartbreak, what stings the most?

CV: Our new official Baby Beef brand hot sauce. It’s very spicy but also contains lots of honey to ease the pain. It’s available now via our webstore.

Is there a particular line in the song that you find at times could be stuck in your head?

CV: The chorus is certainly an ear-worm, but the line “talking in the kitchen, help myself to a Can-a-pé” often gets stuck in my head when I’m talking in the kitchen and helping myself to canapés.

H: My favourite line is “There’s no need to treat me like a rescue dog/I’ve been polishing this heart so I can show it off.” It often gets stuck in my head when I’m being treated like a rescue dog.

If you could see It Stings in any movie or TV show what would it be? For instance, we can see this track fitting perfectly into Labyrinth (1986).

H: Labyrinth was a big influence on my creative journey, both visually and musically for sure. I find film scores to be such an inspiring source of music; I have since I first watched Toy Story. Whatever the genre, it’s just so glorious when music and image succeed in telling a story together. To answer your question, I see Baby Beef as the soundtrack to a coming of age movie, something like ‘The Breakfast Club’. There’s something in our music for everyone of the classic teenage high school stereotypes. Also, someone once reviewed us saying that if there was ever a modern remake of this movie, our song ‘Friction Burn’ should play over the freeze frame as the credits roll. That was the first time it felt like somebody else really got what Baby Beef is. I’m also writing the soundtrack for a Shot for Shot remake of the first two seasons of The OC but set in Sydney’s Inner West.

You’ve teased your sophomore EP for early 2022. What new knowledge and experiences are you bringing into the sessions working on the new EP that differs from your debut?

H: There are some really exciting themes in the new EP, we’re still very much addressing life’s purpose in our usual brooding way, but we’ve taken time to hone in on some specifics, for instance there’s a song about trying to become your best self while your parents are still around, to give them the satisfaction of experiencing the best you. I’ve also been writing a lot about what it means to me to be living with a neurodiverse brain. It’s something that was discovered about me fairly recently and only now have I been able to explore it with my song writing. Writing has always been an emotional outlet for me, so it has been really exciting learning more about my beautiful brain and telling it’s stories through song. It’s definitely helped me grow.

You’ve put on some stellar live shows, recently incorporating interactive theatre into your performances. What prompted the addition of that new element to your live shows?

CV: We’ve always been enamoured by performances that engage audiences through a blend of music, visuals and interactive elements. In a way, all live music is a form of theatre, but we’re keen to keep experimenting with what’s possible in that environment. As we grow more confident in what we do, it feels like there’s just more and more room for creativity beyond our musical selves. Providing richer context to our music through things like costumes, sets, chatbots, character actors and interludes gives audiences new insight into the themes and content we’re putting out there. We really want to surprise, sometimes shock, people who attend our performances and give them something memorable that feels inherently ‘live’ as opposed to something they could easily access at home.

What’s your absolute dream live show / interactive performance that you would one day hope to achieve? And can you give us a little hint about what you’re working on at the moment in that department?

H: Every show we’ve ever done has been an absolute dream, and ideally so will every future performance. We are continuously challenging the idea of a ‘conventional venue’ with hopes of one day producing a portable or pop up live show, where everyone in attendance is a part of the production somehow. We want to give the viewer some added emotional layers, something more than just singing along. There are still many kinks to iron out and right now it’s tough with live music in Sydney being completely stood still, but without giving away too much, that’s where the beef train is headed.

You were set to return to the stage recently, a plan thwarted by the current COVID-19 outbreak. Billed as Baby Beef Presents: A Birthday Party for a Mutual Friend, what can audiences expect from the show?

H: It was going to be a party for the ages, an interactive theatre art piece set at a 70’s swingers style house party. Our favourite band Megafauna were playing too and we had planned some exciting on stage collaboration with them. The plans are still there and we’re ready to go whenever we can. The one positive out of the postponement is that we have more time to make it even more glorious, which we most certainly will.

The music industry takes another hit to the touring sector with the current COVID-19 outbreak. How important do you think live music is not only for yourself as a musician showcasing their art, but also for the audience members who resonate with your music?

H: Good live music is such a release for everyone involved, an exciting realm in which the audience, performer, venue staff and techs can feed off each other, eventually becoming one beautiful creative entity. Without it, things become so hard, it’s difficult to continuously search for other avenues of expression that ultimately don’t come close to a stage show. Everyone I know is so hungry to have it back, and we’ll only get hungrier by lockdown’s end. In all honesty I’m just hoping everyone survives until there’s life on the scene again. It’s a scary time.


Biggest influences?

David Byrne, Ken Nordine, Aldous Harding, Blood Orange, Carly Rae Jepsen

Dream collaboration?

Carly Rae Jepsen

Album that has had the most impact on you?

Tears for Fears - The Hurting

How do you define your musical style in 3 words?

ABBA for Millenials

Best song of 2021 so far?

Aldous Harding - Old Peel

If you could create the soundtrack for any film, which one would it be?

Blue Velvet

Hannah Montana or Miley Cyrus?

Miley, I fucking love Miley

A song you would love to cover on tour?

Alessi Brothers - Seabird

Album you would listen to on repeat on a road trip?

Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

First concert you went to?

50 Cent supported by Obie trice circa 2000

Best concert you have been to?

David Byrne - American Utopia. It was otherworldly, my dreams really came true that night.

First album you ever bought?

Offspring - Americana. My brother had a copy but wouldn’t share so I bought my own.

Would you rather be a Spice Girl or a Backstreet Boy?

Spice Girl

If you were a Spice Girl, what would your spice nickname be?

Sleepy Spice

Most memorable show you’ve ever performed?

Our last headline production ‘Beeftech Enterprises presents: Baby Beef live in concert’ was special because it was our first foray into the interactive performance space. We are so proud of the scene we set and the energy in the room.

Guilty music pleasure?

I don’t believe any music pleasure should be a guilty one. Be proud of what you like and why you like it.

If you could support any artist on tour, who would it be?

David Byrne

An artist you think has had the most influence on the music industry.

Currently I think Billie Eilish, although over history probably Paul McCartney.

What advice would your current self, give your future self, for a year from now?

Don’t stop experimenting, it only leads to good things and keep doing it for Rikky.

The moment you knew you wanted to be a musician?

The day I learnt to play the Star Wars theme on my Tenor Horn in junior band.


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