They are a part of a music scene that exists in Cardiff which is, arguably by circumstance, finding its feet with a new generation of artists and groups who don’t conform to what has gone before them. Made up of sisters Cara and Estelle, cousins Monique and Ruth, and friend Vanity, to describe Baby Queens as being familial is to put it mildly.
How you go about describing their music is something that, for the band themselves, seems a bit unnecessary. When I spoke with guitarist and vocalist Cara Elise, she describes how they never started out with the intention of fitting one bracket or having one particular sound.
Instead they were always looking to see how mixing together the styles that influenced them could result in something that bore the best of all those elements. She mentions ‘fusion’ quite a bit, and you get the sense that not being pinned as one thing or another holds importance to them. They have been described before now as a ‘girl group’, but their divergence – both visually and musically – from the stereotypes conjured by that label is definitely part of their appeal.
Apparently it took them a while to actually clock that they had started out at all: “We’d all hang out, and a lot of the time of an evening we’d sit down and have little jam sessions. It’s kinda mad actually, because we jammed like that for a long time before it hit any of us that we should start a band.”
From listening to Cara talk about how Baby Queens came together, one thing is abundantly clear: they are a very tight knit group, they care profoundly for one another and they feed off each other in an emotional and creative sense.
Speaking about how their experiences have interwoven, she describes how they all stem from big families, how they have all lived together (it was in their shared house where those jamming sessions used to take place – the front room, in fact), how they’ve experienced, “Pretty colourful lives”.
When asked about how the nature of their relationship has interacted with their music, Cara describes their progress so far as a “journey”. She is quick to acknowledge that might come across as cliché, but she goes on to explain that it is only meant in the sense of it being a surprise for them: “We never expected for people to have this kind of reaction to the music. We were pretty proud of it, but it’s really difficult to break through… there’s so many incredible bands.”
Cara proceeds to talk about some of the artists that they have worked with and played alongside, with a slot on BBC Wales’ Horizons tour in 2014 proving to be a particular highlight. Speaking of, it is worth taking a trip over to their artist page on the Horizons website – their acoustic performance of Tired of Love, released as a single last week, is a powerful rendition of contemporary soul.
Talking about the quintet’s contemporaries, it is humbling to hear genuine support for other Welsh acts coming from Baby Queens, both from the aspect of being performers and being fans: “They were literally churning out heartbreaking, beautiful, trippy, intense, progressive, amazing music, and we just watched these bands, there’s so many of them and they’re just not known. But they should be, the music’s tight, you know?”
Sincerity is a big value for Baby Queens, and when asked whether they ever started out with the intention to create songs in one specific style, Cara’s answer is direct and composed: “Not so much. We definitely wanted to write music that is soulful and beautiful; real. We wanted the vibration of our music to be a higher vibration, so that when people listen to it they can connect to it, experience some feeling.”
By their own admission, Baby Queens are an outward facing unit. Conscious of the troubles going on in the world without wanting to take on the mantra of being preachers, they don’t want to overtly lecture people about issues.
They want to – through “undertones and messages” in their music – encourage people to take up these facets of society as interests for themselves. One of their songs from the upcoming album, a song called Forever, is an example of this. As Cara puts it, “It’s not so much anti-racism, it’s more pro-unity.”
As much as the music matters to the girls, home and – I guess you could say – paying respect to their beginnings is of equal importance. We talk about the launch event for their debut album, and as soon as Cara finds out that I don’t know about the venue, a favourite hangout of the band’s on account of the people who run it (and their gourmet burgers), she stops the talk about the event and the band to start singing its praises: “Right, you have to go!”
Their debut album, the product of two years’ work in association with producer and former Super Furry Animal Cian Ciaran, is set to be released on the 28th of October, with one more single likely to be out before then. To celebrate their first full-length record, they are going to be holding a launch party at the aforementioned venue: Cardiff’s Spit & Sawdust, quite probably the city’s only family-run skate park that doubles up as a workspace for artists.
As the interview winds down Cara apologises for any of her “warbling”, offers genuine thanks for the conversation, and then proceeds to angrily tell me about a recent decision in the US to exterminate 45,000 wild horses as part of a population management plan (it has since been reversed following public outcry). Those closing moments just about sum up what Baby Queens are about – they are unconventional, they are passionate and they are openly empathic to the vibes of the world.
Words by Sion Ford
Photograph by Hywel Jenkins