Interview: Upbringing: Sweet Baboo

Upbringing: Sweet Baboo

We quiz Stephen Black on everything from indulgent guitar-playing to North Wales Britpop nights.

Coming from a tight-knit group of left-field Welsh musicians including Cate Le Bon, H. Hawkline and Gruff Rhys, Sweet Baboo grew up on a diet of The Beach Boys, The Simpsons compilations, and primary school recorder lessons. His new album ‘The Boombox Ballads’ - out this Friday (August 14th) - is a bizarre meeting of 1950’s Tin Pan Alley pop with Northern Welsh psychedelia.

Considering the diverse muddle of musical tastes and flavours colouring his new record, we quizzed Sweet Baboo on everything from indulgent guitar-playing habits to attending Britpop nights in Llandudno as a teenager growing up in North Wales.

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What was the first gig you ever went to?

I can’t quite be sure but I think it was either Squeeze, or Glenn Tilbrook solo at least. Or possibly James Taylor in Birmingham; the bass player had L.E.D lights on his headstock. I remember seeing ‘50 years of the Stratocaster’ which was a who’s who of famous riffers but I was too young to remember who. Clapton wasn’t there unfortunately. I also saw REM at Cardiff Arms Park with the Cranberries and Del Amitri supporting. Oh and Harry Hill, twice. It could be any one of those; all of them a top night out though if I remember.

Were there a good supply of venues in your hometown?

Not really but for a time, during the Britpop years, all the Britpop bands came to a venue in Llandudno (not far from where I’m from). I must have been about 16 and so went to see a lot of gigs there. We had: Ash – Charlotte Hatherley’s first ever gig for them I think (I may have added that for bonus points) – with A supporting; The Bluetones, with Pureessence supporting; The Sheds; and Mansun, but I didn’t go and see that.

What was the first song you developed an obsession for?

I was a big fan of The Simpsons ‘Sing the Blues’ album. That was good from start to finish.

What’s the first song you ever bought with your own money?

It could have been the above but I think that may have been a present so I’m gonna say ‘God Gave Rock and Roll To You’ by Kiss and Bill and Ted, ‘Dizzy’ by the Wonderstuff and Vic Reeves, or ‘Addams Groove’ by MC Hammer. I’ve just checked and they were all released in ‘91 so let’s pretend that I bought them in bulk at Woolworths in Colwyn Bay.

What’s the story behind your first instrument?

I don’t think there is one. I played recorder and piano – pretty standard.

Worst musical habit?

I have a habit of looking at myself in the mirror while playing guitar.

If you could be a band from the last two decades, which would you pick, and why?

Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, as they are the best.

What inspirations outside of music have an impact on your songwriting?

You know the classics: friends, family, everyday boring stuff.

Best advice you’ve ever been given as a band?

Don’t piss about in soundcheck.

Sweet Baboo’s new album ‘The Boombox Ballads’ is out this Friday (14th August) via Moshi Moshi.