Local Mic: Bathe
BY BLENDED STAFF
Local Mic is a Blended series dedicated to highlighting budding artists in the local music scene.
Best friends Corey Smith-West and Devin Hobdy are maneuvering the Brooklyn music scene with ease as their band Bathe has emerged with an original sound they call surf R&B. With each song they release, the combination of surf and soul is further established as the perfect melding of styles. Bathe took the time to chat with Blended’s Natalie Guillen and discuss their music, friendship, and overall path to creating art they both believe in.
Can you talk a bit about your EP I’ll Miss You, and its exploration of loss and acceptance? Was that theme established organically or did you take that direction intentionally?
Devin: Definitely a bit of both. We both had graduated college and there was a lot of change in our lives at that point as far as our burgeoning lives and careers, so a lot of the music we were writing naturally bent towards dealing with those themes. Then as soon as we recognized that, we sort of crafted a narrative around acceptance and we got a mini concept EP going.
Corey: Yeah, during that period that we were writing and learning how to write records, a relationship of mine had ended and a friend of ours passed away that had lived with us for a little bit. Then we had some other pretty big changes in our friend group. The EP was kind of a therapeutic way of talking about that stuff in a way that was healthy and artistic.
How do you think performing those songs live will allow you to continue letting those things go? Do you think it’ll be therapeutic in a different way than creating the EP was?
C: To be honest, a lot of it really depends on the crowd. I’m not knocking one or the other but there are certain crowds that they want to have a good time, they want to party, and they don’t necessarily think of the lyrics as much. When we play smaller, more intimate venues or whenever it’s an acoustic set that always feels way more therapeutic. I feel way more immersed in the emotions of the songs. I like both though.
D: For me, when we first began performing a lot of the mental energy was just on not f**king up and just putting on a show that people would remember and hopefully associate with good memories. But as we started getting more comfortable on stage and getting more comfortable with our lineup, it’s been easier for me to dive deeper into the emotions of songs. So I guess more recently it’s become like a form of catharsis or like therapy.
You recently released a live, stripped down version of your song “Kimmi,” can you tell us about what that song means to the both of you?
D: In my mind, I was imagining somebody meeting someone on a Tinder date and one of the parties thinks that the date went super well and the other party is pretty “meh” about it. Then the person who’s narrating the story is like slowly but surely realizing that the other person is not as invested in this relationship as they are and they’re coming to grips with that and saying “you know what hey, I know this didn’t turn into what I hoped it would be but I’m really grateful for the time that we did spend together.” So the song is really important to us because it’s not a bitter song about rejection. It’s more of a song about realizing and accepting that all the people that we want to be in relationships with or want to have strong ties with, might not necessarily feel the same way about us, and that’s okay. It’s really cool to be able to still find value in those interactions and relationships regardless of how brief.
C: Yeah, I mean me and Devin are best friends. So at the time we were making the EP, a lot of our lives were sort of linked to each other and we sparred each other’s artistic endeavors. And I know at that time, I was in a really wrong timing, weird, on-and-off relationship. We were trying to make it work one last time almost but it just kind of slowly dawned on both of us that it just wasn’t going to work. I feel like for the approach to the music, I had a really clear feeling of that push and pull between remembering and thinking about how something is supposed to feel, or how you want it to feel, and then being hit with the reality of the situation. So that was kind of the motivation on the production side of things for me. Also, one of my favorite things about Devin as a lyricist is that I feel like he always goes from point A, to point B, to point C in a song. He does a really good job of having an arch, and emotionalizing a song.
You describe your music as Surf R&B what inspired that combination of sounds?
C: A lot of the music from when I was in high school that I really loved… I listened to a lot of R&B music like Frank Ocean and stuff, like early Frank. Then I was listening to a lot of indie pop and at the time there was a lot of surf sounds with bands like Beach House and Girls,which is one of my favorite bands of all time. That stuff always stayed in my production because I really loved those textures and tones. When we were approaching this record, I knew I wanted that stuff to come through. I think I put the surf title on our music almost like a reminder to myself that I didn’t want to stray too far from the wavy and warm guitars and sounds like that.
What role does your friendship play in your creative process?
D: As similar as our perspectives can often be, we’re like polar opposites as far as our general demeanor and stuff. Our friendship is really important to our creative process. For instance, I’ll write something and then just want to sit on it forever because I can be kind of secretive about our artistry, and Corey is much more willing to present his work to the world. I think that’s really important because while it is important to not just release everything we record, it’s also important to not just sit on everything until the end of time because then we’ll only ever have one EP. That’s a really simple example but I think that there’s this really awesome and kind of symbiotic way that we balance each other out.
C: When we first started, we were both two solo artists. I was trying to start a psychedelic surf rock band and Devin was writing…like folk music. We were both pretty bad to be honest. We knew we wanted to make a group together but, being friends, we gave each other patience and constructive criticism a lot of times to help us get to the point where our music was good enough to put out. Just in general, my favorite thing about being in a band with Devin is that sometimes I’ll have an idea and it’s almost like an alley-oop in basketball. I can have an idea and I can throw it up and I’m not entirely sure how’s it’s going to make it to the basket but I have a good amount of faith that if Devin gets his hands on it we’re going to get all the way there.
Do you think living in Brooklyn has influenced your approach to creating music?
D: Okay, this is going to be a hot take but I think it’s influenced me in that it’s shown me the kind of music that I don’t want to create. I think that there’s this tendency to lean towards more trendy music and music that doesn’t really tend to say much. I think that for me this is a time to really root myself in my parents’ musical traditions. The music that made them happy and sort of soundtracked their youth. I’m trying to retain that while making things that are accessible to my age group. I think there’s a lot of music in Brooklyn that’s really cool, but doesn’t really say much to me and it’s more reliant on trend and fashion than it is on actual substance. But that’s also me being a ridiculous person so take that with a grain of salt.
C: I would agree to a certain degree. I think on the good side, it’s pretty easy to find like minded musicians and have people who you can share your work with. There’s definitely a strong community that I appreciate. I also think that the idea of just being in the city and knowing that almost anything you want to do is at your fingertips…you have such a diverse amount of experiences that it kind of makes your music sprawl a little bit more. That being said, there is a lot of politics as far as, this is going to sound mad pretentious but, the “clout” economy, people constantly trying to judge themselves. That gets really tiring.
Also, just logistically, a lot of times in New York, people always want to hit you up, always want to see what you’re doing, always want to drop in. I like having friends, but sometimes it’s not the greatest for music making. Being straight up, I don’t have any plans going forward for Bathe to be spending large amounts of time making music in New York. We just actually had a writing session recently in the studio I built in Connecticut at my parents’ house. I feel like it’s a much more meditative process outside of the city. I love playing in New York, but it’s so much easier to immerse yourself in your music and turn your phone off when you’re outside of the city. But there’s nothing better than having a dope song in your hard drive and being in Brooklyn.
What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve had to face on your journey to where you are today?
D: I can say, for me, it was just self-doubt. Circling back to the Brooklyn theme, when we got here there was so many artists in whatever scene that we were surrounded by. They were all seemingly making these really dope strides, and creating this really great music and building communities around themselves. We were new, we didn’t really have that foothold yet, we didn’t really have the content yet, and I was just under the belief that it was because we weren’t good enough and I let that influence my approach to a lot of things. Like I was really bad at self-promotion because I was like “no one gives a fuck about what Bathe is putting out because we’re not so and so from such and such.” That initially sort of bled into the way I would perform live, just me lacking confidence. Slowly but surely — of course it helps to be publicly validated and to have people want to call you and talk to you — I’m getting to the point where I’m like “oh we’re actually creating something pretty fucking cool.” My confidence is increasing slowly as a result.
C: The hardest challenge for me was just learning how to go with the flow, learning how to let go a little bit more. When I was making records in like Philly or in slower places, you could be like “oh I don’t feel like making music today, so I’m going to go to the store.” In New York, you always feel like you’re not being productive if you’re not grinding harder than you ever have in your entire life. I used to go around saying “Kanye made three beats a day for a whole summer.” It was really hard for me to go with the flow. I always felt like I wasn’t doing enough.
Now, I kind of see creativity and being an artist like, this is going to sound mad cheesy because we’re called Bathe, but it’s almost like the ocean, like surfing in a way. Sometimes it’s high tide and there’s a lot to do and then sometimes it’s okay to have low tide, and sometimes it’s all in the same day. You really just got to be aware and be present. It’s not about always being on a hundred, it’s about being where you’ll feel comfortable or where you’ll feel inspired. If there’s a whole week where you just aren’t feeling like making music, that’s okay. You’re not a bad artist. You’re not a bad anything if you need a week to gather yourself. But when it’s high tide, it’s high tide.
What’s your favorite song to perform live and why?
C: My favorite song to perform live is a song that’s unreleased. It’s called “Coney Island.” I think when that record comes out, there is going to be no more conversations about what surf R&B is or isn’t. I just feel like that song really nails exactly what Bathe is about. Just being warm, and beachy, but still groovy, and really sincere. I listen to that song and I’m just really surprised that we managed to write it.
D: “Coney Island” it is attached to this other song called “Your Car” and I think that playing those two back to back is my favorite performance piece for the exact reason Corey just said. Also, I think in a lot of our other writing we intentionally create a barrier between ourselves and the perspective we’re speaking from, even though we might experience some of those themes. We do it because sometimes it’s a little painful to mine your own trauma all the time but “Your Car/Coney Island” is kind of the most earnest song in our current live set. It just feels so genuine. Every time I sing it I feel so immersed, I feel like I’m at the beach and I feel like I’m with my girlfriend. If I’m uncentered, or I feel jittery during a performance that song always centers me and makes me feel comfortable and at home while I’m on the stage. It just has this really awesome emotional meaning for me.
C: Yeah I think one day people are actually going to know the lyrics to the song and it’s going to be the best day of my life.
What’s next for Bathe?
D: We just finished writing some demos that we’re very, very proud of. We’re going to continue writing and building up our repository of music. There’s going to be a steady trickle of singles for the remainder of the year, into the new year. We’re going to see where that takes us. There’s also some performance opportunities on the horizon. We’re going to be doing Brooklyn Steel in September which should be really cool.
C: Yeah we got the shows and I think we’re going to keep expanding the sound. We’re also looking around for anyone that we can collaborate with just to make cool stuff.
What advice do you have for other young, aspiring musicians?
C: Be realistic about your skill set and what you want to be as a musician and find the best collaborators you can. You don’t have to do everything yourself, you probably shouldn’t. If you just want to play guitar, don’t drag yourself into learning how to mix. Go find people who are looking for a guitar player, and who you can get along with, and who you can collaborate with. Everybody is collaborating. Everybody you think is doing it by themselves is collaborating. Part of being a musician is showing really good taste in what you create and who you create with.
D: My biggest pieces of advice would be that not all forms of modesty are constructive. In fact, there is a version of modesty that really holds you back from fully realizing your artistry and it keeps people from being able to really engage with who you are and what you’re trying to communicate with your work. Also, you’re not going to create what you want to create on your first try. I mean you might, but chances are you won’t, and that’s okay. You need to stick with what you’re attempting to create. Fight through the urge to abandon ship, and just complete it. You might not end up with the greatest thing, but you’ll have something that you’re proud of.
Lead Image Credit: Bathe