My Baby, a Dutch band that is defying the music industry and is doing their own thing. Taking influences from gospel, blues, soul, voodoo, rave and many more genres their music is incomparable to anything else. Whether you like their sound or not – one thing is for sure, it is a refreshing notion to know that not everything has been done before and My Baby came to prove it! We met up with the innovative trio in Berlin’s own Neukölln for some falafel and found out more about who My Baby really is.
To start of with, who are you, where are you from?
Daniel: My name is Daniel, I’m originally from New Zealand but I grew up between NZ and the Netherlands. I am the guitar player in My Baby.
Cato: I am Cato and I am the lead singer, guitar player and bass player. Joost and I are brother and sister and we grew up in Marken, The Netherlands.
Joost: My name is Joost, also known as Sheik van Dijck. Drummer from the Netherlands.
Where did the nick name Sheik van Dijck come from, do the rest of you also have special band names?
Joost: Ivo Sprey, a friend of ours invents all kinds of nicknames. Mine isn’t really a special story, it just rhymed and somehow it stuck with me.
Daniel: My nickname is Daniel Da Freez. Growing up in New Zealand that is how they pronounced my last name which is De Vries, a typical Dutch name, during roll call in school.
Cato: I don’t really have a nickname; sometimes they call me Mr. Cato. One time checking into a hotel they said Mr. Cato and I kind of liked the Pink Panther reference.
What drove you into being musicians?
Cato: Growing up in a musical family there was no question whether or not we would play instruments. I never thought about it. Since I was three years old I wanted to be a singer or a dancer. I was never a good dancer so I stuck with singing and never considered doing anything else.
Daniel: Neither of my parents were actual musicians but they did play instruments and as a child I was constantly exposed to music. When I was introduced to the record collection of a friend of my mother I started playing guitar. The first record that made me want to make music was Rob Johnson’s “King of the Delta Blues singers”. It struck a cord with me, in that period of your life when you’re coming of age and searching for some sort of universal truth and something you can connect to. It opened up a different way of thinking for me. That feeling has been the driving force of everything I have done over the past 15 years of making music.
Joost: I never wanted to be a musician. I wanted to be a skateboarder or a graffiti artist. That obviously never worked but I was always involved in music. When I was in my late teens I started making money by making music and so I guess I decided this is gonna be it.
Did you guys feel pressure being raised in such a musical house hold to become musicians?
Cato: We never felt pressure. It could have easily resulted in us going to opposite direction and wanting to have nothing to do with music.
Joost: When your parents are musicians maybe it would put you off wanting to do it yourself. But our parents never were professional musicians and music was always present as a hobby and something that they enjoyed extremely.
How was My Baby born?
Joost: On a rainy night with lighting and a majestic presence.
Cato: We had been in different bands together before and we reached a point where the three of us had the same ideas about what kind of music we wanted to make and so we started a new project.
Daniel: We were searching for something with a rebellious nature and we wanted to use all the influences that we loved and create something new. We were very fed up at the time after a few failures and My Baby started as a project that we called “No More Failures”.
Cato: We started making the first record with no outside influences. We didn’t think about what other people would like to hear or what would be played on the radio. We just kept it amongst the three of us. We didn’t know if anyone would be interested in hearing it. It was simply and purely made for ourselves.
Where does the name My Baby come from?
Joost: It’s a blues reference. We were looking for a name that would sound very logical and familiar. The phrase “my baby” was first used in the end of the 19th century for a girlfriend or a lover in bigger cities. This is also when and where blues and jazz were becoming popular.
Cato: It was no longer husband and wife; it was my baby.
How did you develop your own style?
Cato: In the first year we started playing the record live, we started developing a new sound which was different from the recording. It was more of a psychedelic dance party. The second record in turn is a result of playing so many live shows.
Joost: We wanted it to be loud, it became less gospel and blues. We try to combine as many of our influences as we can. Styles that have not been combined before. Like this Robert Johnson country blues lick with an English folk tune.
Cato: Making a weird mess out if it.
Doing something so different than any other music genres, do you feel you educate people with your music?
Cato: I think there are loads of young people that have never really listened to gospel or blues or folk music so in that way maybe we are teaching them a little bit of these old genres while having it captivated in things they do know like dance music.
Daniel: In the end I think we transcend these old sounds so people are not really able to recognize those elements anymore. But we try to do more than just transcend, there is a quest in all of us to create something that comes from the gut.
Joost: My Baby tells a story, a muse that is traveling in time so maybe we take all the people who listen to our music with us on this journey.
Can you elaborate on this story that My Baby tells?
Daniel: When you’re writing music you try and set a song in some sort of landscape, a backdrop. Whether that backdrop is real or imaginary it does not matter. When we started the band we asked ourselves the question “Who is My Baby?”. We invented a character that is much more universal than we could ever be. The My Baby persona is an allegory for multiple things. It is difficult to define something that is so phantom and we are still working and developing this muse. Searching for the boundaries where the muse ends and Cato begins on stage. How our phantom muse gets interpreted is interesting. People in the audience see us so the muse becomes far more literal than when you are listening to our music with your headphones on and are able to let your imagination run wild.
Is it difficult for you to embody this muse during live shows Cato?
Cato: I think many lead singers have a character that they transform into on stage. It is easier for me to be My Baby on stage than to be Cato. My Baby is far more daring and outspoken than I would ever be. The boundaries where I put in a little more Cato or a little less Cato are quite loose and My Baby really becomes me.
What does the writing process look like?
Joost: It begins in unconsciousness.
Cato: When we hear certain music we will say to each other “Hey this is cool”. We gather all different kinds of outside influences and take it as a starting point. When the real writing process begins we filter through everything and twist it into something new.
What comes first, music or lyrics?
Cato: Usually the music although there have been a few songs where the lyrics came first because we knew the story we wanted to tell first. Generally, the music has such a strong atmosphere that it decides the story for itself. When the music is pumped up you won’t write lyrics about heartbreak.
Daniel: There is an idea for a story or a subject that we want a song to be about. Then we make the music with that color in mind and then when the time for the lyrics comes, the music decides which words work best.
Can you give us an example of a song in which you knew the story before you knew the music?
Daniel: With Seeing Red we knew the story was about an angry girl wanting to break free. The My Baby muse that is rebelling against society.
Cato: Once the music had come I started singing a melody and spouting out words along with it. Then we played everything back and listened to what I had actually said and that’s how the lyrics were written. That’s how we came up with the word Shamanaid.
Shamanaid is the name of your second album, what does it mean?
Daniel: When Cato made up the word during recording I immediately thought of the book “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” by Tom Wolfe which is an account of Ken Kesey and a group of hippies driving around in a bus throwing acid parties by mixing it with Kool-Aid. Then of course you have shamans who do spiritual rituals using psychedelic substances to bring you to a higher state of being. Which is pretty close to what we try and achieve in our music and live shows.
Cato: Like with a Shaman you take ayahuasca, with us the music is the potion you take.
Joost: To to go on a journey.
From your first to your second album there is quite a noticeable evolvement of the music, can you tell us a bit about this?
Joost: It was mostly due to playing live so and seeing different places and meeting different people across the world. We got a lot of new influences like Indian and African music by expanding our horizon.
Daniel: We are constantly trying to redefine our music and listen to what we are actually creating stop and think about what it musically consists of.
Cato: Playing for different types of audiences also helps evolve your sound simple because it forces you to changes certain elements. When we started playing at a dance festival we adapted the music with the to a dance beat and that dance/trance vibe sort of stuck with us and changed our style.
Do you feel pressure to keep reinventing your sound?
Cato: We try to keep the method we used writing the first album of not paying mind to any outside influences with us when we write new material now. Of course it’s not always easy to solely listen to your own opinion and hear everything through your own ears.
Joost: I think we create pretty well under pressure because it makes us more focused and we are able to put more into it.
What is the greatest struggle about being involved in music?
Joost: Sharks! Haha. No it’s probably the industry itself. It is behind on all the developments of the past decade. When music downloading started to happen in the late 90s the only company to pick that up was Apple. Not even a music company! All the labels could have joined together and created a platform.
Cato: People are no longer influenced by the mass production of the music industry and its media. With the internet you can choose your own music and make your own playlists. That’s a good development but the music industry still doesn’t really know how to cope with that and isn’t looking forward.
Describe the perfect gig
Daniel: People turning into lepricons and then taking all their clothes off.
Cato: Lepricons or unicorns?
Joost: I like lepricons. Actually I like naked crowds in general.
Daniel: We’ve had some experiences with naked people on hippie festivals. On those kind of festivals, the people are much more open so there is energy circle happening that builds and builds, getting naked is a side affect of this.
Joost: We like shameless crowds.
Do you have any tips / tricks you use during a performance to getting the crowd into this energy you spoke of?
Joost: We suck at small talk on stage.
Cato: It’s the best when it just happens and we don’t tell the audience to do anything. It’s their plan not ours and that’s what I really like. I guess a trick we use is that we stretch out the songs, sometimes we don’t even stop when going from one song to the next. It keeps the energy level higher.
Daniel: It’s all about the subtle invitations to join our journey. Even when we play for a crowd that is not feeling it, there is always at least one person with the right energy so you decide to focus and play for them. Thankfully that doesn’t really happen anymore though.
Cato and Joost, you are brother and sister. Does that dynamic work to your advantage or disadvantage being in a band together?
Joost: We fight on stage, yell at each other. People seem to love it. So I guess it works to our advantage.
Cato: Daniel is like a brother too; we yell at him too!
Daniel: We are very close, like a family.
You seem to having been touring nearly non stop over the past years. Does is get hard always being on the road?
Cato: Touring life is hard. It wears you out. But for me it’s really nice that there is always a plan. Something to do. There is not much room more existential thoughts and distractions.
Joost: Travelling is good for the soul.
Daniel: You have to feel you are physically and mentally going somewhere.
Is it fair to say that travelling and touring is My Baby’s life line to existence?
Joost: For every band I think it is.
Most unexpected event?
Joost: There was a woman that sent us an email after a gig in which she told us we had gotten her into a state of trance and in this state she saw her deceased friend. That isn’t something you expect to hear. Being able to create this collective consciousness feels quite powerful. It makes everything we do worth while.
Daniel: Having so many people feel the same way about your music as you do is something you don’t expect to happen.
What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Cato: When you have a truly mind blowing gig you always strive to achieve that high again or even surpass that high. It’s almost addictive, knowing that you can achieve that again.
Daniel: Music that has moved me more than I ever expected music to be capable of doing. Music that serves a higher purpose.
Joost: A gospel band I once saw from New York that played with slide guitars that were able to get everyone in the audience on their feet and shouting out to Jesus even though no one was religious. That kind of musical power.
What can we expect from you in the future?
Cato: More where that came from…
All images by Laura Andalou
By Indiana Roma Voss