Opening an email never has the eloquent ceremony of opening a letter, but occasionally, nay once a season, a gem of sound is sent to us through the internet ether that feels as special as receiving a handwritten letter from a dear friend. Baby and the Brain wormed their way into our mind really fast with BrainBaby, a gem of a debut album, a story of the trials and tribulations of 17-year-old AAPI producer and songwriter Jo Mackenzie and 19-year-old queer singer-songwriter Dia Jane.
The project is a gossipy blur of angsty fun. Written in their hometown of Kansas City, Missouri in their bedroom studio, they describe their duo as a "self driving car," a DIY effort that has splashes of punk, pop and indie rock on a pallet of beautiful honesty. And we were lucky enough to have none other than Baby and the Brain break down their magnificent debut offering.
"On The Run"
I wrote this song late one night and was so excited about it that I worked on the production until around 2 a.m. The next night, I showed it to Dia and while we drove to get pizza, we perfected the verse lyrics (the bridge was also a challenge to nail down, but with a little inspiration from Bleachers we got there). We recorded the finished song in my bedroom studio in Kansas, pulling influences from Lorde's Melodrama and Taylor Swift’s 1989. "On The Run" is an opportunity to disappear into the romanticization of youth, to run away into a fantasy world.
We wrote this song together on the lawn of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and it ended up being the last song we added to the album. We love the joy of the arrangement and the many different ways in which the lyrics can be interpreted. Though no, it is not about any particular Sarah.
"Leave You For Myself"
I brought the main hook and instrumental to Dia, who then came up with the melody and party scenes described in the verses. The song tells the story of a girl who is desperately trying to figure out if she should stay in her relationship, despite knowing she’ll end up leaving. She wakes up at parties she regrets, and views her love life as a party that will also be "ending next." This song is a tongue-in-cheek anthem for wandering romantics with fragile egos.
Early versions of the chorus lyrics to this song were "call me icarus / with this wax-stitched heart / you’re the sun / and I’m too gone to see / what happens now?" Even though those lyrics changed, we kept the title “icarus” because of what it evokes, the fear of getting too close to a good thing, and because of it, the inability to be vulnerable.
This track was the result of Dia freestyling a melody to a note in my phone and me wanting to experiment with a Vocoder. (We are big fans of QuikTrip.)
This was written for our friend Finn about his cosmically painful Spotify wrapped. All lyrics beyond the first four lines are results of our imagination and creative license and, to our knowledge, do NOT reflect the truth about Finn’s ex’s new boyfriend OR his band. The bridge build up at the end ("I saw you in his dorm room / and I'm not sorry but I miss you") is our attempt at combining the raw emotion in Diet Cig's "Harvard" and the earworm collegiate imagery of Vampire Weekend's "Campus."
I wrote the first lyrics and melody idea ("I wish I drove a pt cruiser / wish I wasn't such a loser") on my way to a piano lesson. When I was in LA the following week, I knocked out the demo production, which ended up making up most of the final instrumentation. We drew a lot of inspiration from Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend" and The Ramones. The song nearly didn't make it to the record because of the short time span between the writing and release, but we're so glad it did! Neither of us has ever driven a PT cruiser. Dia thinks they look like what a horse would look like if a horse was a car.
"Do You Want That?"
We wrote this song on Halloween of 2020, and it is about (in Dia’s words) "the Mortifying Ordeal of Wanting to be Vulnerable and Protected." The French lyrics were the result of Dia’s unique french-immersion primary education and an attempt to be honest, if only in a different language. The literal translation reads "go away / if not I’ll leave / love embraces and embarrasses me / I am just a baby / and all the things I want frighten me so much that I feel guilty / and I’m so tired / of being so scared / all the fucking time." (It’s much more poetic in French).
This was the first song we ever wrote together, and it has a very special place in our hearts. The first line was born out of a real conversational moment, and the rest of the song tries to get at that sometimes-terrifying sensation of being vulnerable with yourself and others. We drew lyrical inspiration from some of our favorite songs like Bright Eyes’ "Lua" and "First Day of My Life," and added production elements from the cinematic outro of Simon and Garfunkel's "The Boxer." It also features Dia’s wonderful mother, Cassie Gretzinger, on the violin.