Once in a while in this crazy world of music, a band comes along that makes you not only do a double take, but a double listen. That is a common reaction when one discovers the band Stolen Babies. In an oversaturated musical sea of vanilla tones, this band has come along with a huge dose of musical sprinkles to offer us something that defies genre and provides an overload for all senses. This type of a band is a rarity in music these days and deserves to be investigated further. Upon one listen to the newest album Naught, I knew I had to delve deeper into the musical mystery of this band Stolen Babies.
The band originated 1997 under the mantle of a band called The Fratellis. They disbanded and a creative off-shoot comprised of Gil and Rani Sharone, Ben Rico and Dominique Lenore Persi created Stolen Babies. After releasing their debut album There Be Squabbles Ahead in 2006, the band seemed to fall off of the radar. Worry not musical adventure seekers, for the band reappeared in 2012 with a brand new album entitled Naught. The sound may be a bit different, but the same creative force is there creating it. I recently sat down with front woman Dominique Lenore Persi, who also rocks a mean accordion, to investigate the mystery of this band further.
The album has been out for about seven months now. You guys took a bit of a break from the music scene in between albums, not totally gone, but in the sense of Stolen Babies. What’s the reaction since the release of Naught?
Wow, has it really been seven months already? The reaction from the fans has been really great. I know when it was first released that there were a lot of people preferring Squabbles. I feel like when I listen to Squabbles that it reflects this super optimistic, insane time that I remember when recording that album, whereas Naught is much darker; not that there’s nothing dark about Squabbles. Naught was hard to get through, not so much in terms of working with each other, but in the process of making. Many of the songs hit so close to home for many of us. It’s a darker album and I think it’s a really great representation of how things were at the time. For that, honestly, I really like it and I think that a lot of the fans can hear that.
Does that darkness that you are expressing have anything to do with naming the album Naught?
You know, Rani actually came up with that title. We were coming up with a bunch of different titles and when that one came up it just really clicked. Naught really does represent this kind of hopelessness: all for naught. A friend of mine said it could be “naught” as in “naughty”. So, it has different meanings that all kind of work.
By going in this darker direction, is there any song that stands out as in terms of really straying from your comfort zone?
Actually, most of them. We were working with Ulrich Wild, which was really a different experience. He’s such a wonderful guy; he has a great musical resume and is coming from a world that I wasn’t really relating to. There was more of this rock, metal type of thing that he was coming from, but Ulrich was really good in pushing me vocally out of my comfort zone and singing a lot higher on this album. Quite a few of these songs were written while I was in I.C.S., the Immersion Composition Society, which Rani was in as well. The whole point of the I.C.S., one of the main gains that they have is to write and record as many songs in one day as possible. I was doing things out of my comfort zone as far as the nakedness of it and no chance to really perfect things. That was really pushing me out of my comfort; I’m actually a bit out of my comfort zone right now sitting here and doing this.
Does the whole “out of your comfort zone” aspect transcend over to the touring aspect because with some of your touring lineups, not all but some, you don’t really seem to fit the bill. With being so different and unique, and almost without a musical genre, does it pose a problem when touring with such diverse bands?
We’re kind of like assholes that way; it’s not intentional. One of my biggest pet peeves would be bands who try to squeeze a million genres into their sound. We are trying our best to be as honest as we can with who we are. Our booking agent has been amazing and we’re so lucky to have had him take us on and see what happens with a band like us. Although I can’t answer for him, I can think that it’s probably been difficult for him. The first that he booked us on was with the Devin Townsend Project, Katatonia and Paradise Lost. The response from Devin Townsend was that he loved us. I wasn’t too familiar with all of Devin’s music beforehand (although I did have the Strapping Young Lad album City because I’m a Cop Shoot Cop fan and they did a cover of “Room 429”). Devin’s kind of in the metal world, but he’s truly all over the place and the metal world can be quite intimidating, but he made us feel really comfortable around him. We just did a tour not too long ago with Turisas and Firewind, now that was a really out of left field one. We were like; they really want us on this bill? Are they sure? Yeah, it’s really hard for us to fit into a scene. If we get on metal tours and we do interviews with metal websites, they get confused and they call us avant-garde metal, but I don’t think we are. We’re not really trying to say that we’re anything. I think we’re a type of experimental rock and yes, there are metal influences in there, but there are also musical theater influences as well. We definitely draw influences from so many places.
Speaking of influences, I absolutely love Oingo Boingo, so it was really cool to know they were big influences of yours. It amazes that so many people don’t know that Danny Elfman existed in music before doing soundtracks.
I can’t believe how many people don’t know that, it’s crazy! Oingo Boingo was even before my time, but I got to see them at their last show. You find who influences you and you back track and find out who influenced them and you gain a whole new world.
So, with the band being such a big influence on you, how surreal was it to play at Danny Elfman’s birthday party? Was that with your previous band The Fratellis?
At that point, The Fratellis had been disbanded, but when Danny Elfman asks you to play his birthday party, you do whatever you have to do to get your shit together and go. That actually led to a lot of stuff for us. We had already worked with John Avila who was the bass player for Oingo after Kerry Hatch. We actually recorded our Fratellis tapes at his house and I think that maybe he gave a tape to Danny’s girlfriend at the time or something, but somehow it got to him and he heard it. His manager actually left a message on my parent’s answering machine, who I was living with at the time, and I got so excited that I erased it. Playing his birthday party was such an amazing experience for me. I actually ended up being his research assistant for a minute. That was definitely one of those life changing things, to get to know that mind was just amazing.
You finished up the Coal Chamber/Sevendust/Lacuna Coil tour. Now that that’s over with, do you have anything lined up?
No, we really don’t have anything lined up right now. We had something that we were working on, but it fell apart. We feel like we’ve been ignoring the west coast. These tours that we have been on have mainly been on the east coast, although we did manage to play Oakland, which is where I am from, so that was good for me. We have so many fans on the west coast who want to see us play, so hopefully we can make them happy.
Thanks so much for taking the time to do this. Is there anything that you’d like to close with?
It’s really important for kids to know to do their own thing, even if it’s a phase where they are trying too hard to do their own thing. I embrace that because at some point they will level out and be themselves. I think it’s less of a crime to try to be different when you are young than it is to try to fit in. I have a soft spot in my heart for kids who are trying to figure it all out. I am really big on the anti-bullying thing. If you look at what’s wrong with the world and you look at the roots of where it all came from, besides money and greed, if you look at the source of how we function and it’s from the need to fit in. People will do anything to fit in and I have been bullied and I even had the chance to be a bully once, and I dipped my toe in it and said to myself, this just doesn’t feel right. By being in a band that really doesn’t fit in anywhere, we may attract some fans who think that they don’t fit in as well; not to say that all of our fans are like that. You fit in by not fitting in, I guess.