Indie Stars Juliana Hatfield & The Blake Babies Discuss Their Evanston Reunion
By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 22, 2016 8:45PM
The Blake Babies
The Blake Babies—Juliana Hatfield, John Strohm and Freda Love—helped set the template for the indie rock boom of the late '80s and early '90s. All three members went on to play in other bands, and Hatfield charted a couple notable hits including "My Sister." Still, there's something undeniably alluring about the band's earlier work—for fans, and for the band itself. The band members recently unearthed the demos for their Earwig album, and recently led a crowdfunded project to bring those out into the world. What's most remarkable about those recordings is just how fully formed they were from the outset, laying the foundation for the band's future work.
To celebrate the release of these demos the band is getting back together for three shows. Two already happened in Boston, and the last one takes place in Evanston on Saturday afternoon. It sounds like these are the only times the band is getting back together, so we took this opportunity to ask them a couple questions about how they got here, and why they chose Chicagoland for one of these rare shows.
CHICAGOIST: What led you all to come back together?
JOHN STROHM: We all welcome opportunities to do projects together when time permits, and when we discovered the demos we thought we’d commit to doing a couple shows.
FREDA LOVE: I am always clamoring for a Blake Babies reunion! I call those guys every few years and suggest it, but in this case it was the discovery of the Earwig demo tapes that made the prospect a little more interesting to everybody.
C: Why did you choose the Chicago area for one of the two reunion shows?
LOVE: Chicago—well, Evanston—has been my home for six years now, but it's always felt like a second home to the Blake Babies. Even on our first tour we were warmly received here, perhaps even more so than in our home city of Boston.
JULIANA HATFIELD: We always did well here, and I have always done wellthere, too—audiences show up for us and me in Chicago. It's a good town for us. We love Chicago. I apologize to Evanston if it is offensive for me to be lumping Evanston in with Chicago.
STORHM: Chicago was always a great market for the band, and it’s been Freda’s hometown for years. Also there’s a great infrastructure here with venues, media, and lots of friends. We felt confident we could do something successful here.
C: How did you guys find the Earwig demos, and how did you decide to release them?
STROHM: I had a bunch of tapes in storage in Indiana, masters for a few albums I made post-Blake Babies. I’d long forgotten that I had the reel to the Earwig demos, or that they even existed. For some reason they were stored with the rest of my tapes, so I bounced them to digital and gave them to a friend to mix. We all agreed that the tracks were not only really good, but showed a side of the band that had never been represented in our recordings. We decided to find a way to share them with the fans in a meaningful way. Hence the Pledge campaign.
HATFIELD: I had been really busy doing other work—the I Don't Cares, me and Paul Westerberg, came right after a new album and national tour with my old band the Juliana Hatfield Three, and then this Blake Babies situation started happening, and so when it did I think my brain was a little overloaded with things so the Blake Babies info details did not stick with me—a lot of it slipped through but I was on board in a vague sort of way..I knew I wanted to do it but I didn't know exactly what "it" was. I trusted the others, they seemed to know what they/we were doing, and that it would be good.
C: How long did it take you to get back into the groove with each other?
HATFIELD: It was pretty darned instantaneous. The chemistry is real, it's a real thing. The songs, some of which I had not listened to in decades, came right back, in the form of muscle memory. Even the lyrics—old, ancient, teenaged lyrics from the 1980s— came right back. Some of those old songs, we had played them so many times, on tour back in the old days and in the studio, recording them-- and I just fell right back into the groove. I imagine it was the same for John and Freda. But it was all pretty exhausting and I needed a couple of days to recover from the two Boston shows. It was a lot of songs that we had to polish. A lot of information and memories.
C: Any future plans?
STROHM: Nothing specific, but we’re generally feeling good about the way things are going. I can only speak for myself, but I would love to find a way to do more with Freda and Juliana.
LOVE: Not yet, but I hope we play a few more shows. We are also discussing the possibility of reissuing our back catalogue.
HATFIELD: As far as the Blake Babies go, we are not really looking past this Chicago thing. We have no solid plans for anything else but the Boston shows were fun and I hope that at some point we can maybe try and do some more.
C: What're you going to do while in Chicago? Any plans?
HATFIELD: I have no plans other than the scheduled Blake Babies things. I hope to try and see some art.
STROHM: Mostly just see friends. Our bad luck that the Cubs are out of town.