Pictures, Movies and Apartments: A chat with Paul Jacobs and the Big City Babies
Paul Jacobs isn't how you might expect from his music or his live shows. His music is loud, garage and chaotic, but not messy. His live shows are somewhat reminiscent of Iggy fronting the Stooges, and he's got a hell of a bruise on his thigh from playing tambourine. As a character he's more reserved. Friendly, warm but more on the quiet side. His band are five of the most lovely people you'll meet, they're excited and put together and the backbone to Paul's live shows, which see's him push into the crowd and staggering about. The latest record titled Pictures, Movies and Apartments is exactly how it should be, redefining the garage genre with influence of punk, psych and his love for skating. It's going to be a loud Thursday night in Bristol when Paul Jacobs and the Big City Babies start their set, but before that I'm sitting upstairs in Bristol's best venue, The Old England, with some beers, Paul and the rest of the Babies, Meag Callen (MC), Eddie Phouth (EP), Peter Baylis, Jacob Shepansky (JS) and Alan Mctavish (AM).
BL: How’s it going?
PJ: Pretty good. Sorta.
BL: You’re a long way from home. How’s it going?
PJ: Yeah it’s alright.
BL: Is this your first time in Europe?
PJ: No, this is my third. First for this band though.
EP: It’s my first time overseas… First time on a plane, first time I saw the ocean. There's been a lot of firsts for this big old baby.
JS: It’s my first time touring outside Canada.
BL: It’s your first time abroad and you’re in a small room, in Bristol, above a pub…
EP: (Laughs) Yeah it’s a sick room, super grunge.
BL: You’ve been seeing all the cities?
E.P: It's super cool, I love the width of all the streets here… We’ve been learning stick shift for the past couple of days. It’s my first time driving on the opposite side of the road too.
BL: I guess the streets are probably more narrow here.
PJ: Yeah, we fucked up the side of the van on the way here. Two minutes before we got here.
BL: How’s the difference between doing the solo shows to touring with the band?
PJ: It’s cool because I’ve been recording layers and stuff. I need a big band to actually play it, it’s better because it’s more fun and it sounds more full.
BL: So you prefer playing with a band?
PJ: Yeah, for sure. It’s cool being solo for some reasons but the band is definitely good for the show. I do like to be alone.
BL: Who gets dibs on first sofas?
PJ: Apparently the guy who doesn’t drive got first dibs before anyone else even saw them.
JS: Hey man, I fucking learnt to drive today!
PJ: Yeah… To the grocery store.
BL: The new record has been getting some great reviews, it’s been picked up by some big publications like The Guardian. That’s cool.
PJ: Yeah it’s pretty cool.
BL: Do you care much about it?
PJ: Oh yeah I do, cause normally I get French reviews and I can’t speak French. It was the first I could read. I didn’t know the paper though.
AM: I told him it was a big deal.
MC: He (Paul) essentially lives under a rock. He’s told then he realises it’s pretty cool.
BL: Yeah, it’s at least sort of a big deal… But you have five records out. That’s a fair amount. Do you always have the ideas spinning in your head?
PJ: Yeah. I do it myself in my home. I just, you know, whatever. If I do something that sounds cool then it’ll become a song.
MC: He’s at it all day. Coffee, cigarettes, recording.
BL: Sounds like the life. So you do a lot of it in your home, it’s very garage sounding. What’s DIY to you?
PJ: It’s cheap. I would go to a studio, but I don’t want to waste people’s time. Even growing up skateboarding, when people were filming I would always be bummed out thinking, ‘this guy must wanna skate, he’s just been filming all day and I haven’t landed this trick.’ I just feel bad for the guy or whatever. So if I was in the studio all day I’d just always be thinking, ‘fuck this guy must be so bored.’ At home I don’t feel guilty or that I am wasting someone’s time, I’m just doing my own thing. If I had better gear and knowledge I guess I would make it sound better.
MC: His process goes on forever. He’ll build on it one day, then leave it for a week, then build it up. It’s a very long process.
PJ: That’s why it’s cool in your living room. If you’re watching TV and it’s boring you just go to the other corner and can do shit.
BL: Meagan, living with him, does it ever get irritating at times with him always making noise?
MC: (Laughs) No, not really! He just kind of does his own thing, I do my own thing, then he stops and lets me listen and asks what I think over and over, and it just keeps on going. Even when the album is out we will still go over it.
BL: Despite doing it at home and not wanting to go into a studio it still seems as though a lot of thought is in there.
MC: It’s a bit of an obsession really.
BL: You do all the art work as well. You’ve done the new Stolen Body logo. Do you like having that control over the records?
PJ: Yeah because drawing is my hobby. I was always drawing, and I used to always play drums. I don’t know where it came from, I guess just killing time.
BL: I really enjoy the illustrations. I think the style represents what you do musically.
PJ: I’m glad that it fits together, it’d suck if it didn’t. I guess they’re just how I feel.
BL: Your Facebook bio calls you a psychedelic/garage madman. Are you a madman?
PJ: (Laughs) I don’t know, man. I guess that’s for you to decide.
EP: I mean, you kinda are a mad man. You invented your own way of smashing the drums with those pedals. It’s like a mad man science.
MC: And he’s at it all day. He will be recording all day and I’m like, ‘come on let’s watch a movie’, and I can see it in his eyes that he’s not watching the movie and that he’s thinking about what he just recorded. It's just how his creativity is.
BL: Does skateboarding and your music have a correlation?
PJ: Yeah maybe, I guess it may have come from Toy Machine videos. And the design especially. When skateboarding was in the 2000s it was all about logos so I think so.
MC: I’ve always thought your art coincides with your music. If you could see your music it’d be your art. It just makes total sense to me.
BL: I’d definitely agree with that as well. Not negatively, but I think it’s just the imperfectness of it. So I guess we are both fans of Ed Templeton…
PJ: Yeah, I was definitely going to say that. I guess Toy Machine pre-Good and Evil. Skateboarding is good for kids.
PJ: Besides fucking up your body and that.