Levitation Interviews: Babe Rainbow
“There’s no formula for happiness that’s guaranteed to work”, sings Angus Dowling on the opening line from “Open Up Your Heart,” the latest release from Babe Rainbow. “It all depends on how you treat your friends, and how much you’ve been hurt. But its a start, you open up your heart, and try not to hide what you feel inside.” Throughout the new album, The Organic Band sets a strong tone of acceptance, respect, and speaking truth to love. Gone are the blase, stoner surf-pop days which so often tends to lead to apathy and negative connotations from a judgmental listening community. Babe Rainbow is taking up the reigns to make a statement and cultivate positive energy in all forms.
Formed in 2015 by the Australian duo Jack Crowther and Angus Dowling, alongside Venezuelan Lu-Lu Felix Domingo, the trio pumped out 2 solid, sprightly LPs that never quite seemed to grab the world’s attention with its tongue-in-cheek surf era psychedelia. Through it all, they have managed to garner a small, unfailing following, which often overlaps with their friends and former labelmates King Gizzard, but seemed to lack a sense of depth in the following 2 LPs in Today and Changing Colorsthat we see in the latest release. While chatting with the band, you get the sense that none of that ever mattered, as music in some senses was just a hobby and not a means to an end. Here we find a band with basically no online presence, essentially no merchandising while on tour, living a simple agrarian lifestyle at home, and surfing in their free time. It makes you wonder…why ruin a good thing with the grind that is being a full-time touring musician? After all, when asking what the guys have growing in the garden, the band quips back:
So much fruit grows happily at home. Finger limes are native to Australia, and think they are becoming popular in the USA in the culinary world. Lilly pilly are delicious and quandong you must try too.
The enthusiasm they hold for simplicity and genuineness is clear, and it makes us hungry for more. Now touring as a quartet, with new member additions in bassist Elliot “Dr. Love Wisdom” O’Reilly, and drummer Miles Myjavec, in support of Crowther and Dowling, their backgrounds and passions are firmly rooted in collaborative value structure of music, organic farming, and semi-professional surfing. There is a general sense of nonchalance, but with tasks like farming and surfing, you must stay deliberate and attentive to foster success. Their latest LP, The Organic Band, was released on October 14th via Eureka Records and firmly echoes their influences from these shared approaches.
While the band was amid their North American tour and prior to their Levitation Festival debut on Thursday, Oct. 27th at Antone’s, we found some time to sit down to discuss their approach to life, gardening, music, and a slice of retro hang-gliding. The Japanese term ‘aikido’ comes to mind when speaking to the band. It represents the idea and philosophy of taking things as they come; of universal peace and understanding. Often the term is represented through the martial arts, however, the philosophy itself can be applied to many other approaches in life. Its antithesis, of course, can be specifically viewed throughout human existence by the drive to overpower nature whether it be though resource acquisition, recent punitive responses to the growing effects of climate change, or systematically complex and heavy-handed mass food production.
With Babe Rainbow, here’s a group that live the “aikido” philosophy in all they do. Dwelling amongst the lush beauty of Byron Bay, New South Wales, each band member has happily carved out a little piece of the earth to call home while focusing on organic gardening and community sustainability when not turning out extraordinary music and art. In its very essence, this Japanese philosophy speaks to working alongside nature in harmony as opposed to against it, and is one of the key elements of the sustainable approach to permaculture, also known as the design of sustainable environments. This “take it as it comes” idea of living a sustainable lifestyle is not so easily said and done these days with ongoing physical turmoil, emotional intrusion, and visual and auditory clutter surrounding our daily lives.
The new LP in many ways feels like a call to arms for authenticity and deliberation in a chaotic and deceptive world. Asking the band about this interpretation, they agreed, that,
“technically and thematically, deliberation and intuition are important. The world can feel mysterious and uncertain, simple acts of love and community, listening and caring can be useful pillars to hold on to.”
This ethos implies thoughtfulness and love. Care in this sense not only implies people, but also the Earth itself. When listening throughout their burgeoning discography, there is a clear and focused connection to the land assimilated through their music. The warmth of the southern sun, salty air wafting over the breeze, and the simple joy of a friendly community gathering can be easily perceived through the music.
“These are the spaces we occupy daily, through practice or thought. The joys and insights gained from farming and or gardening are so great. They expand, (farming is) a practice that has and will always exist as long as humans exists. Music is the same. Both passions take up most of our lives influencing each other, naturally!”
In fact, even their band’s jam shed was built at the entrance to guitarist, Jack Crowther’s (aka Cool Breez) flower and veggie garden. “So physically, both our passions are overlapping.”
Echoing back to the philosophical foundations of fellow Tasmanian compatriot, Bill Mollison and Australian David Holmgren, these ideals can be found nestled in the bands approach. Mollison and Holmgren’s main idea was to create sustainable human environments; whether that was the physical, emotional, communal, or spiritual sense. In many ways, Babe Rainbow attempts to drive for this same system’s approach.
“Sustainability in all senses is something we are always striving towards and in consideration of. We always want our music and performances to feel like a warm, welcoming and inclusive space, in our minds that builds community which is very important factor in a sustainable future.”
Expanding in this same vein, again permaculture itself focuses on the ethical approach towards care of the earth and care of people. As we often see, there seems to be a distinct lack of ethical respect and care in our world these days. In their touring around the globe however, Babe Rainbow has fortunately seen some positive trends.
“We really feel that more and more people are beginning and continuing to embrace and take seriously, the necessity of care of land, community and self. These ideals are the only way forward and it is a more enriching and pleasurable way of thinking and living.”
Through the last few years of the pandemic taking its toll on the mental space of our populous, they do see a shift but unfortunately we’re not where we need to be. To them, mental health, community, and spiritual development are absolute keys to a fulfilling life.
“It feels positive, a long journey ahead, but it feels more people are taking it.
Many of us enjoyed amounts of time to pause and reflect in recent years and since have had time to implement our thoughts and ideas and new practices. It is beautiful to see and to be involved in some way.”
When not farming, playing music, or surfing, most recently, the band has taken on another unusual pastime rooted in the sense of place in Byron Bay, retro hang-gliding, obviously.
“At Lennox Point by the lookout, there was a super-hot wind coming up at us. It happened during the pandemic when we were all just chilling writing these new songs for the new record and it was a windy summer.”
Beyond surfing, I would imagine, if there’s a sport that leaves a participant to the whim of natural forces, hang-gliding has got to be up there. That said, surfing still holds their heart as they are “constantly in the barrel” hanging with Seventies Tuberide and may drop down to Malibu while hitting the West coast during their North American tour.
The band’s drummer, Miles Myjavec, also has seemingly found this same approach through both his music and his visual artwork, which weaves a vibrant, natural tapestry. Within his work, there are parallels to the new LP through the artwork.
“I like to think my music and visual art practices are separate, both are very influenced by agricultural research, practice and understanding of course.”, says Myjavec. “Human experiences and the processes involved in sustaining our lives are big influences too, but for me, I suppose I want to create the same feeling of positivity and a sense of shared experiences in both. You can think of it like that or you can just see it as fun shapes and colors.” – Myjavec
As for the Levitation Fest, there are a few shows the band is looking forward to, as are we:
“We’re looking forward to watching Seventies Tuberide, W.I.T.C.H. and Os Mutantes.”
On the road they’ve been listening to: Fellow tour-mates, “Seventies Tuberide; Erika De Casier, Tex Crick, Blood Orange, John Carroll Kirby, Madone, you know, just the classics.”
For us at Austin Town Hall, it’s safe to say we are looking forward to their set at Levitation, but we are almost as excited to just share a friendly conversation and create a brief sense of community for them right here in ATX.
Join us tonight at Antone’s to welcome the gents into town alongside Sugar Candy Mountain and Seventies Tuberide! You might just come out of it with a new outlook on life and some new best friends.