Some truths about Lion Babe: Yes, Jillian Hervey is Vanessa Williams’ daughter. And yes the band is named Lion Babe because producer and other half Lucas Goodman is a Leo and Jillian is, well, a total babe. Their debut song “Treat me Like Fire” blew up on the internet and got them signed with Interscope in 2012. By 2019 they released their second album on their own label.
Their story is a kind of New York love—where music and movement led them to each other, and this city that never sleeps has formed their sound and strengthened their art. They are a harmonious balance of masculine and feminine energies. Their lives are about living the process and trusting their inner song.
Let’s talk about the story of the two of you… What was the thing that made you realize your musical connection?
Jillian: We were both in college. I was wrapping up my last year at the New School, I was a dance major. And I asked him if he wanted to score my dance piece for my senior thesis, and he was down. So that was basically our first initial artistic collaboration, just talking about music. It was very organic and seamless. That kind of relationship just made me think like, oh, if I ever wanted to sing, if I ever want to make more things, he seems like a really nice, easy match for that! I think just with any art form, there can be a lot of egos and that has been something that I definitely appreciate about us is that we know what we like, but we also naturally just really did what each other is doing.
Lucas: Yeah, you know, it just really clicked together. When we did our first song, which ended up being the first one we released, “Treat me Like Fire”, it was like a jam session. I made some beats, I came over to her place, and I was just playing them for her. Like, we weren’t even like started yet. I opened my laptop and started playing. She was in the kitchen making tea or something. And kind of immediately I hear in the background her singing along to it I’m like, oh, wow, that sounds really good—we should record that right now! That was like the first 10 or 15 minutes of hanging out and I was like, we’re gonna make music today!
Jillian wears Dress, Dur Doux. Earrings + ring, Laruicci. Shoes, Melissa. Gloves, Cheng. Bracelet, Rory Rockmore. Lucas wear Top Vintage, Pants, Cheng. Necklace, ISLY. Shoes, T.U.K..
We know you’re a lion, Lucas. What’s your sign Jillian?
Jillian: I’m a Gemini. Leo rising.
Dress, Jean Paul Gaultier. Gloves, Gypsy Sport. Necklace, Laruicci.
Why remake “Hot in Herrre”? PS I regularly dance to it in the kitchen…
Jillian: Definitely for that! We wanted people to just dance and feel good. Especially with what was happening in the world. We are also just very much into remixes. Lucas DJs, and we love going out and dancing. So we also love playing shows. And, you know, when you start to do that, you kind of just, like, end up thinking about what, what sounds could match those places.
Lucas: It’s a similar story to how our first song happened. I feel like all our best songs kind of come from me jamming, making a beat. This time was me and my boy in the studio, Jill showed up to the session later and I don’t know who did it first, but someone started singing “Hot in Herrre” [to the beat]…
Jillian: And I was like, is it weird for us to do this? I think growing up for us that song is such a universal song. I grew up in a super white town and every person knew the whole rap to that. So I knew that it could crossover and have that house feel…
Lucas: and we were doing a lot of house sounds, like soulful records. Again, it’s one of those things where it’s really not thinking about it at all but having a moment where there’s a microphone in the room. And there’s something cool, spontaneous and magical happening right now and so let’s make sure it’s recording.
“It’s Okay” is so vibe-y. I love that you shot in the Seaglass Carousel but also I feel like you’re blowing up like a kind of secret New York spot. Say more about the creative inspo behind the video.
Jillian: I know!!! Sorry, but we had to! The day we did the demo for that song was the day Kobe passed away. I remember heading to the studio, and someone shouted it out in the street. My stepdad is an ex-Laker and I just immediately got worried. It was a shock for the entire universe. And it was right before COVID hit—it was that first kind of earthquake. I think you could just feel the energy everywhere. This whole album, Rainbow Child, ended up being therapy, it was the way we dealt with everything, just like, our kind of ritual of going to the studio and just working on stuff really got us through all of it and got us like, you know, just it was a conduit to get all of our feelings out. So that song was a response to just feeling that way. And that it’s okay not to be okay. I think our world is reckoning more and more when it comes to mental health and being accepting of feelings of vulnerability. I’m very spiritual. The orisha are a huge part of my life. And Oshun is a goddess that I literally pray to all the time. She’s the goddess of dance and she’s a river goddess. So it just got me thinking, okay, we’ve been in New York for now, like 10 years, trying to shoot every location everywhere. I wanted something that was playful. I was scouting and was like, wait, what is this place?!? It could not be more perfect. They’re [the carousel] is actually going to add in the song to the ride loop so you’ll be able to hear it when you’re on it. It’s probably one of my favorite videos from the album.
Rainbow Child is a pretty deep title. Talk about the process of making and naming your album.
Jillian: I think when you feel the most down, sometimes it’s like you’re reckoning with your inner child. And we already had this song that’s on the album, “Radiant Child”, kind of before we started the rest of the songs. So that was definitely a beacon, like a vibe. And we had a song “Rainbows”. We wanted to go into this album actually having a name, that’s something that we didn’t do previously. And so that was visually something that we could tap into. And symbolically, it’s really just the rainbow after the storm. And reminding yourself that after dark times there is beauty and that those dark times are really formative—they’re important, and you need them. Even a child needs those things.
Dress, Cristobal Eolo.
How does spirituality play a role in your music?
Jillian: I think it is my spirituality. It’s my spirituality being practiced. I grew up in the Catholic Church, which was… just… great [we laugh]. I’ve had to reconfigure what spirituality meant to me throughout my life. It’s just a way of being and feeling that every action you have is spiritual, and sacred, and should be appreciated in a certain light. I’m very honored to be able to do that in my life every day.
Lucas: I think a huge important part is to be able to reflect and have the time to not be so affected by all the external, or at least take your mind away from the outside and focus on your internal. When we make music it offers that portal to step into. You can use music as a tool, to reflect in a way that’s focused in and isn’t so chaotic—you don’t really have to use your mind, you can just trust it. And to use your inner spirit to be a way to process and digest all those feelings, information and experiences… to bring some sort of calmness to yourself.
You’ve had some early help along the way, going back to your early days with Pharell and Mark Ronson. If you had to pinpoint a pivotal moment in your career, what would it be?
Jillian: Just making the choice to enter into the major label space and signing a record deal very early on was a huge move that we obviously benefited from, and learned so much from because it just helped us to meet those people and learn the ropes of what it is to be in the music industry. We started with a gig and going from that headspace to like, okay, let’s make this something that can be our life. You know, I think that when you make that choice, your whole world changes.
Lucas: I think another pivotal moment is when we were able to exit that situation. There was a lot of learning, a lot of very quickly formed growing pains from that experience, which were very helpful. All those lessons taught us how we move today, in our career and life path. When we got out of our deal at the end of 2016 it presented us with an opportunity to take the reins and really move forward with our independence making our own decisions.
The collab lineup on this album is impressive and extensive. How do you decide who you want to work with and who’s next?
Jillian: We both have good ears, but Lucas… that’s really where his producer role shines. A lot of times, it’s also like, who do we actually know? Who can we DM? Who’s already in my phone and can I send them something? Like with Ghostface, okay, can we just reach out to him? Can we get him? How are we going to do this? And then you know, you just pray and do your thing trying to connect and then he answers and it’s amazing. And then someone like Trinidad, I texted on my phone. And Oshun. We wanted our community to be part of this as well, because they’ve been so formative and also making us feel free and artistic and inspired. That’s the beautiful thing about New York, you get to create with your friends and your peers and that was something we really wanted to do on this album. These people are not only amazing artists, but they’re people that we actually can call friends. Except for Ghostface, but now he’s our friend.
Especially in the last year and a half, how has being native NYers influenced your music and creative process?
Lucas: New York, especially in the height of it, was pretty quiet, and shut down. Going to the studio had a different vibe. We shifted the focus of this album to reflect a more quiet, somber time—we were doing a lot of inner listening, which is like, a lot of music you listen to when you’re inside versus making records you listen to if you’re going out to the shows or the clubs or whatever. And that influenced ultimately, how this album came out sounding.
Jillian: Like the literal fact that the streets would be empty. You could feel and know that everyone’s inside. So we were like how can we serve these people in that way, like when they can’t go anywhere—what kind of sounds will help that and make their home feel a little bit more like a sanctuary, and be a little special and escape being in their little rooms. And also when you did hear noise you heard protests. You feel like you have something to contribute when you’re here or that people are working toward moving things forward.
What are you doing when you’re not making music?
Jillian: Do I… Do I do anything else? I don’t know what that is.
Lucas: They just added all the Simpsons to Disney Plus. So that’s been taking up a lot of free time.
Jillian: I love nature so if I can get out in some capacity I love that. I love to cook and eat. And reading, I love reading as well.
Lucas: And we love to see live music, now that things are opening up…
Speaking of live music and things to not miss, Lion Babe has a show with Jeuru on September 28th at Elsewhere in Brooklyn.
CONNECT WITH LION BABE:
story/ Eve Simonsen
Photos / Shervin Lainez
CD + Styling / Phil Gomez
Makeup / Emily Amick
Hair / Francis Rodriguez