Interview: Inside the Minds Behind Bathe

Tuesday, March 26, 2019
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We first stumbled across Brooklyn-based duo Bathe and their debut single 'Sure Shot' late last year after one of our regular scrolls through Hype Machine's feed — we were left captivated by not only how impressive the song was, but by the way they were able to present a narrative, both lyrically and through their music. We were able to catch up with Devin Hobdy & Corey Smith-West at SXSW to learn more about their creative process and the many places they draw inspiration from.

How have you been handling SXSW so far?

Devin: Austin has been really cool. I think when you’re a musician, or, I know that there are many other types of artists here, but speaking specifically to the musician experience, you have a certain perception of what SXSW is and what Austin is like through the lens of SXSW. And in a lot of ways, I would say that it has exceeded our expectations. I am surprised by how much I like Austin outside of the festival and how much I enjoy the people here and the sunshine and the overall vibe. So far, I’ve liked getting to know Austin, as well as hearing all the cool music.

Have you had the chance to meet lots of people this week?   

Devin: We’ve had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people, a lot of them are in music and work for certain labels or tech companies, and they’re all equally excited to be here and it’s less about how we can create together and more about enjoying each other in this space and it’s very exciting.

Now ‘Sure Shot’ kind of felt like it exploded online when you released it, what was that experience like for you guys? 

Devin: It was really surprising, in one word (laughs). We knew that it was our thesis statement, it’s everything we want Bathe to hopefully be, but very distilled and in its first iteration. But I’ll speak more myself here and say that I didn’t expect it to blow off as it did.

Corey: I would say that it has been pretty cool, but I take a lot of the online stuff with a grain of salt. I’m more excited when someone I know knows the lyrics instead of looking at numbers. It’s cool to be here and to have people reach out to me who I haven’t met and tell us that they enjoy our music, but to me, the excitement of having it out in the real world is way more exciting than online. I am excited that the internet can facilitate more of those real-world connections. I’m thankful for people giving stuff they don’t know a chance, mostly.

How did ‘Sure Shot’ come together? 

Devin: I believe we were writing separately and someone went to the other with a chord progression.

Corey: I think it was you.

Devin: It was me? Cool (laughs), so I came to Corey with the chord progression and then he sat down and does what he does and fleshes things out and I think he put together a drum loop and then we started spitballing ideas. The hook for ‘Sure Shot’, the one in the final version, Corey came up with it and we built a lot of it around that and then it evolved into a story about our father figures and everything people know about the song.

Corey: Yeah, I would say generally, I’m the producer and guitarist and Devin is the singer/songwriter, but both of us have done the other thing like Devin knows how to produce and I know how to write, and we don’t feel beholden to set roles, like me just being in the producer chair and Devin always bringing me his notebook. I think we kind of approach it from a Paul McCartney and John Lennon standpoint of like when an idea is out, I don’t really care where it came from, if an idea is good, it’s good we don’t worry about that stuff and everything is 50-50 at the end of the day.

But it’s hard for me to say who did what (laughs) because there’s a lot of times I can't remember, but I know for sure that Devin wrote the initial demo for ‘Sure Shot’ and I know that I kinda did the final edits on the production side and then Devin does the final edits on the lyrics and the story. But in between those two points, there was a lot of being up until 2 am, watching lots of episodes of Atlanta and having heart-to-hearts and then every now-and-then recording something (laughs).

click image for hi-res version

You mentioned Atlanta, are there any other art forms that inspire you both when creating.     

Devin: So I’m a graphic designer and I feel like because of the internet and because of the millions of ways you can access and consume mediums, there’s never been a time where you’ll find graphic art and music more inextricably linked then now.

I am finding that often I’ll become drawn to a musical artist by the way their cover art has been executed and a lot of the artists that I like today are people like Anderson .Paak for instance and Dewey Saunders, and how he does his work, and I’ve been following his stuff for a long time and I saw what he did for Anderson .Paak and was like ‘oh, this is incredible’ and I sort of want to go down that pathway.

I think when we started making ‘Sure Shot’ I instantly got an image of what our cover art would look like and that retroactively informed the writing process.

Corey: I think there are basic rules and tenets that apply to all art forms and I think that you can learn a lot from just interpolating or seeing the connection between two art forms. Obviously, I’m a music producer first, but I think I learn a lot about production by watching Barry Jenkins’ films and for instance, he likes to do a lot of stuff where he has someone who is really clear focussed on-screen and a clear subject, but there are plot devices happening mise-en-scene or in the background, so from a producer standpoint, you can mix a track so the singer’s voice is always keeping the focal point just like they’re an actor on screen, but you can have transitions and chord changes behind them that maybe don’t catch someone’s attention at first, but they’re pushing the plot along under the vocals with just as much prominence as having secondary characters having an important conversation in the background.

I look for stuff like that all over the place. I feel like it comes from different places each time where you could be in a building, or learning about architecture and you realize something and then when you go back to the drawing board, and you think, ‘oh, I want to make something feel less cluttered’ and just like how I don’t want to fill up a room with a bunch of furniture that I don’t need, I don’t want to put a bunch of instruments in a song section that I don’t need.

I feel like part of being an artist is interacting with every art form and just trying to take away lessons that apply to your medium.

So that was very assertoric and an abstract answer, and I’ll be giving my TED talk soon (laughs)

Next year, you could do a panel at SXSW (laughs).

Corey: (Laughs) exactly, hey SXSW, put me on, what’s good.

(Laughs) I mean, it’s very cool to learn about the thinking behind Bathe, so I’m all for the abstract answers. And when you finish up things here in Austin, what’s next? 

Devin: So we’ve got a run of shows in New York, well not a run of shows (laughs), we’ve got a couple of shows that we’ve booked in New York, hopefully another one in Philly in April and then it ramps up and we will be releasing our EP in May, and after that we’re just going to keep on creating and playing shows during the summer.

And then hopefully come to Australia…

Devin: (laughs) yes, and hopefully come to Australia.
Corey: Absolutely, would love to come to Australia.

Written by Amy Smolcic (@amysmolcic)
Photos by Kristy Smolcic (folio)

You can check out their most recent single 'Kimmi' below: