Baba Dochia, the band with 12 lambskins
Baba Dochia is a Cluj based electronic-rock four piece band with it’s origins in the medieval city of Sighișoara. The band have released one critically praised conceptual studio album called XII Lambskins a bridge between electronic, post-rock, film score and eclectic sampling. About the band sound and its future plans, Leon Lotoțchi was kind to respond to our questions.
What can you tell us about the beginnings of Baba Dochia in Sighișoara? How was the atmosphere in your hometown, a place with a solid reputation for it’s medieval sounds?
I think that, on an unconscious level, the exposure to medieval music and the influence of rock artists that used to play acoustic spontaneous sets all over the city during the famous medieval festival influenced us on some level to get into music. We were very young and not very aware of all the different musical subcultures, but because music has such a deep influence on human emotion it clearly touched us.
I remember hearing the first Prodigy album, Experience, the impact of its energy made me say "i wanna do that!". Soon after, I started to make music on a computer, showing my future band colleague Marius some of the possibilities a DAW can offer. It all started as a hobby but after listening Team Sleeps’ first album, we decided to make music together, blending our two favourite music styles at the time, rock and electronica. Our first ‘studio’ was in my grandmother's rented apartment. All of my gear was already there and, so we brought Marius’ equipment to, a computer, keyboard, guitar, a couch and some clothes. That very first session produced our debut ideas, one of which is the song now known as Starfall, still a strong point in our sets to this day.
You have your headquarters in Cluj now. How do you vibe with the new city? Do you still find inspiration in the city?
We love the energy Cluj is emanating, and the feel of potential is omnipresent, and I don’t mean just in a musical sense. It’s still not quite the same as Bucharest, but you can still draw inspiration by randomly going out and inhaling the opportunities for interesting interactions. The Cluj music scene is great, it really has that ‘underground’ vibe to it. I still remember that as a freshman student in the city, going at rehearsals of the ska-punk band called Dance Trauma, somewhere in an unkempt basement near the city center. Ignoring the awful conditions, the band jammed with, what seemed at the time, unstoppable energy. I think there was even a puddle of water in the room, but nobody cared, that wasn’t important. The focus was upon the process of creation. That was the first time I witnessed in real time the creation of a new song by a band. When I heard it afterwards it felt awesome, knowing that I witnessed the spark between the band members.I think the song was Antichristophor Columb or something like that.
You have some interesting native voice samples in your music. Do you use them just to add colour or do you want to emphasize a certain atmosphere of your music?
Sampling helps us. Sometimes you get stuck at a certain point, and a fresh sample can provide that necessary boost to get things going. A sample might emphasize the mood of a specific spot in a song, or might just fill up an otherwise bland portion where you have run out of ideas.
Another thing we are trying out more and more now, is to record random sounds and incorporate them into the songs, maybe with some processing if it is necessary. For example in one of our newer tracks, Venus, around the first half of the song there is a whooshing sound that accompanies the kick drum, and this creates tension. Marius recorded himself breathing heavily, sort of HAAAAAA like and blend it with the rest of the song. I think it sounds really good, even though when I first heard the raw sample recording I made fun of him that he sounds creepy, hahaha. But we know each other for a couple of decades now and it’s all made with good intentions and fun, so this kind of teasing helps us in the creative process.
For the 12 Lambskins album you worked with a music producer outside the band, Alexandru Șeidiu aka MGCH. How was this collaboration?
Cheers Alex and thank you! Yeah, he made our first album sound great, and of course that is always a big emotional hurdle to overcome, the hope that your first material sounds as good as you want it to be, and he helped us get over it. His reputation as a “musical chameleon” made him great for the role we needed, our songs ranged from post-rock to techno and from trip-hop to experimental (not forgetting the electronica-rock hybrid) and he seemed comfortable in each setting. He wasn’t shy about pointing out where there was room for improvement, where he felt it was needed, and we salute him for that.
You worked so far only with lady voices, Andreea on TRAKT, Ioana Lefter from Fine It's Pink on Wind and I know that you also tried to collaborate with Irina Bucescu from Temple Invisible and Delia Panait. There are nice features that brings a lot of passion to your music.
I think that a female voice complements nicely the overall dark vibe of our songs. It gives a nice contrast and a moody lifeline, to put it into words. We’re not throwing away the possibility of collaborating with male voices, but I guess that the circumstances up until now haven’t favored this kind of collaboration.
The pretty lonely process of creating a new electronic song might be the fault of the instrumental direction of the album. We sit there, jam a bit, come up with an idea or two, and progress from there, more or less forgetting and/or not taking into account that you might need or use a voice at some point in the track.
We have now some tracks in progress with female singers, but we are still at the ideas exchange phase, so it might take a bit for those tracks to see the light of day.
I have a great consideration for your live show, music and visual both. You told me recently that you moved, for the live part at least, from Reason to Ableton. What made consider switching the DAW?
We used Propellerhead Reason until recently, as it was our first digital audio workstation. But we felt it wasn’t the greatest option to reproduce electronic songs in a live setting, so we changed to perform using Ableton Live. Even though Reason is a great tool for creating sounds, we found it to be a bit cumbersome in creating a fluid live set and eliminate the “just press some buttons and the song will play itself” feel. We drew inspiration from Apparat and Trentemoller in this aspect, as they first produced the songs in a studio setting, creating as many tracks as they liked, and then discussing it to see what would work live. Do we really need this extra sound? Can this be reproduced on a guitar instead and can we control this more efficiently?
Nowadays most releases are using only the digital platforms. What is your input regarding this, taking into consideration that your first album was also released on a CD with a very nice booklet?
Even though online digital formats are probably the most widespread format nowadays, we didn’t want to underestimate the importance of having a physical material in your hand. The CD came with the booklet so that the listener has something to immerse himself into while listening to the record. There was a lot of work done for it as well, and we thank Marius Rosu for that. There were also some discussions about releasing a vinyl format, but it didn't happen after all, mostly because of us, but we hope to fix this in the future.
I think that the path of our passion for music intertwines itself pretty much with the path of our explorations of synthesis that we described earlier. Also, all those rock concerts that we attended as youngsters helped a lot, as we opened ourselves up to a lot of influences from people that were passionate about music and surely more experienced than us.
There are for years now since the beginning of your musical journey with Baba Dochia. After touring Romania and playing in all kind of venues could you describe how are people are reacting to your sound?
The local scenes are very eager to try out new sounds and you can definitely see that in the energy of the venue. We played for both jam packed clubs or for locations where there were just a handful of people that just seemed to stare at us lifelessly throughout the whole concert. Sometimes the public opened up after the first riffs of the first track, sometimes only towards the end of the set, but one constant was the personal “thank you” messages received in person from people in attendance, and that makes it all more worth playing for.
What do you think about the future of Romanian music? Are we likely to have an international reputation and do we have an authentic sound that promoters outside the country are looking for?
The future is bright, the future's a Romanian. Forgetting the allusion to a certain commercial, the Romanian musical scene seems to expect the moment to make itself heard, and it surely has something to say!
There are a lot of original projects around, each with a distinct flavor to it. Regarding the international online reputation, I read an article not so long ago about the Romanian underground minimal scene: it served as a great appetizer about the things to come. That article, even though written with aplomb, barely scratched the surface of what could be offered musically from this country. This kind of question has a bigger socio-political connotation, and because of this I think it would be best to have it expanded in a future discussion with more time allocated for a subject such as this.
We can't finish this interview without asking about your Indian tour. How did the local community look like? Did you interact with Indian music?
It wasn’t just a tour, it was also a spiritual journey as well, because we visited a lot of temples, haha. It was of course great, from the big things, like the warm reception of the organisers and the audience, to the small things, emotional moments of unpacking the flight cases and hoping everything is intact after flying a couple of thousands kilometers. The people we interacted with were very warm, humble and at the same time curious about us and our culture. We played at an international festival organized at the campus of the biggest University of Chennai, but Indian music took a large part of the schedule. The passion that the Indian people have for dancing and expressing themselves through movement was particularly fascinating. Did you see all those complicated traditional Indian dance moves? Yeah, those look WAY more awesome live, their flow is amazing.
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