For our first interview, we sought out Yakima's premier power trio, Tony Taylor and the Novababies. We had the best of intentions. It was supposed to be straightforward. Get in, ask questions, get answers, get out. Instead, we were surprised with a sprawling two and a half hour discussion on everything from the creative process, to self confidence, to the paths that lead us to our present.
I heard the Nova Babies play once by accident.
A friend and I had walked into the coffee shop and counted ourselves lucky that there would be live music.
I was pretty impressed by the way Hilary connected with the crowd. They seemed to respond very well to her and she somehow managed to bring them in as part of the performance.
I walked into Maker Space to meet these kids with no expectations and only a short list of questions. Quickly I was impressed. They were composed and eloquent. I had to double check their ages. They are not only ambitious but they are dedicated; putting in the work that it takes to perform in public venues and draw a crowd of loyal fans.
This is not a hobby band.
This is a group of carefully selected band members who breathe, eat, and sleep the music. A group who puts the time to practice front and center in their lives. Their personal jobs are there to support the vision of the band as unit; an ecosystem that is alive and growing.
Tony Taylor and the Nova Babies have been growing in success progressively. All three band members have their roots in Yakima but have to look outside the area to bring their music to a broader audience due to the lack of venues in town. They come back to Yakima to record at Makers Space at night when no one is attending to take advantage of the fantastic acoustics.
They share their process of forming music. Painstaking. Slow. Constant.
It’s easy to expect three young kids in their early twenties to putz around and possibly skip practice. But this is what sets them apart from the many hopefuls that start hot only to drop off like dead flies.
Tony started with music very young in West Valley High School. He laughs about his band’s counter-productive approach to gaining traction, “I was being a hispter about it! We would have secret shows. It was the worst to sell out. And selling out was being publicly excited about your music and inviting others to join you.”
During his high school days, Tony was constantly frustrated at the lack of commitment from the other band members. No one shared his vision of taking the band to the next level. He decided to start hand picking and enlisting possible band members. Somewhere along the way he developed an insight and understanding of people. Tony has a knack for the business aspect of making music. And he doesn’t resent it or romanticize it. He takes it in stride; equally talented in making music as he is talented in taking a chance at a new opportunity.
Hilary took the place of the bass player who was leaving the band.
"She is very good at connecting with people.”, Tony says, pointing to Hilary.
Hilary has travelled quite a bit.
She took the practical path to life: college, work, more work, sound decision making. And one day she got offered a job with the band. Immediately she said yes even though she didn’t even know how to play the bass.
“I thought, you know, I have always wanted to be a rockstar. Why not? I can learn. They’re willing to teach me.”
She is confident and sweet. Tonight she wears a killer vest, short bangs, and perfect winged eyeliner. I want to know all about Hilary. Her energy is very open and inviting. Her experience traveling has shaped, influenced, and prepared her to tackle the mental work of being in a band going from obscurity to playing big shows.
Scotty is incredibly calm and quiet. Observant. He hasn’t said anything and doesn’t volunteer any information. I asked him how he joined the band. They auditioned him into it by giving him a very hard piece to showcase his talent. He didn’t know how to play it so he sequestered himself for days to do nothing but practice until he got the song down. In order to even do that, he spent an inordinate amount of time hunting down very low quality videos to play along with.
Scotty is a very interesting individual. He is quiet and sometimes shy. Like many of us, he deals with some social anxiety. He is a man of many talents and wise beyond his years. Scotty dropped out of high school and got his parents to agree to let him take charge of his education. He followed his interests, and without the restrictions of school he honed his talents - a testament against the cult of busy. Humans need a lot of blank space to recover, process, and create. He went against the grain and carved for himself a life that would allow him to do what he loves.
There is a special quality of connection among these three. Their brains operate on the same wavelength; they all understand the vision for a new song and work hard for the overall direction that the band is taking and where the art is going. At times, Tony will dream up a loose concept of a song, and the other two focus on reining in the best bits until a song materializes. Sometimes he will have lyrics and everyone collaborates in arrangements. It’s a very airtight process. All hands on deck; there is no battle of the wills. But more than anything discipline is what drives them forward. Showing up to do the work regardless of inspiration. “It comes, and goes away, and then comes back more refined.” Tony has learned to ride the waves of inspiration and shown up to work even when it’s not present, not regarding it as a capricious spirit but an entity that wants to be worked with.
On how they've moved to viewing their music not just as a hobby, but a career:
Hilary: If you can talk yourself up to people, they'll believe you! You have to have enough self-confidence to sell yourself; then other people will believe you too.
Tony: I think it's the balance. A lot of people aren't really good at talking themselves up, and so that can be the difference between getting a really kick-ass gig, and getting nothing.
Hilary: It's like getting a job, you know? If you can talk yourself up on your resume....there are so many correlations like that. Being in a band is like looking for a job.
On connecting with an audience:
Hilary: I think there's like a tendency for people to be more supportive when they feel like you're floundering, especially in places like (Northtown).....I notice that the more you suck, the more supportive they are, and the more they cheer...it's a part of the live experience. People are going to expect that; that's why people like live music I think. Because they know you're going to mess up at some point......there's a certain feeling that you get when you're at a live show, and then someone messes up. People look for that.
On being the baby of the Novababies:
Scotty: If it's weird for me hanging out with an older crowd.....it is because of the age difference, I do definitely see where they have experience over me in areas I have not yet experienced, so I try to listen as much as I can. Sometimes it's kinda weird because I got that thing where like, "I'm my own person and I want to do what I want to do!". I get that from my mom. My dad is very much about like, trying to....unless it's someone he doesn't like, usually he's very, like "Oh, I don't want to upset anybody; I don't want to say anything that will offend anybody.", and my mom's just very much like, "If you don't like it...sorry! Get over it." It's all a weird balance for me. I need to find a balance with my life, with everything....hanging out with older people, and younger people. I'm not very good at balancing things though.
Some people don't want to listen to certain things I want to say, because I am the youngest, you know? But most of the time that's not really something I have to worry about. I think part of that is because generally I don't say a lot unless other people engage some sort of something with me. I don't go out of my way to be talking to people I don't know.
Denizen: How does that affect you onstage?
Scotty: I think when it comes to live performance....most of it pretty much goes out the window as soon as we get on stage. I don't worry about any of that. As soon as we're onstage, and it's show time...my mindset goes from, "Ok, we got this show comin' up I gotta be thinkin' about." to "We're doin' it. We're the guys, and I gotta be THE badass on the drums right now....".
On their writing process:
Hilary: I think that Anthony is the biggest creative force, because obviously these are his songs; this is his vision from the beginning and he's had this idea for the project since before any of us were around, so I think he definitely has that force, you know? But then again you have two band members who are also very individualistic as well.....so there's a lot of times, not gonna lie, where I've had my own vision, very different from Anthony's vision, and it does really just come down to communication. He kinda has to talk and......reason out why because I'll ask him why?!
Anthony: Do you know how fucking hard that is for a fucking introvert?!
Hilary: So it's a challenge for both of us honestly.
Denizen: Whose idea was it to have an introverted frontman, by the way?
On being more music driven, or lyric driven:
Anthony: I have to balance it out, because if you're too lyric driven then some people might find it kind of boring. If you have great lyrics but not a great way to present it, then it might lose people's attention.
Denizen: (Brings up Bright Eyes and starts debate)
Hilary (on Bright Eyes): It's cathartic! And he's a poet.
Anthony: One thing I've noticed a lot of other bands have is, you know they're really good at writing songs but a lot of times their songs are too repetitive, or too rhythmically static.
Hilary: My own personal songwriting style is very focused on lyrics, and....musically not as rhythmically dynamic.
Anthony: I listen to a lot of rhythmically dynamic bands like Green Day, The Hives, My Chemical Romance....they're like glampunk. They're the closest thing to glampunk I've ever seen. They're like Queen with the **** Misfits.
On songs being born from work or inspiration:
Anthony: I definitely try to show up regardless of inspiration and try to write a song. Sometimes, it's like....I have one line, and I write a song just by putting pen to paper. Or there's other times, where my mind's like a womb. I get this idea, then it goes away. Then it comes back a little more refined, and then it goes away. And it comes back even MORE refined, say like a verse and a chorus now.....goes away. It keeps developing in that kind of fashion until I'm like, "I NEED TO WRITE IT DOWN! NOW, NOW, HURRY!" A couple of them have literally taken nine months....it was a hard pregnancy! I feel like a lot of great songs have not been written because I did not have a pen and paper at the right time. Some of them just have a miscarriage.
Hilary: I remember watching these TEDtalks about the author of Eat, Pray, Love (I never read the book; I don't really care)....she explained it so well; I really like that (Greek) idea that your muse just flows through you, wherever you're at. You gotta run to a pen and find it and write it down. I also write plays....stories....stuff like that. I think what I am is primarily lyric-based; poetry-based, so he's trying to help me put music to my things.
We had a blast with these three. Go see them at their next show on February 24th, 7pm at Tieton Cider Works! You won't regret it.
We would also be remiss to not let it be known that at the time of the publication of this article, Scotty is single but looking...in his words, he's "picky but interested".
Thayne Jongeward is a Yakima photographer and Denizen cofounder who's raising an amazing daughter while wondering daily why he assigned himself so much writing homework.
Karelys Beltran is a Sinaloa native and Denizen cofounder who is passionate about unschooling, personal development, and trying to convince everyone she isn't interesting.