Presley Randall, the frontwoman of noisy ’90s rock act Baby Yaga, said she is just saying what every other girl has been thinking on the group’s newest EP, SSDD.
“A woman’s experience is somehow different,” Randall told the City Paper. “We’re just not allowed to speak about it without being called one thing or the other. What makes me write music is being able to have confidence about my experience as a woman with sex and men and the darkness — and not having to couch it in these acceptable euphemisms.”
The thrashing three-song EP flies by in seven introspective minutes. Randall’s vocal presence fluctuates between docile and guttural with bassist Gee Peralta, drummer Alex Brouwer and guitarist Avery Greeson stitching together heady alt-rock compositions best heard at a high volume.
“It’s all about power,” Brouwer said. “I enjoy Baby Yaga because I play a lot of gigs where I play very quietly, and Baby Yaga does not require that of me very much. I get to play very hard and loud and I enjoy that. It’s fun.”
Randall’s irreverent lyrical delivery wanders through introspection on SSDD as she navigates what it feels like to be blown off by a love interest and steers herself clear of taking it to heart in the first two songs “When You Came” and “10.”
Her lyricism is catchy without a doubt, yet the obscurity of her word choice can be poetic and striking with its individuality, like on “10” when she sings: “In the barn under a quilt of lightning / In your one-person cot / Your eyes were saying sweet, sweet nothings / I was in for way more than I got.”
The third song, “Burning Alive,” is an out-and-out ode to the pain of a toxic love. Randall sings: “If you touch me, baby / you might burn up too / So, naked I lie at your feet / in this terrible fire / I eat and sleep and toss and turn and dream / right at your feet.”
“She knows how to write certain lines that resonate with everyone,” Greeson said.
This time around, the group recorded the EP with Wolfgang Zimmerman at his Charleston studio, The Space.
“We captured everyone live, and we overdubbed a few things to spruce it up,” Zimmerman told the City Paper. “On the opening track I remember being like, ‘Is that it?’ Because it has the intro and then comes in really rocking and it’s over. But that’s now what I love about it. It reminds me of things we’d do when we were teens — not overcooking or overthinking songs, just making it and moving on. I also love riling up Presley when we’re in the studio to get her to go on fringe rants. She’s seen a lot of extremes and I like getting her to open up about that stuff.”
Greeson said these three new songs are the closest sound to what the Baby Yaga concept has been aiming for — a sound that is far enough away from pop yet retains a polished finish.
Peralta added, “The first two tunes we put out were really raw and garage-y and I miss that a little bit from some of the [subsequent] releases — but this [EP] splits the line of having Wolfgang’s cool, smooth and natural production, while still being as raw. We went in [to the studio] and recorded two guitars, bass and drums and vocals and we left. Three songs in two days, for me, is very good.”
Randall said that when she thinks about the Baby Yaga image, she won’t be held back by not being liked.
“Art exists to be authentic — and if you’re trying to do anything other than be authentic, people will smell it immediately,” she said.
But she doesn’t want the music to come off as angry.
“It’s just about how empowering and cathartic it is to just call shit plainly and just spit it out and not give a f*ck if it looks pretty when it just came out of my mouth — it’s about getting out this shit that’s been poisoning women forever,” she said. “We don’t have to continue to let it poison us anymore. We can channel it into this higher power of music. We’re spitting it back out and making beautiful art.”
The band reunites in Charleston for a Jan. 20 show at The Royal American downtown with alt-rock acts Secret Guest and Tongues of Fire.
“If my music can help any woman to freely speak about her desires or freely own her anger toward shitty excuses from men — that is what my music is about,” Randall said. “I am here for the women. We’re so used to being sorry and making ourselves small. No. You can take the front and center stage of your life and your desires. It’s your show.”
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