Baby Yaga's debut album, Fuck, is raw and rugged, providing that untrained lightning-in-a-bottle energy you can only get out of new bands, and there's one prevailing reason.
"These were the first five songs I've ever written," frontwoman and songwriter Presley Randall said. "I had never played guitar or anything before, so I just picked it up and made it happen."
Forming in 2018 with a slightly different lineup, the band rallied around Randall's bold, aggressive and attention-grabbing tunes. Their new EP pays tribute to their earliest days, while showing their sharply polished sound and hinting at bigger things to come. Folks that sink their teeth into these five tracks when it's released on June 5 will find that it exudes '90s alternative attitude, boisterous pop hooks and blunt lyrics that are easy to sing along with.
"I have found that the more trouble I get into, the better my songwriting becomes," Randall laughed. "Just lots of hot messes that I found myself in." Sure, the album has plenty of mischief, but the music often laughs at those moments, instead of wallowing in them.
"I'm Going Back" is an expansive opening track that lets Baby Yaga play with the quiet-loud song structure found in so many tunes by the Pixies, a favorite for the band. They restrain themselves at the beginning of the song, but the group turns up the volume for an explosive ending. "I'm going back to when I was a kid/ when boys were mean/ and the grass was green/ and love was just pretend," Randall sings.
The album's garage rock peak, "Going to Hell," concentrates all of the band's power-pop sensibilities into a melodic punk jam that shows big promise for Randall as a songwriter and frontwoman.
"Technically we occupy the same space/ but technically I'd like to occupy your face/ 'cus you turn me on/ this is not a love song/ so ring the doorbell, just come straight up/ and make me forget we are going to Hell," she sings in the song's confident chorus. The accompanying music video, featuring album producer Matt Tuton as a too-cool-for-school Lucifer, is a nice garnish that showcases the band's rebellious sense of humor.
That same vibe is apparent in the album's title. Fuck earns its succinct header, not because of some libertine lyrical content, but because of its messy emotions and uncomplicated sound. "[Fuck] just seemed to be the perfect sentiment for the songs that I had been writing," Randall said. "Just like everyone else in the world going through angst over relationships. That seems to be uniting all the songs, that sentiment of, 'Fuck.' "
"It's also a fun word," guitarist Avery Greeson added.
Baby Yaga's most recent incarnation — featuring Greeson, bassist Gee Peralta and drummer Dave Rowe — is the band's fullest and warmest.
Greeson handles the 11th-hour track "Needed You" somberly, not overplaying his part, but relying primarily on the textures he can add with the guitar. He plays with sobriety in the first half and cuts loose as the song reaches its emotional climax.
Peralta makes the biggest impression when he gets to set the stage on tracks like "One of a Million" and "I'm Going Back." He holds the fort down nicely with steady, riff-centered bass lines for a thunderous foundation to the band's sound.
The drums throughout the album are clever takes on basic rhythms, thanks to Rowe. "Right Love" could have been an easy four-on-the-floor beat, but Rowe's melodic playing turns the kit into the star of the show on this track.
"I think it's our chemistry as friends and people," Randall said. "We are constantly fucking up all the time and I think that translates to our music, our writing, too. We're super playful with our songs."
The band's personality shines through the album, and they believe that much of that energy will continue as they prepare for more tours and another release.
Thankfully for fans who gravitate to Baby Yaga's big and loud hooks, Randall dismisses questions about the band losing their edge as she's honed her guitar skills over the last two years. "The next album we're planning is actually going to be way grittier than this one," Randall said. "Since we've been together, the four of us, our new shit is somehow grungier and rawer."