Gear Rundown: The Babe Rainbow

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Gear Rundown: The Babe Rainbow

The Babe Rainbow
Words by Isabella Venutti

Psych rock Byron Bay natives The Babe Rainbow took some time out of their busy touring schedule to chat to Mixdown about the gear that makes them tick.

The Babe Rainbow are an act whose attention to detail in conjuring the past makes you pinch yourself – creating sonic and aesthetic textures so lovingly faithful to a bygone era, you might find yourself questioning whether a French New Wave auteur of the likes of Agnes Varda or Eric Rohmer ever turned their sun-soaked, richly-hued lens to the blonde shaggy mops of Sydney’s Northern beaches.

Read up on all the latest interviews here.

To date the band has released four full-length albums, along with one EP, even moving beyond their surf-psych roots to experiment with soft rock influences from latin music, thanks in no small part to member Domingo Mariani’s Venezuelan heritage. The band has worked with fellow Flightless alumnus Stu Mackenzie of King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard to produce their self-titled debut album, The Babe Rainbow. In July 2018, The Babe Rainbow’s second studio album, Double Rainbow, debuted at no. 18 on the ARIA Albums Chart, and their 2021 album, Changing Colours even featured Hollywood alumn’ Jaden Smith.

Ahead of the release of their Fresh as a Head of Lettuce EP this June, TBR took a moment out of their busy US touring schedule to share some of the gear and production related secrets to their transportive sound – the sound that’s made this chilly journalist feel the afterglow of a sun tan in the dead of Melbourne Winter.

How has your live rig evolved between your last tour and the one you’re currently on – was there a conscious effort to expand TBR’s live sound this time around, or have you found your holy grail setup that you don’t like to mess with too much?

While everybody else went to the downtown’s of Denver for açai bowls from this particular place that Miles had been talking about for months in Australia leading up to this tour, I’m chatting with you in between dates in Boulder up in the mountains. We’ve got a lot more beef stashed on Babe Rainbow’s summer rig now, just a couple thicker new jams we worked out for live versions, and we’re playing the entire upcoming EP, as well as some unfinished new instrumental jams over which I’ve been singing Dion lyrics impromptu. Miles’ new snares are awesome, a bit more Chili Peppers, with that iconic pop sound. Almost 10 years later, Jack and Elliott still surf the same 80s Gats they got in Montauk. Playing the songs in a new way is something we do religiously.

Tell me about the band’s songwriting process – with a penchant for a vintage aesthetic and (assumedly) all things analogue, do you start in the box, on an instrument, or do something entirely different all together?

The practice shed is usually filled with Elliot flaring up in Mom’s Ranger with some mushy romper bass line he cooked up, or Cool Breez (Jack Crowther) crooning in the kitchen with a backdated catalogue of hundreds of thousands of chord progressions.

During the last tour, the Fresh EP songs were accidentally recorded in this Brooklyn studio one afternoon. Midway through the tour, we were feeling groovy and hitting that mellow flow during sound checks all over, and something just felt right! In fact, I’ll change my answer to the last question, since a lot of our songs have come from sound checks, maybe even all of them. At least the rhythm. It’s so fun, dude!

Which pieces of equipment are integral to the band when it comes to translating TBR’s essence from a recorded to a live context? Are you trying to replicate your studio sound when you perform, or do you prefer to let the songs breathe and find their own live groove?

It really depends on the show. There are some shows that are fluid, like “what’s happening?”, and then we’re like ok sure, let’s extend it out beyond the horizon and let that funky freak flag fly high above! Other shows have a more structured format. We’ll come in and say “okay yeah, what’s happening?” and we’ll knock them out one at a time without dillydallying. There’s nothing wrong with either, but who doesn’t enjoy a bit of loose content?

Although Miles’ flying rainbow jockey suit is most likely top of the list, there’s just one place in the divine realm that he goes to when he puts it on and sits behind those drums. The stage has been laid out differently this tour too, with the drums right at the front on the right, so when you cruise in you see this absolute menace on the drums in a rainbow suit jacket and shorts, just giving it to you. Mics and guitars are then staggered off it like flying vees.

Gear Rundown:

The Babe Rainbow

Sam gave us a bunch of stuff (from King Gizzard, don’t know if he’ll read this … oops) but all the singing pedals and that flea pedal Elliot’s been using, you know that one that’s like boompak kacha cawkwoww boombakcht wa. Jack aka Cool Breez has a really good rig on him right now. Along with his trusted sidekick, Timon from BENEE. Kyle from seventies tuberide helped him set it up last tour.

The guitar is an 80’s Epiphone in sunburst and gold that has a Les Paul vibe, he’s got this Strymon booster pedal that’s pretty devious, and he’s actually still got the original broccoli forest pedal called Danelectro’s Rocky Road. Also, he has a wah wah pedal and a regular tuner. While we were in Istanbul last year, Mowie Kravits had this awesome crash cymbal and we had to have it. It doesn’t mention anything about it. It’s sneaky. He’s also been using the sampler a lot, including samples of native Australian wildlife and percussion. Jack was vacuuming and it made the most mysterious sound like an Uber submarine, so we recorded that as well. Both sonically and holistically, it’s an interesting area to explore as a band.

The Babe Rainbow’s Fresh as a Head of Lettuce EP will be available on all good streaming platforms on June 16th 2023. Keep up to date with the band here.