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On a balmy Saturday, late one night in the summer of 2010, I paid a visit to 529 and unwittingly came face-to-face with a band I wouldn't soon forget — Baby Baby. The group was already on stage, reeling through a jumble of sloppy, high-energy rock, amplified by a sense of pure youthful abandon. After watching a few songs of the band's self-described "fun rock" set, my assessment of Baby Baby was embodied by the wince on the door guy's face.
Less than a year later, I bestowed Baby Baby's debut album, Money, with a biting two out of five stars, which kicked up an Internet flame war fanned by the group's followers. The perceived beef came to a head with a little ditty the group released earlier this year called "Haters." They even used a portion of my review for the single's cover art. Clearly, they understood the first rule of self-promotion: All press is good press. But it also evoked that age-old question: How does one define a hater? The word is one of those cultural memes that gets tossed around way too often; its meaning obscured by oversaturation. So I sat down for coffee with three-fourths of the fun boys from Carrollton — Fontez Brooks (vocals/guitar), Kyle Dobbs (bass), and Grant Wallace (drums) — and asked them to give me their take on all the hate.
Let's jump right in and get your definition of "hater."
Fontez Brooks: A hater is someone who disregards the fact that we work our asses off. When this band started, we recorded out in the woods, trying to put out a CD. We were together for three months, put out an EP, another EP, another EP, the album, videos, and then "Haters." We're a bunch of dorky dudes from Carrollton trying to make something happen. Not liking the music is one thing, but if you can't even respect the hustle, you're a hater, and we don't have time for you.
Fair enough. Is Baby Baby subjected to an inordinate amount of hate?
FB: People talk trash, but it's something that's needed. Say, I'm reviewing the new iPhone. First, you want to know what's good about it, then what's bad. There's gonna be a flaw and you have to talk about it so you know how to fix it.
Grant Wallace: I watched "Bob's Burgers" today — he got a negative review but said, "Anyone who brings in this article gets half off their meal," which is pretty much what we did with your review of Money [laughs].
FB: That was genius! We came to Atlanta with wide eyes, thinking, "Everyone's gonna love us, because in Carrollton people love us." We were naïve boys — emphasis on "boys." We saw what the Atlanta scene is, and that there's literally no place for us. But we set up shop in East Atlanta and invited anyone who wanted to come hang out. But when starting something new, some people are going to say "no," because in order for us to be successful, certain other bands have to be not successful. That's the way the music industry works, and right now the trend isn't in our favor — it's in a chill mode.
FB: Chillwave. Washed Out and Toro Y Moi were running things for a while, and this post-Strokes reverb on the vocals thing is happening — we're talking about people that don't necessarily listen to the radio. The local music scene is what we care about. We're working on knowing our local fans and getting more fans wherever we are. We'll keep touring and trying to get on college campuses, bar areas — more anything where we can play.
GW: We played the parking lot of a TCBY once — we will literally bring it to you. Granted, there were some songs we didn't play.
FB: "Haters" was one, because I sing, "We terrorized this TCBY."
Kyle Dobbs: We played a church once and instead of singing, "Hell yeah," we sang "Heaven yeah." That went over well.
Do you think the less-than-warm reception Baby Baby received was because you guys came on pretty strong right out of the gate?
FB: Absolutely. The Strokes made not trying look cool. We want to make trying your hardest cool again. Right now, everyone's trying so hard to look cool that you can hear it in the music. We came from Carrollton, so we have to try that much harder. We didn't know anybody to talk with in the local scene; we didn't know the Chad Rad or anybody else. We came in and were like, "You want us to play here? Play there? OK!" People were weirded out by our positivity. We don't want negative energy around us.
KD: One reason the album is called Money is because if we had more of it, the CD could have been really good. We could only afford to do a few songs in the studio. The rest were recorded in places like our friends' basements. The next full-length will be called Big Boy Baller Club, and we have a new single, "Keep on Dancing." It's gonna blow your mind. The idea is that times get tough, and you'll think you can't go any further, but you can. ... Remember what I said about positivity? That's what "Keep on Dancing" is about. "Haters" doesn't reflect anything about the album. We put that out to let the haters know that we've got love for you, too.
I didn't think my review of Money was very hateful.
GW: It wasn't; and the "Haters" cover was supposed to be ironic. Everything came together exactly as it should, and it was released on Valentine's Day — perfect! There was a comment that really inspired us, but I can't remember exactly what it said.
KD: Something about "ruining music everywhere."
I take it you haven't read Sun Tzu's The Art of War?
It outlines philosophies and rules for warfare. There's one rule about making your enemies think you're near when you're far away, sick when you're in good health, etc. Releasing "Haters" wasn't very Sun Tzu. Waka Flocka, for example, is one of the most hated rappers in Atlanta. I once asked him what he thought about his haters, and his response was, "I can't be bothered." That's a very Sun Tzu tactic, and if it works for Waka—
FB: Don't worry haters, we know you're reading. Everyone has emotions, and we're acknowledging yours. We got our own book coming out, now that I know what The Art of War is about. It'll be on Facebook and Twitter — Big Boy Baller Club Rules.
KD: I wrote one this morning. Rule No. 356: You can't wait for people to come to you. You have to go to them.
GW: Rule No. 700: Take bone marrow pills to make $1,600 for recording. Three of us are going to Knoxville where we'll be enslaved for five days — taking pills which hopefully won't cause us pain — and use the money to record.
You're being pharmaceutical guinea pigs to pay for recording?
GW: Yeah, we'll totally have enough for a couple of songs after that.
FB: Rule No. 256: The Baby Baby VIP is right outside the front door. If you want to be in the VIP section, all you have to do is kick it outside the front door. Everyone's a VIP at our shows. The cool kids can wait outside or come inside if they'd like. I know you guys want to be selective, but we don't want your energy around us.
Cool kids meaning hipster types who favor fashion and trends over something that doesn't quite fit into the accepted mold?
FB: It pisses me off when people say we're not original. Point to one band that's doing what we're doing. I can point to 15 bands in a five-mile radius that sound exactly the same. The whole scene is copying each other, and everyone wears the same clothes, like Nazi camp. And they're listening to original music?
There hasn't been a really good rock band from here in a long time. There's Manchester Orchestra, Black Lips, Deerhunter, and O'Brother, but the chillwave thing became so popular that everything literally chilled out. Our shows aren't chill, though. We trick people into thinking it's chill in the beginning. We'll say, "Put on your dancing shoes!"
KD: Rule No. 87: Don't try to impress anyone but yourself.
— Chad Radford
come on man you know you got a bromance. you probably still rock that OutKast…
Yes, 14 is the correct answer. I'll pass your info along to the group's manager,…
That was January of 2007, and they are 21 now, so I'm guessing 14?