All About Connecting: A Conversation with BAILEN

Bailen © Shervin Lainez
Bailen © Shervin Lainez
BAILEN have always been wholly mesmerizing, and with the release of their hypnotic debut album ‘Thrilled to Be Here’, they’ve just added more fuel to their rocket.

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When Atwood Magazine first caught up with the harmoniously gifted, real-life sibling band BAILEN at the end of 2016, there existed nothing of their musical prowess online save for a single song uploaded to Soundcloud. Fast-forward over two and a half years later, and BAILEN has ostensibly taken the world by storm with their illustrious debut full-length, Thrilled To Be Here (Released 26 April via FanTasy Records). Even still, leading up to the release of this album, the group only released less than a handful of singles — all while selling out rooms and theaters all across the globe.

Thrilled to Be Here - BAILEN
Thrilled to Be Here – BAILEN

BAILEN have always shaped themselves into somewhat of an industry enigma; barely any music or videos to stream online, yet impressively magnetic to audiences in the real world. It makes sense, though, why the band has garnered such acclaim with their live sets: their musical culpability is near matchless, with gorgeous harmonies that feel attainable as something only siblings could really achieve. BAILEN have always been wholly mesmerizing, and with the release of their hypnotic record, they’ve just added more fuel to their rocket.

Thrilled To Be Here marries together sounds and themes that feel both nostalgic and modern, coupling powerful and soulful vocals with intense and impressive instrumentation. Julia Bailen, the youngest sibling and guitar player of the trio, tears into the heart of listeners with her powerhouse vocals and electric guitar shredding; she firmly plants herself as a force to be reckoned with from the other side of a line not to be crossed. Her older brothers, twins David and Daniel, balance her moxie with a rhythm section of potent drumming and cadenced bass lines. They, too, offer their unique vocals, delineating BAILEN as an idiosyncratic tour-de-force of pure enchantment.

The album opens with “Something Tells Me,” the only track available the last time Atwood featured BAILEN. Depicting finding romantic, external love whilst trying to find love within oneself, “Something Tells Me” beautifully illustrates the complexities that love often comes rife with. Following this, “I Was Wrong” looks introspectively, explaining how the band overcomes something they’re likely all too familiar with: sibling fights. Instead of placing blame solely on someone else, the song explicates a well-rounded narrative that feels genuinely relieving.

Watch: “I Was Wrong” – BAILEN

Shifting back to romantic love, “Your Love is All I Know” retrofits groovy instrumentation with lyricism that wonders if a relationship is actually too toxic to deal with anymore. Even still, it feels hard to escape, and there remains a consistent push-and-pull between good or bad, right or wrong. Jumping immediately to the “bad and wrong” side of the argument, “Bottle It Up” acknowledges that after the end of a relationship, one should refrain from ever contacting their ex. “If you’re feelin’ something, then you better bottle it up,” croons Julia, stating that even if one may feel so inclined to reach out — just, don’t.

Stand Me Up,” the album’s halfway point and a comparatively older song for the band, elucidates feeling let down by a failed possibility of a relationship. There is very little to look forward to, if anything, and the time to say goodbye is now. Starkly contrasting this, the subsequent track “Going On a Feeling” navigates newness and feeling uneasy within it. Releasing one’s inhibitions and just trusting the unknown is seldom simple, especially if it is something that has not been the norm before. As best proclaimed by the song’s bridge: “Not all that I oughtta be / but better than I used to be / getting better all the time.

The album presses on with “Stray Dog,” a biting retrospect of regrets and toxicity and coping through these things. It follows along with previously examined themes on the record, with just an added dash of gusto. “Eyelashes” feels like a break from the relational storytelling that the album has explicated thus far, instead opting to tell chronicles of the lives of a little girl, a little boy, and a “mean old man.” The song showcases the difference between childlike wonder and optimism versus hardened experience, and how our lives are shaped by product of circumstance. “We can’t control where the wind blows.” Similarly, “Not Gonna Take Me” reflects on products of circumstance, and how one can influence their own experiences. No matter how the past occurred, that does not mean the future needs to be all the same.

The album’s final two tracks, “Rose Leaves” and “Careless Wishing,” are both also from BAILEN’s established song library. The former is an affecting narrative of heartbreak, reflecting on the ghost of relationship’s past with the affliction of falling out of love. It enamors the idea of hopefully one day looking back at the memories with fondness rather than melancholy. The latter, and thus the album’s closer, ties together the album’s overarching themes just as its opener introduced it: reflecting internally on one’s own life, and how that consequently affects the external. By cohesively rounding out their record in this way, BAILEN has ultimately cemented themselves as a musical force to be reckoned with.

It feels difficult to believe that this is still just the beginning for BAILEN. Although they have been touring extensively over the last few years and gaining recognition from that — you would be hard-pressed to find a band that travels and performs more than they do — this record truly catapults them into the stratosphere. They are swiftly climbing the ranks and, as they currently embark on tour with musical megalith Hozier, there is no stopping them. BAILEN may just be thrilled to be here, but they most certainly deserve it, too.

Atwood Magazine recently caught up with BAILEN after three years, chatting about everything from the album’s creation process to their ideas of success, how life has changed for them and what’s next.

Listen: Thrilled To Be Here – BAILEN


Atwood Magazine: So, congrats on the album! That’s pretty amazing, that you’ve finally got your full-length out!

David Bailen: Thank you!

So, the album opens with “Something Tells Me,” and has a couple other songs that you’ve had in your repertoire for a couple of years - “Careless Wishing,” “Rose Leaves,” “Stand Me Up” - that are mixed in with some seriously amazing new material that just blows me away. What has the evolution sort of been like for the last three years?

David: Well, when we saw you last, it was very much… I think we were basically choosing our team when we saw you, […] and writing a lot. We wrote a ton, and then when we were signed with Fantasy Records, and built our team up, and then just started playing so many live shows. We’ve been playing so many live shows, so our live sound has changed a lot; Julia has started playing electric [guitar] a lot. And, yeah, I mean obviously this record, from the starting point that you heard, this record has a definite musical element to it. But it’s also sort of like, we’ve already evolved even with the creation of the record; we’re always just continuously changing, and we definitely have a lot of different inspirations.

Nice! How do you think that your songwriting process has evolved with working on the album and making sure everything fits together?

David: Well, I think our songwriting… When we were choosing the songs, we had about fifty songs, and we had to narrow down what we were going to choose for the record. We recorded about sixteen songs, and then the record has eleven of those songs. I think, though, that our process hasn’t really changed much, I think we’re probably… you know, we always finish songs together. Whether we start them together or we do it individually, we always bring them to each other and we each have our say and make changes together. So that’s pretty typical.

Julia Bailen: I think something that we’ve learned through this record, maybe not with songwriting, but in terms of just how we view music, and produce ourselves, and do the live sets, and just in bringing the songs themselves to life, it is just interesting how you see the idiosyncrasies in how we play and sing.

Great! So, you’ve been playing shows forever, all over the place - do you feel like your live shows have improved over the course of all these shows?

David: Yeah, definitely. I think, now, we’re incorporating different sounds into the live shows, different instruments; the arrangements are more influenced by the recordings now. Even then, it’s like, everything we wished we’d done on the record, now we do that live.

Julia: I’m playing almost the entire set on the electric guitar now, and that’s been a lot of fun for me.

David: Yeah, Julia’s really shredding. Ripping it – it’s really cool.

Daniel Bailen: We’ve been touring trio, which is so stark and different in a lot of ways. And we’ve been very creative in how we create a lot of the arrangements, or how we sing them. It’s satisfying.


Bailen © Shervin Lainez

Bailen © Shervin Lainez

Do you like just playing as the trio, keeping it straightforward and simple? Do you think that it works for you?

David: Yeah, I mean, the trio is great. It’s a very focused thing, and it’s easier to leave room for the vocals in the trio. We enjoy playing with Pierre [Piscetelli], our pianist, every now and then, and that’s also fun, but it’s just nice to change it up. We always try to give ourselves something like an obstacle or a goal each show, like playing a new song and challenging ourselves in some way. And that always makes it more interesting for us, and I think it also makes it more interesting for the crowds. There’s always opportunity for expansion, but at the core we have our trio.

Very good. And do you think that your idea of “success” has shifted at all, or is it still kind of the same? Just in terms of how you’ve grown so much, and now have gotten a little bit more recognition. Does that matter to you?

David: I think my idea of success has been like… It’s more like, marble countertops as opposed to granite countertops, you know? But seriously, I think there’s always a sense of dues.

Julia: I think there are definitely dues. I think there’s just more pressure.

David: More pressure, for sure.

Julia: And I feel like it’s more than just stupid things that kind of bog me down. But I feel more creative.

David: I think we’re really focused on trying to make this a career for ourselves, so I think it’s scary. You know, it’s like a start-up business.

Julia: It’s kind of a necessary evil that we have to think about it as a business. We’re trying to make it financially viable.

David: I think the thing that hasn’t changed, in terms of our view of success, would be that we want to bring our music to the world, and have people listen to it and enjoy it and feel moved by it. The part that has changed is that we also want to make it sustainable.

Daniel: As we’ve started reaching into having a bigger audience, and playing bigger venues, and there’s more online engagement, what’s really important for us is still keeping it intimate and interactive.

David: It’s about connecting. And you can feel that in the air, at any kind of show, whether it’s mini or massive. It feels like everyone is connected, and maintaining that is really important.

Awesome, that’s great! And so, jumping back to the album, it’s been compared to everyone from Fleetwood Mac to TLC. Did you have any sort of potentially unassuming inspirations when you were working on the record?

David: Unassuming, like, out-of-left-field?

Yeah! Something that maybe wouldn’t be expected based on the sound of the album.

David: Well, we weren’t really referencing Fleetwood Mac at all, and we definitely weren’t referencing TLC.

Julia: Yeah but I fucking love TLC.

David: We grew up with so much different stuff, you know, we listened to everything: from classical music to R&B and hip-hop.

Julia: Yeah, and that’s why the record is getting referenced like this; we are truly just trying to be as honest and authentic as we can be.

David: And I think that like, there’s not only just musical influences. Like, being on tour affected it, being in different parts of the country affected it; also, our three distinct and individual voices have combined in a way that make it whatever we are. There are just a lot of different things we could think of.

I got you.

David: I have this weird thing with pop music, and like, how present the vocals are, and how specific the whole thing is.

Pop structure, and all that.

David: There’s a little part of me that wants a little of it.

BAILEN © Shervin Lainez
BAILEN © Shervin Lainez

I’ve actually heard this from other people, too!

David: I don’t like the fact that a lot of mainstream pop music actually doesn’t have dynamics to it, because our record has so many dynamics, and I really love that about our record. I like the idea of listening to a record and like, having all of your emotions… having it take you through other journeys of all the feelings, not just getting along with a vibe. It’s taking you on this roller-coaster of what humans feel, you know? And that’s not only important in lyrics, but it’s important to real dynamics.

Absolutely! And I think that your album does a great job of being dynamic, and not really sticking to one thing or another, and I think that’s why you’re getting all these comparisons to all these vastly different artists. It really makes it special.

David: I love that.

Now, I’m just curious, how do you see the rest of the year panning out? And what’s next, now that the debut record is out and you’re touring? What do you want to do next?

David: Micro-finance.


David: No, no. Anyways…

Daniel: I want to continue staying in awe of music.

Julia: That’s my line.

David: Julia said it first, then Daniel copied it. And now I’m saying it. But, I mean, this year is a lot of touring, and building markets. Over the last few years, we’ve done a lot of touring, and we love coming back to certain cities, and build on each town as an individual market. It’s been really cool to see the growth, even without the album out. We’ve seen it from the first time we went to a town having ten people at a show, and then the third or fourth time, having like, 130. It’s been really cool to see, so hopefully we can continue growing on that. Also, continuing to write is important to us. Change and evolve.

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? © Shervin Lainez

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