Haybaby is a cheeky little grunge trio from Brooklyn. Why cheeky? Any band citing Keanu Reeves as a musical influence and spelunking as a form of band-bonding is certainly teasing its listeners a little. The group recently ripped a gig at Cambridge’s own Out of the Blue Too Gallery in anticipation of the release of their new Blood Harvest EP, which enticed me to take another listen to their full-length Sleepy Kids, released last fall on the record label Tiny Engines. Despite its tendency of self-deprecation, this album demonstrates Haybaby's music is hardly a joke.
It’s easy to lose yourself in a dizzying downward spell when listening to Sleepy Kids -- to zone out and let them convince you that you’re moody, morose, and ready for a good nap. But take a closer listen to the tracks -- specifically “Pizza Party” -- and you’ll find yourself surprised at the underlying sardonic tone.
Opening with feedback-laden guitar, front woman and guitarist Leslie Hong creates a foreboding air, daring you to keep listening. The jarring -- yet somehow fitting -- bass enters on top of a pulsing beat. And with that, Hong’s teasing baby-girl vocals enter. With a drawling, lethargic gait, she reminisces: “I asked to take you out for a slice / but you wanted something nice,” not a single ounce of patience for formality in her petite frame. Hong adopts the persona of the stereotypical millennial boy looking to score, not sit around and chat with his female counterpart: “your stupid mouth – why do you move it so much / can we just go someplace where we can touch?”
In her role-reversal, Hong challenges male sexual politics, yet as the track progresses, the vocalist mystifyingly moves to a softer sentimentality, upset her significant other didn’t bother listening to the mix CD she made for them. But she refrains from disintegrating into a sobbing mess, not allowing the song to pander to traditional female roles. Rather, Hong establishes herself as the badass centerpiece of an early-90s riot grrrl revival, foregoing heartbreak imagery for an onslaught of hostile, chaotic instrumentals: a tirade propelled by molding what could have been sadness into a demonstration of sneering mockery and aggression.
Haybaby is Leslie Hong (vocals and guitar), Sam Yield (bass), and Jeremy Duvall (drums.)