Taking flight from the dangers of digitisation

Stephen Jones of Babybird. 2011.
Stephen Jones of Babybird. 2011.

TO MOST people, Babybird will eternally be remembered as the artist who sang You’re Gorgeous.

But in reality, Babybird is the king of universal truths, catchy, sweeping melodies and sharp social observations. And while You’re Gorgeous became a colossal hit, played over the airwaves for weeks – if not years – on end, the song’s sentiment was always overlooked. This wasn’t a gushing ode to a woman – it was a cynical snipe at the sleazy world of fashion photography.

And for his latest album, The Pleasures of Self Destruction, Babybird – the brainchild of Stephen Jones – has sung about the menaces of the internet, the resurrection of Jesus at a stag do and the love of one’s daughter. But one of the most thought-provoking tracks on the album is Can’t Love You Anymore.

“After I wrote it I decided that it could have a double meaning – I thought that could be clever. It could be that the person can’t possibly love them any more because they love them so much, or because they simply can’t love them any more,” says Jones.

The video for the track shows a couple driving towards a wall – the outcome of this fateful journey is whether they can resolve their issue and reach for the handbrake before they hit it.

“It’s good,” says Jones, “though it wasn’t how I planned it. I think I should have been in it.”

“So much music is about this universal thing called love and it’s hard to escape that but I try and make it a bit different,” he says

The other stand-out track on the album is Jesus Stag Night Club. “That’s about the idea that if Jesus came back and ran stag nights with Jesus impersonators. It’s a silly idea but I find the idea of Jesus coming back fascinating. I’m not religious but I find it fascinating. ”

And while the premise of the song sounds bizarre as it is, it’s also performed with Johnny Depp on guitar.

“We’ve been friends for a long time and he used to be in a band himself, he just likes playing guitar.”

Jones’ other guitarist, Joey Malone, is actually Johnny Depp’s former bandmate. “He lives in LA while the other members – Luke Scott and Danny Lowe – live in Sheffield and Rob Gregory lives in Greece – you can imagine how hard it is to organise rehearsals.

“We have to cram it into about three weeks before the tour.”

The album’s packed with Jones’s trademark social criticism; www.Song is a stern attack on the world of Facebook, digital downloads and a society whose history can be deleted in a millisecond.

“I think that came about because our daughter’s ten years old and she has started to become interested in Facebook but as a parent I am aware of all these awful issues like children being groomed online and stalked.”

The song also takes on the digital download. “We live in a download culture where people don’t buy albums, they download them. Records were always about their artwork – they were tangible but now very little is tangible. It’s the same with photographs – in the past we had physical records but now they are so easily lost.

“The companies that make this technology have such a lack of respect for their customers that they sell products they know will deteriorate or do the most basic job.”

But there is one area of life which, at least for the time being, will not be monopolised by digitisation – the live show. “People have always sat under trees and listened to music and the live show can’t possibly change that much in the near future.”

And this weekend, Babybird comes to Sheffield, which is not an insigninficant date in the touring diary. “I moved to Sheffield specifically to meet musicians because at the time Nottingham, which is where I’m from, was preoccupied with dance music. I met Graham Wrench who helped me out a great deal by making cassettes for me.”

Along with his band, Jones will be reunited with his Sheffield friends when he plays at the O2 Academy on Friday.