Close to celebrating 20 years together as a band, performing the world over and living (and being influenced creatively by) the gypsy life are French ten-piece reggae/ska/rock group Babylon Circus. Their fifth release, fittingly titled Never Stop, explores their love of rock’n’roll and displays their appreciation of an array of genres, which they have picked up through their travels around the world. Their latest single, also entitled ‘Never Stop’, delves into the consumerist habits of the modern day, and lead singer David Baruchel explains the double meaning behind the name.
“There are two meanings to ‘Never Stop’. [It’s] a song saying, ‘Dad, you never take a break,’ or a father to his son, ‘Take your time.’ This is modern life, liberal capitalism. I’m not criticising, it’s just a point of view.” The clip accompanying the song features the busy streets of Tokyo and New York, the hustle and bustle nine-to-five life, which makes Baruchel grateful he is living the gypsy life he’s craved from the age of five.
“It’s the life we’ve chosen. Dreaming of this thing, travelling,” he says. The band really has not stopped – since getting together in high school and officially becoming Babylon Circus in 1995, they recently took their first official break of six months to record. “We really wanted it to sound as perfect as we could,” says Baruchel. “We wanted to concrete all our ideas and find new ideas. It was the first time we worked this way, in our own studio.”
Initially starting out as a ska group, Babylon Circus are hard to define or categorise, but Baruchel says it’s all a tribute to “rock’n’roll as a performance” regardless of genre. Perpetually evolving album to album, influenced by the many cultures they experience on their tours, Baruchel explains the motivation to record an album that captures their onstage energy in the studio environment. “The studio is another playground. Since our previous album, we got the tools that we couldn’t get onstage. We do play the songs faster onstage but there’s less instruments. It’s like a game – I don’t like the internet or video games, but the studio is like a Game Boy. It’s so open and there’s so many opportunities to do things you can’t do onstage. It’s more precise. Stage is about energy and rock’n’roll”.
The band swaps from Balkan music and reggae to ska and rock, and Baruchel adds, “We don’t want to play music from the past – they’re just influences. It’s just something that is real”. From 1995 to now, the temptation to adhere to musical trends has not played a part in influencing their output. It’s the countries they get to visit and tour, and the people they meet, which have helped them grow. Their worldly sound, energy onstage and French-cross-English songs have wowed audiences and captured a legion of fans around the globe in their 20-odd years together. Now, they’re preparing to head back to Australia for the fourth time.
Speaking on a cold winter’s day in France, Baruchel says the weather is a good reason to be visiting our shores in the summer. “We love Australia because it’s a different culture and I can find common ground with Europe. We are very glad to come to Australia for the fourth time. We played our first gig in 2007 at Woodford Folk Festival, so it’s like a new cycle.”
BY MIMI VELEVSKA
Babylon Circus play So Frenchy So Chic in the Park with Lou Doillon, Lilly Wood & The Prick and Féfé at St John’s College, University of Sydney on Saturday January 18. Also appearing alongside The Basics, Ben Caplan & The Casual Smokers, Beccy Cole, Beth Orton, Chance Waters, Matt Corby, Mo Kenney, Tim Finn and more at Woodford Folk Festival, Friday December 27 – Wednesday January 1.