Meet the future: Cat & Calmell and Baby Queen share new songs, chat to each other
Celebrating two recent releases and big years incoming, the cross-continental pair of artists chat about songwriting, fashion, superstitions and more.
Just last week we shared a list of 20 artists worth paying attention to in 2021, and already we're finding ourselves having to update it with new additions. Fresh faces of the future seem to emerge on a near-daily basis, sharing glimpses of brilliance that reflect the exploration of new ideas, influences and sounds; experimentation that keeps the music world moving forwards, rather than rehashing age-old ideas over and over again.
Despite coming from two very different backgrounds with two different sounds, Cat & Calmell and Baby Queen are two acts that feel synonymous with this bright-eyed and adventurous future - and we couldn't be more excited to see what's to come. The former are blossoming into representatives of Sydney's pop next-generation; the pair of Cat (20) and Calmell (22) distilling years of performance and shared interests in everything from Kali Uchis to The 1975 into something that meets halfway, in the form of woozy, slight off-centre pop music that swells with prowess and talent beyond their years.
It's something that was shown on their debut single dumbshit towards the tail-end of last year and again on their new single Dramatic, which does what they do best: shows glimpses into the minds of Generation Z (and everything they've got going both for and against them) through an angsty, genre-less blend of indie, pop, R&B and hip-hop that reflects their wide-ranging tastes. "We wrote this song as a way to express our frustration at the people in power and their complacency with the state of the world," they said on the single's release, which arrives alongside an accompanying video directed by Louis Brandt. "It's a cry of frustration from our generation to theirs and we hope it resonates and you think it’s a good jam."
Baby Queen, meanwhile, does something similar but in a completely separate way. The London-based, South African-born musician emerged another newcomer of this off-kilter 'anti-pop' sound with her debut EP Medicine earlier last year, forging together complete musical worlds to create a world of her own; one that feels completely, all-encompassingly Baby Queen. Despite being only her first major release (with only a handful of 2020-released singles before it), you could see her vision shine throughout Medicine - a testament to her craft, and the incredible music that comes out of it.
Her new single Raw Thoughts is her first for the year and the first since sharing her debut EP (with the exclusion of a Christmas-themed Santa Baby, that is), and it picks up where the debut EP left off while also showing the pathway forward, capturing her rich synth-pop sound and stark songwriting while bringing on new energies that eye off potential future sounds - interesting, considering it preluded much of the work already released. "Raw Thoughts is probably the most important song I've released to date because it's actually the song that catalysed what has become the sound of Baby Queen," she says on the single. "I wrote it near the beginning of 2018 (earlier than any Baby Queen song that has been, or most likely ever will be released) and it sort of came to me like a gift from heaven.
"Raw Thoughts is an amalgamation of every feeling. It's euphoria bleeding into my deep sadness. It sounds like the moment everything changes, because without my knowing it at the time, it was. This song felt like the only way to start 2021."
There's an obvious connection between Cat & Calmell and Baby Queen despite their differences, and we thought what better way to celebrate that - and their new music - by getting them to interview one another. The end result - which you can dive into alongside their respective recent tracks below - touches on everything from songwriting to superstitions, and it feels like the perfect introduction into two acts bound to dominate in 2021:
Baby Queen (BQ): Growing up in South Africa, I always felt that I had to move to the USA or the U.K. to do music, but with the power of the internet and social media, I just don’t think that’s the case anymore. What has it been like making music as an Australian based duo?
Cat & Calmell (CC): We also had this idea when we were teenagers that if we weren’t living in LA we wouldn’t be able to be successful artists and we totally agree that that’s just not the case anymore! It’s been great working with local producers who are so so talented and through lockdown we also got to work with heaps of producers overseas, big zoom fans over here.
BQ: If each of you had to pick one song to play on repeat for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Cat: I Know The End - Phoebe Bridgers
Calmell: I Don't Think I Can Do This Again - Mura Masa, Clairo
BQ: How would you describe your writing process as a duo? Do you work together collaboratively or do you each bring different strengths to the table?
CC: We work quite seamlessly together, we decide on a general direction topic wise for the song and go away to figure out some melodies and lines, Calmell might say that I’m better with lyrics but I don’t think she gives herself enough credit, she’s written some of my favourite lines in our songs, I think we make up for whatever the other is lacking on that particular day.
BQ: I saw that the 1975 has been a big influence for you guys, and honestly- SAME. What’s your favourite 1975 album?
C&C: For both of us it’d be A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships for suuuuure, we can still play it on repeat and not get sick of it.
BQ: What are your goals for 2021 and where do you hope to be in a year from now?
CC: One goal would be to play a festival! We love 'em and it would be such an exciting experience to actually get to play one. The EP will be out and hopefully touring will be an option in the next year and we can start getting out there <3
CC: How did your sound evolve to the way that it is now? We think there can be a lot of anxiety and confusion when it comes to finding who you are as an artist and the way that people perceive you, so how did you get to where you are now?
BQ: I think initially when I started making music when I was about 10 or 11, I was just mimicking the sound of the artists I looked up to. There are a lot of phases in my songwriting where I sounded exactly like Taylor or exactly like the 1975. I think that was something that was hard to break out of, but eventually through lived experiences, I was able to develop a world perspective that was entirely my own. When I discovered how effective satire and cynicism could be in lyric writing, I think the sound of Baby Queen really began to take shape.
CC: What recent release are you most excited about and why?
BQ: I keep talking about her in interviews, but there’s an artist called Phoebe Green that I’ve been listening to this year. I’m really excited about what she’s putting out.
CC: Who/What are your style inspos?
BQ: Right now and going into 2021, Cher Horowitz from Clueless is my style icon. The whole film is actually just genius. I’m really into 90s fashion- so Friends, 90210... iconic.
CC: Are there any superstitions or rituals you have going into releasing a song or project?
BQ: I probably listen to a song 1000 times before it comes out! It’s not always possible, but I really love being with my family in London when the songs are released at midnight. That’s how I celebrated the first single!
CC: Who were your top three most influential artists growing up?
BQ: Taylor Swift, Snow Patrol, The 1975
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