Made Out Of Babies: Interview With Julie Xmas And Brendan Tobin

Made Out Of BabiesThere’s a feeling of surprise listening to The Ruiner, Brooklyn’s Made Out Of Babies’ third release. They’re not doing anything shockingly different, but rather it’s how they’re doing it. Casually put any track on and it’s easy to ask yourself, “Where did this band come from?”

Of course, there’s nothing casual about this experimental metal four-piece that prizes unease above almost any other emotion. But instead of the what-now-sounds-almost-punky sophomore release, Coward, and their debut, Trophy, The Ruiner is the product of an orchestra.

Well, not really. It’s still three guys, Brendan Tobin, Matthew Egan and Cooper hashing out arrangements and singer Julie Christmas howling above the din, yet this time around, they had an excess of time and their own space. It didn’t distract the band, rather, it allowed them to refine and expand their sound beyond their dreams.

I think my first thought is that you seem to have had a lot more time for this record.

Julie: What do you mean? We had four months? The last one we had what, two weeks?

Brendan: Yeah.

Julie: So we’ve been kind of joking that next time we’ll spend like six months, and then it’ll be a masterpiece. Yeah, definitely the time that we took with it made a difference.

The other thing I would say is having your own studio space. Was it just good luck that you found a place that had a basement that you could turn into a studio?

Brendan: Yeah, it was. This dude that I had seen around the neighborhood and knew he had a place that was technically a studio. I looked at it once really quick, but imagined that it was a lot nicer than it actually was. I ran into him one day and I was like, ‘Hey what are you doing?’ and he says, ‘I’m trying to find someone to take over this spot because I’m moving.’ I was instantly like, ‘Uh, I’ll take it.’ It actually worked out that we went on tour and our last show of the tour was at Southpaw which is directly, literally, 50 feet away from my new place, so we played our last show and loaded out of Southpaw our equipment right into the basement.


Brendan: (laughs) Yeah, then I moved out that morning and moved in the next day. But you know, it wasn’t really set up really well, the guy was like this dirty hippie, and I spent the first week getting a shop-vac full of spider webs. We totally lucked into the space, but once we started writing I kept being like, ‘Well, this isn’t good enough, we should have a control room. We should be able to do this, as we’re writing, we should be able to record this and this and this.’ I put in some money and the band put in whatever little funds we had as well. It all worked out really well.

I’m guessing you had a lot more time to demo things and work through the songs.

Brendan: The final recording of the record was actually the third recording of the record. We recorded it and demoed it as we wrote it and after we had it kind of worked out we re-recorded it all down here, like a practice run kind of, and then we did it for real with Andrew [Schneider]. And then we did most of it as his studio but all the guitars and one or two of the vocals we did here as well.

Why Andrew?

Julie: I had worked with him very briefly, and we had all been familiar with some of his recordings that he’d done. He had started to creep into the bands that we know of and bands whose music that we like and recordings that we like. First of all, Andrew’s amazing and he did a great job and he’s really fantastic and he puts a lot of effort into every single thing he does. He definitely goes above and beyond, but he is also really close to us, so that helped too. While we were recording, we knew we could go back to the studio, or we could work on stuff independently that Brendan could record and bring in. Andrew we just worked with him briefly on one compilation, and he did such an amazing job and he’s a very cool guy so we just really liked working with him and also liked his work ethic and what we knew he would expect from us.

Coming from an experience where we worked with Joel Hamilton and Steve Albini, working with Andrew was an interesting new experience, because Andrew expects a fantastic performance, and then will then work with the sound you want, but you must be getting across on your own what you want to have happen on the album. It was the ProTools approach to live recording, or something like that. He did it almost to a painful extent at some points, but he really is a stickler for getting the sound that the band wants. And he brings everything out for you.

Brendan: I would be done and fine with things far before he would be (laughs). I’d say, ‘That’s good, that’s fine.’ He’d be like, ‘No, no.’ (laughs).

Julie: Yeah, and he would be like, ‘You guys should all just leave because I’m going to be working on fixing this tiny hum behind whatever on the recording until 4 a.m.’ Stuff like that. He really got into it.

That’s the kind of guy you want in your corner.

Julie: Totally.

Which is completely different from working with Steve Albini?

Julie: We had heard a lot about how Steve Albini did not throw in any suggestions or was strictly a recorder, I think he was, at least after the initial encounter, he offered plenty of suggestions, or at least gave us two choices to choose from.

Brendan: It kind of started like, I would be tracking a guitar part, and I’d be done and finish, and he’d be like, ‘So how was that for you?’ ‘Pretty good.’ ‘Alright, well let’s listen.’ He’d play it back, and say, ‘How was that?’ ‘I think that was good.’ ‘Well, let’s listen again.’ (laughs) I was like, ‘Dude if you want me to do it again, just say “Do it again!”’ He started loosening up to that, and the second day I think, I just said, ‘We came here for you, so we want your suggestions.’

Julie: Also, once we started rolling out the mustache jokes, he kind of loosened up. But no matter what it wasn’t the same as it was with Andrew. For me working with Andrew was better, but just because I need different things.