Before Light Moving Time, Babehoven released six EPs over four years, each with a distinct sonic palette yet encompassing a world of complexity. Part of the strange charm of listening to a new project from the Hudson Valley duo was not just following their evolution but seeing the new and beautifully contradictory ways they’d managed to capture that growth at a particular moment in time. Rather than reaching a point of finality with each release, singer-songwriter Maya Bon and musical collaborator Ryan Albert took a fresh-eyed approach while wrestling with the cyclical nature of a lot of the same personal themes. Last year’s Nastavi, Calliope and March’s Sunk EPs both balanced quotidian detail with existential struggle, addressing, among other things, the pain of losing a beloved family dog and trying to communicate with a long-absent father; but they made sense of – and broke from – the heaviness in starkly different ways. Sunk was softer and darker in its blend of slowcore, shoegaze, and country, once again leaving things open.
Even at its bleakest, Bon has always had a way of bringing levity to Babehoven’s music through humour. There’s a self-conscious moment in Light Moving Time, their wonderful debut album out today via Double Double Whammy, that might make you think she’s drained of it: “I am trying to write something funny/ To get a good rating this time/ But I’m not funny.” But whether or not there’s less humour in it, light is all over the record: sunbeams and sunrise, bedroom light and bright, wide-open skies, lightness of heart, a house fire and burning phoenix. It’s there, in subtle yet evocative ways, in Bon’s poignant lyricism and Albert’s warm, organic production, which offers support as much as it feels like a culmination of everything they’ve achieved so far. And it’s there, unequivocally, on ‘I’m on Your Team’, the pair’s most anthemic and genuinely magnificent song to date: “Someone’s going to listen/ Give you back what you’ve given,” Bon sings, “In the cold, you will have a warm home.”
This record deals with a lot of big themes, like loss and time and change, so I thought it was interesting that this was your first pick. How did the mundane take on a new significance against the backdrop of everything that was happening in your life?
Maya Bon: I don’t think it’s necessarily that the mundane took on new significance for me, I think it’s more that I often root my songs in a feeling of small, detailed moments. I use ‘June Phoenix’ as a good example of it, starting with waking up, reaching my hands out in the darkness and wondering if this is real, and focusing on this shirt that has a picture of a person on it that I root myself in and remind myself of this person. These kinds of everyday moments that feel really small but can balance the larger pain and larger, revelatory experience of songwriting, rooting it in the mundanity of life.
Listening to the record, there’s a confusion and a desire for growth happening at the same time, where it’s almost like growth is happening to other people rather than yourself – when you’re at the centre of it and you don’t realize it’s also happening to you.
MB: I think for me, the songs can be a funnel for me to put a lot of the weighty, painful feelings that I’m experiencing into. I don’t know if necessarily that feels true for me, that I’m witnessing other people’s growth, I think it’s through externalising some really heavy feelings I feel like I’m able to listen back and see my growth – and not just see my own growth through the process of it, but I try to push myself forward through my songs.
Can you give an example where you felt that happening?
MB: ‘Often’ is a really good example of that. ‘Often’ a prayer for acceptance for me, like letting go of a certain very painful situation and trying to just hold that as what it is. And when I wrote it, I wasn’t actually in that place. I was really in the pain of it, when I was trying to create a beacon for what it would look like to be like, “This is the way it is, I accept it.” And it’s helped me reach that point, by having something to work towards that I had written it as.
The inspiration comes from the urge to reach that place, even if you’re not there yet.
MB: And it actually really fucked me up. The initial writing of it was really beautiful and exciting and felt very hopeful, and then it kind of sent me into this spiral for a few weeks of really feeling a lot of pain and making a lot of really big decisions for myself. But I’m realizing that it is in that pain and in those big decisions that I ended up where I’m at now. I feel that I’ve reached where I wanted myself to be at when I wrote the song, but through almost forcing myself into it, like: This is it, I have to get there.
Last time we talked, you mentioned you’ve dealt with a lot of loss in your life, and often the kind of loss where things are left unsaid. Having processed loss in your songwriting before, what angle did you approach it from this time? What was the weight you were grappling with?
MB: Pretty similar – family is always that pinnacle for me. But also, ‘Do It Fast’ is an example of deep loss and feeling like, Am I cursed? Is the world trying to like give me a sign that I just shouldn’t keep going? I hit a deer with my car, I was living in Vermont at the time and was feeling really depressed. I just didn’t know what I was doing and felt like there are all these mounting examples of, This isn’t working, life isn’t really working for me right now. Kind of compounding small pains that then reach these large breaking points. Just general family loss, family pain, ‘Philadelphia’’s friend loss. Loss really does seem to be where I turn to music the hardest. But that’s not all of the album. There’s also ‘Marion’, there’s also [‘I’m on Your Team’].
You start by laying it out in the first song, where you sing, “I lost everything I loved.” It’s kind of out there, and then the album can go on a journey. Was it an intentional choice to open with ‘Break the Ice’?
MB: It wasn’t intentional, lyrically, but it was intentional sonically. We really liked the vibe of that song. It just really sucks you into the album.
Winter in Upstate New York
What’s winter like there?
MB: It’s lovely. It’s really cold. The light is very piercing because all the trees lose their leaves and the ground is covered in white snow. It’s an interesting time because it’s darker, you have less light throughout the day, but the quality of light is quite piercing. And the leaves are gone, so light comes into your house and it’s quite warm and bright in the house. It’s a good time for focus, because you can go outside – I love to hike and Ryan likes to hike, we hike all throughout the winter – but it’s not like you can spend time just hanging out by the lake, you have to be moving, it’s cold. So for that reason, you really do turn inward and turn into the house. I love to puzzle, I love to make tea, I love to make cakes. I’m definitely a homebody of sorts, as is Ryan. So, recording for us has become this winter haven, because we have a focus, we have something to put our hearts into. Whereas the first winter I lived on the East Coast, it was really dark and cold and I didn’t feel inspired or excited, and I didn’t have anything I was really working on. I’m from LA, it’s like, there’s no winter. There’s nothing like that. Summer, it’s too hot to go outside on the east side, but that’s a different kind of depression.
What was the timeline like in terms of writing and recording the album?
MB: The recording takes place in the winter; the writing happens kind of sporadically throughout. I don’t actually spend a lot of time writing, I kind of just press record on my voice memos and it comes out. Some artists have a chunk of time that they write, which can help because then there’s a theme. Me, I kind of have to piece together meaning, because I’m writing randomly over months and something will compel me to pick up the guitar and I’ll sing, and then a song comes out. I’m not a super thoughtful like, “I’m gonna take two months out and sit down and write.” Though I’d be curious to see what would happen if I did do that.
Can you share some memories from recording that are also tied to winter?
MB: Ryan works as a farmer, so he has more time in the winter because there’s nothing to farm. There’s something that’s cozy about, Ryan will be recording and I’ll stay in bed –
Ryan Albert: You’ll knit, usually.
MB: Oh yeah, I’ll knit while he records, or I’ll read.
RA: A lot of times what happens is Maya will be knitting or doing some type of craft, and I’m coming up with different potential parts to the song. And Maya will look up and be like, “That’s good, I like that.” And then I’ll be like, “Okay, that’s staying.” And then I’ll work from that.
MB: I’m kinda like a fly on the wall. I feel like I witness Ryan sculpt songs. And sometimes, yeah, I’ll be like, “Cool.”
RA: Which is good for me because I have too much self-doubt. It’s the most helpful for me that Maya is there to be like, “This is good” or “This is what the song is.” If Maya wasn’t there, it would be literally like one of those memes you see where it’s like, “I’ve been working on this EP for like seven years, thinking it’ll be out in spring though.”
There’s that heartbreaking line on ‘Often’: “You are family/ And that means loss to me often.” But if I’m reading the lyrics correctly, the next line – “You are family/ And that’s lost to me often” – is just as meaningful, because it frames the song as almost a reminder to not lose sight of that.
MB: Yes, absolutely.
Why end the album with that reminder?
MB: Well, I feel emotional, just because just because no one’s ever recognized that, that there is a little hopeful – that it is lost to me, that I’m trying, I’m searching for it. For me, the challenging thing about the losses that I’ve gone through is it’s not death – it’s dysfunction. It’s people who hurt each other and disown each other or disappear. And I feel like in a way, it’s been like navigating a battlefield a lot of my life and trying to hold love for all these people that I really care for and would like to know. And this year, post writing this album, has been really big for me because I have been able to make a lot of reconnections, which were some of the bigger pains in my life and deep traumas in my life that have been in stalemates for over a decade.
MB: And that is precisely why I wanted to end the album with something like that, because it’s a prayer for me to accept, “You will go when you go.” Like, “I can’t control other people but what I can control is that you’re family to me, and I want to know you.” The metaphor of – “There’s a way that you are/ In the back the of my car/ I’ve been wanting you too/ With your eyes on the road/ I’m letting it go/ I’m letting you go” – it’s like, I do feel like I’m driving around, I’m carrying these people with me who I love and I want to know and I want to hold and I want them to be in my car. I want to be able to know them. It’s just the frustrating aspect of humans where there’s so much – people grow up with intergenerational trauma and they don’t know how to unlearn the behaviours that they were raised, and they don’t even recognize it as, “I’m causing it.” It’s like, “You can change. We can change.” And pride and ego… It’s beyond frustrating.
MB: But the reason I wanted to end the album with ‘Often’ isn’t just that it’s a great song. It is a great song, but it’s also a beacon for what it looks in dysfunction to say, “I told you I can love you. I can be present with this. And I can also let you go.” All of that can happen at once, because the holding on and trying to control and trying to be like, if I do this thing then they won’t freak out, or if I somehow can manage to get this person to talk to me – it’s all of these chess moves, and it’s really just releasing that. Like, “I release you.” And I think it was that release. As I was saying, I wasn’t even there when I wrote it. It was attempting to make that release that allowed me, I think, to be where I’m at now, which is that I have been able to reconnect with a lot of the people who formerly I wasn’t and their doors were closed. That is what I mean by music being a point of growth in my life. I turn to music to externalize some really heavy things. Which is hard, also, because that’s my public face now, is this very raw, very personal music, that if we met and just you just came to my house and we’re having dinner, you would have no idea –
We wouldn’t necessarily start talking about intergenerational trauma.
MB: Yes. [laughs] But it’s where I go to funnel it. And it’s where I go to grow.
Can you remember the moment when the song was transformed, where you saw the light and hope in it and it wasn’t all just loss?
MB: I think, interestingly, it was the first time, it was the beginning of writing it. It was first couple of weeks that I was almost – I felt high. I felt like, Wow, I can refocus. I can find a way through this mess. And I remember I showed my housemates that night because we recorded the demo, which ended up just being the song because we couldn’t make it any better. And my housemates were crying when they listened to it, and I was just sitting there like, “Isn’t it so good?” And they were like, “Maya, this is really, really sad. And good, but–”
RA: With Marion, it made her think of her grandmother. So, when Marion said that it made her think of her grandmother and not Maya’s experience, to me, that’s then I was like, “ Oh, this is a universal song. This isn’t me latching onto Maya’s feelings.” It’s people having their own feelings and this song helps them access those.
MB: For me, it felt like – this is kind of a gross example, but I recently got a weird reaction to some antibiotics that I was taking and I threw up a lot. As I was throwing up – and I very rarely throw up – I was thinking, I’m gonna feel so much better when this is out of me. There’s an end to this, and it’s through this courage that we’ll get there. That’s the ‘Often’ feeling. It felt like I have to get this out of me, and when I do, I’ll be clear. Like it’s gonna hurt – and it did hurt. The first two weeks I was like, “Lala, I’m so happy this is out of me.” Then, like I said, it really sent me down a painful hole, but it was in that hole that kind of forced my hand to be like, “I need to make some real changes. I really need to try to connect with these people.”
Light and Time
Can you start by explaining what Light Moving Time means to you?
MB: It’s a lyric in the song ‘June Phoenix’: “When the years could mean everything/ Light moving time/ I don’t know how to grow up/ And start wasting mine.” I just was looking through the lyrics and listening to the album and I really liked that phrase, Light Moving Time, because I realized that maybe that’s the most synthesised truth I’ve ever written in song. Light literally does just move time; the sun moves around the Earth, that’s how we mark time just from a basic standpoint. It’s also, we visualise time because we are experiencing something through light, and we are alive because of light. Plants grow because of light. Everything feels like it’s revolving around light. I liked that phrase, because it just came out of me and I was like, “Well, that works.” And Danielle [Norris] had already painted the album art, and I thought, “This works really well with the album art.” But in terms of what it means to me, I think a lot about what perception is, what reality is, what illusion is, and how we experience our life. I think lightness is something I strive towards. I sing about it in ‘Marion’, seeking lightness, seeking this levity, the richness.
We talked about ‘Break the Ice’ and how it starts with this sentiment of “I lost everything I’ve loved,” but it also starts with, “I’m in the light.”
MB: That’s so true, I didn’t even think about that!
RA: It’s as if we planned it.
I know, it’s as if we planned it, but unfortunately we didn’t. [laughs]
‘May Your Kindness Remain’ by Courtney Marie Andrews
MB: She is a next-level good singer. That definitely makes me sing in certain ways because I’m inspired by voice, but her song ‘May Your Kindness Remain’ I think is just a beautiful homage to a person who has struggled in their life. I wanted to write a song holding a similar weight, but less specifically about one person, more about the human condition at large. And I wanted to encapsulate a feeling of hope and love for humanity, for home, for support networks – for myself, really. Again, this is an example of me writing to create something for myself. But I think also in general, I want that for everyone. I want all humans to feel love, to feel support, to feel that, when you need it, home will be there for you. And that concept of home has been very pivotal and painful for me, and I’ve been seeking home. It is a really impactful song for me, but in terms of Courtney Marie Andrews’ influence on it, it’s both sonic, we like the way ‘May Your Kindness Remain’ sounds and we tried to emulate that a little bit in ‘I’m on Your Team’, but also her country lilts, the chorus of the song is definitely is inspired by her. I actively was thinking about her and wanted to write a song her, which is when I wrote ‘I’m on Your Team’.
When did upstate New York start to feel like home?
MB: Well, I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently, because Ryan and I have been talking about how we’re kind of home to each other these days. We’ve lived together now for four years, so we’ve literally created home spaces together. But then there’s the kind of sad answer, which is, it’s not my home still. It feels like home in some way, but my home home still feels like my childhood home. But now if I went to my childhood home, it would be another thing. You know, home is a concept and it changes, but you kind of hold those homes with you. So, there’s home one, and there’s home one a, then there’s home one b. You create different homes, and this is definitely a home for me. When it started to feel that way was when I moved in because I’m with Ryan. He is my home. It’s like, we create home through who’s there. And we live in a home that’s with a bunch of friends, and it’s kind of chaos in here right now because we’re packing for the tour, but it’s really cozy and it’s beautiful. We have a fireplace and there’s these big windows. I grew up kind of similar, really beautiful wood home with big windows, really nice light. I lived in the woods. So things like that make me feel like, “Yeah, this is home.”
‘You May Feel Me Crying’ by Roy Orbison
I read that you inspired by ‘You May Feel Me Crying’ in terms of the production for ‘I’m on Your Team’. How did that reference come up?
MB: It came up organically because Ryan started listening to late ‘80s Roy Orbison music just out of curiosity and was totally floored by this one song – well, really a lot of them, but this one song ‘You May Feel Me Crying’ is just very strange lyrically. It’s like, what is he saying? And because we were obsessed with it, we kept listening to it over and over again and we realized like the production of it is just profoundly weird li. The way it’s mixed is strange and also very ‘80s. It’s kind of a masterpiece in the sense that it’s really bizarre and good. So we mixed the production of ‘You May Feel Me Crying’ with ‘May Your Kindness Remain’ and that’s where ‘I’m on Your Team’ came from. Lyrically, it has nothing to do with ‘You May Feel Me Crying’. [laughs]
Were you surprised with how it ended up sounding as a whole?
MB: I’m always surprised because I’m amazed by what Ryan can do, but I think we had a pretty set goal. We knew what we wanted and it came out exactly as we wanted. We wanted late ‘80s, really watery, snare-tapping and almost sexy energy coming in. And it’s not just ‘You May Feel Me Crying’, a lot of that album we took inspiration from, and his voice also inspires me – The Big O, he was called. He was just a character.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.