Jun 08, 2021
By Caleb Campbell
Photography by Jessica Chappe
Vermont outfit Babehoven is the nomadic project of singer/songwriter Maya Bon. Since 2017, while moving between Portland, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and, most recently, Arlington, Vermont, Bon has been chronicling her innermost world with spiraling, diaristic DIY creations. Most recently, Babehoven shared their latest EPs, 2020’s Demonstrating Visible Difference of Height and 2021’s Yellow Has a Pretty Good Reputation. Clearly, the pandemic has offered no shortage of inspiration for Bon as she’s back again in July with another EP, Nastavi, Calliope.
Described as following “a cascade of losses,” Nastavi, Calliope, is a poignant reflection and outpouring of grief, heartbreak, and innermost memories. Inspired by Bon’s experience reconnecting with her father in Croatia, immersing herself in her culture and language, and the passing of her dog, Calliope, Bon and collaborator Ryan Albert took to their home studio and recorded the EP in COVID isolation. The pair have already released “Bad Week,” the debut single from the record, and now are back with the following single, “A Star.”
Taking cues from fragile indie folk, slowcore, and bedroom lo-fi, “A Star” stuns with densely layered instrumentation and somber vocals. Distant synthetic percussion falls to the background while Bon’s volatile vocals and droning sparse guitar chords take the lead. Bon’s lyricism is cutting and captivating, tracing instantly relatable diaristic confessions—”As I age, I realize I have less patience for you/ Someone came into the shop yesterday/ Had a smile like yours and I wanted to cry/ And tell him to get the fuck out.” Full of stark instrumentals, brooding lyricism, and detailed DIY production, “A Star” is an electrifying demonstration of Babehoven’s meticulously crafted bedroom rock.
Check out the song below and read Under the Radar’s exclusive Q&A with Maya Bon here.
This new EP pretty quickly follows your previous March EP, Yellow Has A Pretty Good Reputation. How did the two differ creatively?
Yellow has a Pretty Good Reputation and Nastavi, Calliope took very different creative paths as EP’s; Yellow was mostly an effort to encapsulate my experience of dissociation whereas Nastavi, Calliope was an exploration of loss, change, and the mundanity of the human condition. Yellow was intended to subvert the way my voice is portrayed and heard as an insight into the feeling of being separate from self, shifting form to a new identity. Though these EP’s came out fairly close to one another, they do not relate in many direct ways.
You describe Nastavi, Calliope as following a “cascade of losses.” Do you mind going into some of the experiences behind the EP?
There are lots of losses that I was processing during the creation of this EP. We were all collectively grieving our “normal” lives during quarantine, experiencing entirely new ways of living and adjusting to many sudden identity shifts collectively and privately. This EP certainly came out of a feeling of confusion and finding solace in musical exploration. I have also been processing pivotal familial losses that have solidified and sharpened over the past five years. Without getting into too much detail, a lot of these losses have left me feeling hopeless, but I’ve found that music can be a way for me to move forward with my thoughts and feelings.
Was writing Nastavi, Calliope therapeutic in some respects?
Yes. I find writing and sharing to be healing.
With the EP coming together during COVID, how do you feel that the pandemic influenced the record?
We had lots of time on our hands and lots of new ideas. We were living in near-complete isolation for much of the pandemic in Southern Vermont. We had a sweet apartment right along a river where we were able to record this EP, devoting all of our thought and attention to its creation.
You’ve said you landed on “Nastavi” or “keep going” as a reminder and internal compass. What are the things that have kept you going lately?
This EP was a way for me to “keep going” during quarantine. I was also hired at a bookstore eight months into the quarantine which was a huge motivator to “keep going” as it allowed me to get out of the house, make lots of new friends, and be surrounded by books most days. I’ve also been reading a lot, cooking lots of good food, hiking, studying Croatian with an online tutor; all of these focuses keep me moving forward in my life.
What inspired you to name the record after your dog Calliope?
Calliope seemed immortal in so many ways, not connected to normal biotic behaviors. I used to spend hours whispering to her as a kid, “Calliope, I know you’re an alien! Please talk and tell me who sent you and what you’re doing here. I won’t tell anyone!” and yet, she never broke. She used to stand and lean against the wall and stare blankly ahead of her for hours until someone would walk past and pet her, asking if she was alright. She loved to play dress up and particularly loved having a bathing suit on and goggles on her head and going to sit in the jacuzzi with us. I wrote about the loss of Calliope in my life in a few songs on this album and I wanted to pay her an homage for all of the joy and humor she brought into my life.
When I settled on “Nastavi, Calliope,” I got tears in my eyes. Ryan had been helping me brainstorm EP titles and we both knew it was the right fit. I love that by saying “keep going, Calliope,” in a way, I’m pleading with her to live on, to be around, and yet, she’s gone. It can also be perceived as me giving her the green light to travel onto the next dimension, wherever and whatever she may be. In this reading, I am telling Calliope to move forward without fear, that she is held, that I am thinking of her.
The word “calliope” means beautiful voice in Greek. It is also the type of organ that is placed at the center of a merry-go-round to provide that very specific type of music; that’s a calliope. The cyclical movement of the merry-go-round provides another element that I enjoyed including in this EP title; pain is cyclical, experiences are cyclical, and in a way, we are constantly exploring new terrain while carrying our body memories with us that seem to go round and round and round in our heads. Plus, I like the idea that Calliope means these sweet, beautiful sonic things because Calliope had the weirdest, most shrill bark that sounded kind of like a scream.
What influences and experiences did you draw on when writing “A Star”?
“A Star” holds a moment of confusion, in essence; that feeling of seeing someone who distinctly reminds you of someone else, someone deeply ingrained in your heart, and the sting that that fleeting connection can leave behind.
What’s next for Babehoven after this EP?
We’ll be releasing another album this fall. We’ll be releasing some beautiful new merch, starting to play live shows again around the Hudson Valley and in NYC. Hopefully, we’ll be announcing some tours soon, too!