The debut EP from St. Paul trio Baby Boys , I’m Set came to life over the course of many unruly late-night sessions, a purposely chaotic creative free-for-all. With the EP’s release, bandmates Jake Luppen , Nathan Stocker , and Caleb Hinz hope to inspire others to embrace a similar freedom, and shake off any self-imposed rigidness in their own lives.
“It seems like right now so many people are overly ambitious about trying to reach a particular goal in whatever they’re working on,” says Hinz. “It would be cool if everyone could take away the same feeling we got from making this EP, which is that not everything has to be so serious and profound all the time. You can have fun making things with your friends in a very lighthearted way, and it can still be just as meaningful.”
In self-producing I’m Set , Baby Boys kept their recording equipment running almost constantly, capturing their weirdest and wildest and most ephemeral impulses. “We started out with a mantra of, ‘Let’s say yes to everything, let’s not shoot down any ideas, and let’s move super-fast,’” says Luppen. For the band, that approach gave way to their most charmed and combustive experience yet in a near-lifetime of creating deeply imaginative music. “Everything was grown on the spot, written on the spot, recorded on the spot,” says Stocker. “We never really gave ourselves time to think too much, so the most inspiring part was always sitting in the energy after a song was made and feeling like, ‘What the hell just happened?’”
All throughout the EP-making process, Baby Boys deliberately preserved the energy of that pure spontaneity. “Usually in the studio you’re really careful about editing a song down to keep only the important stuff,” says Luppen. “With these songs we never really took anything away—we decided to keep everything we came up with.” The result is a selection of songs that defy all formal constraint, a gorgeous and glitchy collage of mazy guitar work and freestyled lyrics and brilliantly idiosyncratic rhythms—including, for instance, a beat the band built by stashing a microphone in a guitar case, then kicking the case repeatedly.
Despite the kitchen-sink aesthetic, I’m Set bears an undeniable grace that’s got much to do with each musician’s melodic finesse and nuanced songcraft. Opening with “Kinky Toe”—whose title references a tequila-fueled foot injury suffered by Hinz during an early recording session—the EP begins in soulful harmonies and tumbling guitar riffs, its lyrics reflecting a subtle euphoria. “It’s about my wife and being really happy with what we have together, and not feeling like I need anything more than the relationships that already exist in my life,” Hinz explains.
Baby Boys sustain that joy with the warped reverie of “WannaBe” then shift into the bright and woozy “Beatdown,” capping the latter off with a burst of bouncy gang vocals. On “Kleenex,” I’m Set reaches a dizzying crescendo, unfolding in fuzzy beats and gauzy guitar tones before changing course and taking on a frenzied intensity. “Making that part was one of the most creatively fulfilling moments of my life—it was explosive,” says Hinz. “Every time I hear it I have to blast it, no matter if my ears hurt or not.” I’m Set then closes out with “Parcel,” a starkly adorned track centered on elegantly intertwining guitar parts. “That was a really beautiful moment for me,” notes Stocker. “We were all just playing off each other, and we all got so lost in the song.”
That deep-seated chemistry comes from years of making music together, a loose-knit collaboration that began back in their high school days. (Luppen and Stocker later went on to co-found Hippo Campus, while Hinz fronts Happy Children.) Although Baby Boys marks their first time dedicating themselves to a specific project, the three musicians immediately united in abandoning all inhibition in the creative process. “I think we’ve each developed a lot of habits and tendencies through years of playing in our individual bands, but with this project we were able to collectively break away from that and completely start from scratch,” says Hinz. “There was never any expectation of how things were supposed to go—we were able to wash away everything we knew from how we worked before, and I think that’s what made the whole thing so fulfilling for us.”