The video for "Bad Baby," the propulsive title track and first single off of North Texas musician Sarah Jaffe is an audio-visual scrapbook of what Jaffe describes as the album’s connective tissue: collaboration. L.A.-based photographer Lindsey Byrnes shot the photos of Jaffe in New York and art director John Lisle, a UNT graduate who now resides in Brooklyn, designed and animated the imagery.
“His work is very textural, which I love,” Jaffe says of Lisle, a longtime friend whom she met when they both lived in Denton. “It has a very sexual, playful, interesting vibe.”
Jaffe's fourth full-length is out on July 7 via Kirtland Records, “I feel with each record, with each show, with each tour, either my skin gets thicker, or I just feel more confident as a person, as a woman,” Jaffe says. “And because I feel my most confident, I feel like the truest form of my artistic self in the studio. That’s my favorite part. I’m not afraid to try things.”
Jaffe recorded Bad Baby over about two weeks last October, with producer Matt Pence, co-producer Scott Solter and her bandmates at the Echo Lab outside of Denton. She says she arrived with “15 or 16 songs” already written and demoed, and ultimately emerged with a 13-track record, her first full-length since 2014’s Don’t Disconnect.
“There was a house next door that we rented, so we’d wake up every morning and literally walk 200 feet to the studio,” Jaffe says. “I’ve never had that experience before.”
Jaffe also brought in Fiona Brice, with whom she’d previously worked on The Body Wins, to compose the string parts, plus an octet to play on four of the tracks. “I think I was riffing off of the past year, and the past two prior to making this record, with collaboration,” Jaffe says. “I’ve figured out that I really work well when I'm collaborating, and when I'm thinking in a collaborative effort.”
Though Bad Baby is sonically akin to Don’t Disconnect, Jaffe says that the songwriting process was different “right off the bat.” She describes the approach to the former as building a shell with producer McKenzie Smith, and then inserting the filling with other musicians as they went along.
“But with this record, we went in from start to finish with my bandmates,” Jaffe says. “Some artists work better by themselves; but once I’m done writing a song, I really love the sharing aspect, and I love the transformation.”
Jaffe, who began her career at 22, says she’s transformed personally as well, and for the better. “No one wants to hear that they’re textbook,” she says. “But especially when you’re nearing the end of your twenties, you realize that everyone is a little textbook when it comes to certain things; and for me, it was getting the fuck out of my twenties. I’m enjoying making music in my thirties. I feel better, and I hope that continues.”
With age also comes appreciation for songs that she didn’t attach much meaning to when she was younger. “‘Clementine,’ for example, which has kept me alive for the past five years, is a song that I wrote literally in 10 minutes, in passing,” Jaffe says. “Didn't think twice about it. But when other people view it with such emphasis, you start to view it differently. You start to apply it to your personal situations.”
"There was a weird phase where I was totally resentful of the fact that people enjoyed it," she continues. "But as the phrase goes, ‘Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.’ So I’ve embraced it. It’s like when someone says, ‘That’s a really cute outfit,’ and you’re like, ‘Really?’ And you start to wear it more."
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With its fizzy, summery sound and more complicated lyrical underpinning, “Bad Baby” is the embodiment of the duality that Jaffe's known for. You’re having a bad night, but you go out and wear a sparkly jacket anyway.
“On the surface, you might not think they go together,” Jaffe says. “But actually, they work perfectly for each other.”