CF: Take Berlin came together by chance a few years ago. How did that happen and when did you come to the realization that you had to make music together?
JB: We met backstage at the Baltic Soul Festival in 2011. I was touring with Eli “Paperboy” Reed and Yvonne was singing with Gwen McCrae and Ann Sexton. The funny thing is we are making this soft music as Take Berlin, but actually met while performing in some super loud, killing soul bands. We stayed in touch, it’s just one of those things. As far as making music together, we hung in Berlin for a bit and started writing a little. But my realization came months later in New York. We wrote two songs and just recorded the first demos, which would actually become the final versions of Lionize and Vermona. The vibe worked.
YA: It was coincidence – we met and just started making music. We had a lot of fun writing the first few songs and they came out nice so we just kept on writing more.
CF: Initially you were both based in different cities, Berlin and New York. How did that affect the recording process and how did you overcome the distance factor?
JB: Well, unlike a lot of other groups, we didn’t pass files over the internet or write that way. Our aesthetic was quite organic from the beginning so we actually just wrote and recorded when Yvonne could get to New York and the few times I got to Berlin. She stills travels back and forth constantly, but we still don’t indulge in the laptop based musical exchange. Maybe someday, but not yet.
YA: With the only difference that now I travel to Germany a couple of times a year and come back home to Brooklyn. Before it was the other way round.
CF: Where do you draw inspiration from? Who are some of your favorite musicians and albums past or present?
JB: For albums, Milton Nasciemento’s ‘Clube de Esquina’ is my desert island record (would love to cop the original press on vinyl). The bossa nova/MPB movements from Brazil are my biggest inspiration…Joao Gilberto, Jorge Ben, Caetano Veloso, Elis Regina… this shit hits my turntable when I wake up in the morning. The Joao Gilberto “White Album” is bossa nova at its purest. Countless old soul records…Allen Toussaint’s “Life, love and Faith” is so good. The seminal hip hop records from the early 90’s are often the most recent stuff that I listen to…Midnight Marauders and Blowout Comb still destroy me. Many of my friends (including Yvonne) think I’m crazy cause I have no clue about most modern bands.
YA: – Oh yeah – Jesse can tell you everything about Bossa Nova, but if you play him the bass line of “Seven Nation Army” he just looks at you in amazement (I still don’t know how you can get past this song – even if not liking it – being a full time musician..ha.)
When I was a teenager I mostly listened to a lot of Neo-Soul and Hip Hop like Erykah Badu, Common, SWV but I got more into jazz and those “Old American Singers” from the 30’s – 60’s. I love Julie London and Chet Baker. In the last few years I also discovered a lot of folk music and my favorite most recent artists are probably Feist, Fleet Foxes, Little Dragon, Alice Russell and Dirty Projectors just to name a few. Right now I’m listening to Bob Dylan’s “Nashville Skyline” – that’s one of my favorite records.
CF: What is your favorite thing about living in New York?
JB: Anything you want is at your fingertips I guess. New York affects you in so many ways over time, it beats you down and then lifts you up and so forth. Maybe my favorite part about it is that no place I’ve lived in demands so much of you.
YA: There is so much diversity – you see all kinds of crazy people on the street doing crazy things. It’s like watching one of the most colorful and vivid movies you have seen, like reading a fascinating book. It’s definitely a really tough place to live, but it just makes sense if you wanna push yourself and experience the “new” (inside and out).
CF: Following the release of your debut EP, Lionize, what’s in store for Take Berlin in the near future? Are there plans for any live performances or any other recordings?
We’ve begun booking Europe for September, mostly Germany and Switzerland. This summer we will continue writing for the next EP.