She Pop

Lava Baby’s Lips Are Not Sealed

Out of necessity or nostalgia, Lava Baby have become the best thing they could be—a radio playlist come to life. Eighties bands that you can hear Saturday nights on WPLJ—Survivor, Bangles, Scorpions—show up in their set. They take up the dead air between songs by doing live samples—a spoken-word recital of Foreigner's "Hot Blooded," for instance, or breathing life into the odd forgotten C&C Music Factory hit. Any other band covering this music might attach a genre to it, but with the Lava Babies, it's just obvious they flat out love rocking like a hurricane. Robyn, Miss Brown, and Jen, Robyn's sister who used to play bass, grew up together in the Rome of the High Eighties, suburban New Jersey. Jen now and then still gets up and sings, but she basically quit the band when she got married, to be a teacher and "worry about her mortgage," as Robyn puts it. They've replaced her with a keyboard-playing cutie with a predilection for pigtails, also named Jen. But the core of the band, Miss Brown and Robyn, has always rocked at heart (and to Heart). In high school they were kind of bad girls who drove around, got drunk, and cut class, like the heroines of a John Hughes movie. They took '80s music seriously then, and they still identify more with the Go-Go's and Blondie and early Madonna they grew up on than with today's grrrl progeny. To Lava Baby, girls back then wanted to have fun more than they do now. "I went to see Mazzy Star," Robyn says. "Someone talks in the middle of the first song, and she's like, 'I'm out of here.' And Cat Power—what's the deal there?"

The Power of Lava is a Curious Thing: The New Jen, Miss Brown, and Robyn.
photo: Dennis Kleinman
The Power of Lava is a Curious Thing: The New Jen, Miss Brown, and Robyn.

There's little danger of Lava Baby pulling a Chan Marshall. They're like a really good prom band; they show up on time, and they don't sing about Cassavetes. They don't really have a niche right now, and they may never be signed because of it. But if there's a contradiction inherent in being an unsigned commercial pop band, Lava Baby are choosing to ignore it. They're backstage slathering on glitter for their next show.

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