NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Duos in music are nothing new.
Think Hall and Oates, Outkast, Simon and Garfunkel, Sonny and Cher and Ashford and Simpson.
But Lion Babe gives a different feel to the concept and for the first-time brings its experimental soul, stylized sound to a stage at the Essence Festival.
Consisting of multi-instrumentalist-producer Lucas Goodman and singer-songwriter Jillian Hervey, who is the daughter of singer and actress Vanessa Williams, Lion Babe performs Friday — the festival’s opening night — inside the Superdome to kick-off a new multi-city U.S. tour.
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Both Goodman and Hervey said they’re “super excited” about the upcoming performance which both hope will be an introduction for those who might not have heard of them.
“People will get to see us just the way we are,” Hervey said. “Our set is never super choreographed. We have a plan, but like to leave room for spontaneity. We like to pair the performance with whatever mood that’s making us feel at that time. It keeps people on their toes and we like to not give everyone the same show.”
Together since 2011, the neo-soul duo from New York has created a funky sound that unites R&B, pop and electronica underneath Hervey’s voice that is reminiscent of singer Erykah Badu.
Hervey, 26, pursued a dance career before hooking up with Goodman, who also goes by the name Astro Raw and began producing beats in his dorm room at Northeastern University. That’s where the pair met in 2011 through a mutual friend at a party.
“His music was playing at the party and I introduced myself to him,” Hervey said. “I stayed in touch with him after that and while I was at the New School in New York for dance, I was looking to score or arrange a piece for an audition and I didn’t know anyone who could do it. So I asked him if he was down and he was.”
Goodman, 27, said they started talking about music and discovered Hervey was also interested in singing. “I was in her kitchen playing a beat and she started singing along with it,” Goodman recalled. “That was how ‘Treat Me Like Fire’ was born. That was the first beginning of us.”
That song, released in 2012, led them to a deal with Interscope and was followed by collaborations with Childish Gambino on “Jump Hi” and Pharrell Williams on “Wonder Woman.” The group’s debut album, “Begin,” was released in February.
Asked how they came up with the group name, Hervey said it was a combination of things that connected them including astrology.
“I’m a Gemini and he’s a Leo. The lion is one of my fairy animals. And I have this mane of curly blonde hair. And babe has multiple meanings. We wanted there to be a certain duality. It’s just the juxtaposition of being strong and vulnerable at the same time, the same as with our music,” she said.
Hervey said she wasn’t influenced at all by her mother’s celebrity when she initially began her musical journey.
“In fact, I tried to avoid her lifestyle at all costs when I was growing up,” she said. “I wanted to be my own person so I dove into dance. I didn’t even tell any of my family when Lucas and I first started. I wanted to show it to them when it was done.”
She said she’s grateful her mother is who she is and has been able to share some of her wisdom with them.
“As I’m growing, I look to her for advice and things to live by to help me navigate this industry,” she said. “But she’s still just my mom who’s being super supportive and in the most ‘mommish’ way like telling me to stay hydrated.”