Freda Love Smith

Freda Love Smith is a lecturer and advisor in the School of Communication at Northwestern University. She is a rock drummer and co-founder of the Blake Babies, Antenna, Some Girls, and the Mysteries of Life, is a staff writer for Paste Magazine, and has published short stories in journals such as the North American ReviewSmokeLong, Bound Off and Riptide. Her first book, Red Velvet Underground: A Rock Memoir, with Recipes, was published on November 1, 2015 by Agate/Midway.

(Photo Credit: Rebecca Dudley)

Bio

Blake Babies was an indie rock band formed in 1986 in Boston, Massachusetts. The three primary members were John Strohm, Freda Love (born Freda Boner), and Juliana Hatfield, with Evan Dando, Andrew Mayer, Seth White, and Mike Leahy each also performing as members of the band at various times during its history. The name "Blake Babies" was provided by the poet Allen Ginsberg; following a reading at Harvard University, the group (which had just begun to play together) raised their hands and asked him to name their band. Ginsberg's suggestion was likely inspired by the first half of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience. The name proved quite apt in regard to what was perhaps the group's most distinctive aspect: the juxtaposition of Hatfield's pure, somewhat thin and childlike (yet forceful) vocal quality with often surprisingly acerbic lyrics. Musically, the Blake Babies' songs are highly melodic, with instruments supporting rather than covering vocals; in this way, their music falls somewhere between pop and rock and could be described as "power pop". Songs are generally upbeat and the group's work features both female (Hatfield) and male (Strohm) vocals, often together in harmony or in octaves. Strohm's intricate guitar picking style and preference for a "clean" (as opposed to distorted) guitar tone owes much to R.E.M.'s Peter Buck, although Neil Young and punk rock are other important influences. Close listening shows that Hatfield's bass playing is particularly expressive, using octaves and sliding tones to create melodies as well as anchoring bass lines. Songs are carefully constructed, with sophisticated harmonic and dynamic shifts showing the results of the band members' training at the Berklee School of Music. The Blake Babies toured the United States and Europe, eventually achieving a moderate amount of notice, particularly among listeners of college age who were appreciative of the group's "intelligent" brand of rock music. The band's music (released on the independent North Carolina-based record label Mammoth Records) received little airplay on commercial radio, instead being played primarily on college radio stations. The group formally disbanded in 1991 but reunited briefly in late 1999, performing a few shows in 1999 and 2000 and embarking on one last U.S. tour in 2001. Following the band's breakup, Hatfield went on to fame as a solo artist, and Strohm and Love continued to perform together in the Indiana-based group Antenna. Hatfield and Love have since worked together in the band Some Girls along with fellow musician Heidi Gluck. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply.

Talks

Freda Love Smith on the Danger of Blood and Chocolate — the Elvis Costello Album and the Drink

By Freda Love Smith | February 13, 2017

Freda Love Smith on the Danger of Blood and Chocolate — the Elvis Costello Album and the Drink

The musician/chef offers up a dark, spiky recipe for Valentine’s Day for those sick of glitter glue and doilies.

Freda Love Smith (the Blake Babies) Plans to March for ‘I Am Women’ Everywhere

By Freda Love Smith | January 20, 2017

Freda Love Smith (the Blake Babies) Plans to March for ‘I Am Women’ Everywhere

The drummer/chef will be in Washington, DC, with provisions for the masses.

How Robbie Fulks Helped Me Find Heterotopia

By Freda Love Smith | April 1, 2016

How Robbie Fulks Helped Me Find Heterotopia

Freda Love Smith talks Fulks’ Upland Stories and how it wrapped around her life.

How Is a Song Like a Time Machine?

By Freda Love Smith | March 11, 2016

How Is a Song Like a Time Machine?

Freda Love Smith exclusively premieres an early Blake Babies demo — and more than a few ’88 memories.

Freda Love Smith (Blake Babies, Antenna) Talks Eating on Tour

By Freda Love Smith | January 30, 2016

Freda Love Smith (Blake Babies, Antenna) Talks Eating on Tour

Musicians don’t care about your kegs of beer. What they’d like is a good meal.

An Excerpt from the Memoir and Cookbook Red Velvet Underground by Freda Love Smith (the Blake Babies, Antenna)

By Freda Love Smith | October 3, 2015

An Excerpt from the Memoir and Cookbook Red Velvet Underground by Freda Love Smith (the Blake Babies, Antenna)

In an excerpt from her forthcoming memoir, Red Velvet Underground, the author recalls indie touring in the late '80s. Bonus: a pie recipe!