The Stolen Babies’ mythology began back in 1997 when in high school, the Sharones and Persi were part of a 12-member-strong ensemble called the Fratellis. The group’s shows included puppets, costumes, narratives, and a stellar level of musicianship. But when the scheduling and economic realities of maintaining a large group became unmanageable, the Fratellis belonged to history and the group played their final gig in 1999 at the birthday party of Oingo Boingo frontman/film composer, Danny Elfman.
Around 2002, Persi and the Sharone brothers began to form the next thing: a smaller band that would distill the breadth of the Fratellis’ musical worldview, while leaning towards a more rock-based sound without the full horn section and theatrical aspects. They named the new project “Stolen Babies” after a song cycle from the Fratellis’ shows, as an homage to their roots.
Stolen Babies’ debut album, There Be Squabbles Ahead, arrived in 2006, and it seems none of the genres they traipsed through would ever recover. Heavy-metal mazurkas buttressed against funhouse film scores and laudanum-punk rave-ups, while Persi conjured everyone from Edith Piaf to Judy Garland to the shrieking turbines of a Boeing 747. Produced by Dan Rathbun of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Squabbles was technical, but not self absorbed; cartoonish, but not jokey; urgent, but not mindless. They were garnering rave notices for Persi’s scorching schizophrenic vocal prowess and the band’s towering metal-meets-musical theater velocity, powered by the Sharone brothers’ sibling mind-meld intuition. Critics and bloggers were making themselves arthritic trying to bang out an all-encompassing reduction of the Stolen Babies’ raison d’être.
And in a move that’s just as unpredictable as their sound, Stolen Babies celebrated the attention they received with Squabbles in a most unusual way—by disappearing. A dark period with Persi moving away from Los Angeles to Oakland resulted in an unplanned hiatus. And while each member pursued other endeavors (such as Gil playing drums for Dillinger Escape Plan and Rani scoring films) during the interim, their hearts were always entrenched in Stolen Babies.
In September of 2012, Stolen Babies released Naught. Recorded patchwork style from different studios in L.A. and Oakland, this album shows a retooling of the Babies’ vision, influenced by all of their individual experiences during their break while raising the level of the group’s virtuosity. Producer Ulrich Wild gave Naught a greater sense of clarity, allowing many of the subtleties (especially Rani’s genre-hopscotching and Persi’s come-hither-so-I-may-stab-you delivery) to shine like halogen searchlights across a night sky. Crunching hard rock (“Splatter”), foreboding sound-design (“I Woke Up”), anabolic dance rock (“Prankster”), quirky new-wave rock (“Birthday Song”) and bluesy gothic vibes (“Dried Moat”) coexist like the best playlist you’ve never heard. (And in the case of “Mousefood,” it could be all of those genres in 165 seconds.) It’s to Stolen Babies’ credit such advantageous sonic pursuits don’t come off as contrived or clever. The fury, psychosis and musicianship come from the heart—not method acting.
Since the release of Naught, Stolen Babies have thrown themselves into hyper-touring mode, hitting the road with acts such as The Devin Townsend Project, Katatonia, World/Inferno Friendship Society, Lacuna Coil, Coal Chamber, Turisas, Sevendust, and Paradise Lost. They are ready to share their live energy with crowds and are currently working on two music videos and new material.
Download: Stolen Babies