Interview with Baby Jey (Sled Island 2024)

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Avery Zingel and Jeremy Witten of Baby Jey at I Love You Coffee Shop on Friday, June 21 2024.

Lead singer and co-writer, Jeremy Witten and fill-in bass player, Avery Zingel, talk on behalf on Baby Jey. It will be Zingel’s first time performing for Baby Jey and the band’s third time performing for Sled Island. The Edmonton-based band highlight their past experiences with Sled Island, their relationship with Calgary and their future hopes for the band. 

Baby Jey performed at Eighty-Eight Brewing Co. on Saturday June 22 at 2:30 p.m.

Special thank you to Take Aim Media for organizing the Sled Island 2024 Interviews, and I Love You Coffee Shop for hosting us.


Catalina Berguno: So thank you so much Baby Jey for agreeing to meet with us and talking with us today. I guess I want to start out first . . . who are you guys and just take a moment to introduce yourself?

Jeremy Witten: For sure. Yeah, thanks for having us. My name is Jeremy. I’m the lead singer in the band Baby Jey and . . . 

Avery Zingel: My name’s Avery Zingel. I’m playing bass with Jeremy.

Catalina Berguno: Awesome.

Jeremy Witten: And we have two other players who are not here right now but they’re playing the show with us tomorrow. Tim Biziaev on drums and Phil Holtby on electric guitar.

Catalina Berguno: Sorry, can you repeat that for a second?

Jeremy Witten: Yeah. Tim Biziaev is on drums. He’s also here with his other band, Lovelet. They played yesterday. 

Catalina Berguno: Oh, ok.

Jeremy Witten: He’s a singer in that band but in Baby Jey he’s playing drums and then Phil Holtby is on electric guitar.

Catalina Berguno: So I kind of wanted to ask about who kind of writes the lyrics in the band? Kind of just want to get information on that?

Jeremy Witten: Yeah, for sure. I write most of the songs. Dean Kheroufi wrote two of the songs on the album. He’s really touring his new record because he has a solo project, so he’s got another gig tomorrow. So that’s why Avery stepped in, is playing bass with us for this show. 

Catalina Berguno: Oh okay, and you both are co-writers in this process. How do you both blend your artistic ideas together to make . . . ?

Jeremy Witten: I feel like the band Baby Jey has been more my artistic vision but Dean has the studio and he’s a really good musician, and he adds . . . like, he produced the record, in a sense. You know, there were things that I contributed in terms of writing arrangements and stuff like that but in terms of, like, the engineering of it, the recording of it, that’s a lot of his contribution. And then he wrote two of the songs. But I think those two that he wrote, they were kind of . . . they don’t really necessarily fit what he’s doing in his solo project. And so, yeah, they were a little more plugged into the idea that I had for Baby Jey and he was like, ‘oh, maybe this would be a good fit. Let’s try this song.’

Catalina Berguno: Okay. And so, anyways I . . . kind of looked at Baby Jey’s website. 

Jeremy Witten: Oh yeah.

Catalina Berguno: Sorry.

Jeremy Witten: I don’t even realize that’s still up there. I guess it is.

Catalina Berguno: This is such a random note, but who designed that website?

Jeremy Witten: I think it was designed by a friend named Maria Birkenshaw. She lives in Montréal. You know, I grew up in the 90s so we remember what websites used to look like (turns to Avery). Have you seen it? 

Avery Zingel: I like old websites. 

Jeremy Witten: Yeah, the Baby Jey website is really bad but kind of deliberately so.

Catalina Berguno: Yeah I saw it and I just burst out laughing.

Jeremy Witten: Yeah, our friend Maria designed that.

Catalina Berguno: Yeah, I did not know that’s what my research would . . .   Okay, yeah . . . and yeah. That was such a random note but I kind of wanted to . . . 

Jeremy Witten: That’s awesome. And it’s

Catalina Berguno: Oooooh. 

Jeremy Witten:

Avery Zingel: It’s like, beautifully cringe.

Jeremy Witten: Yeah. 

Avery Zingel: Thank you for making such an (indecipherable).

Catalina Berguno: I thought it very interesting because I read somewhere that Baby Jey likes to push the boundaries with music and I saw that so reflected right in the website.

Jeremy Witten: Yeah, it might need some updates. Oh yeah, you can play cowboy games.

Avery Zingel: And Bratz games.

Jeremy Witten: And Bratz games.  

Avery Zingel: You had Bratz dolls when you were a kid?

Jeremy Witten: I never had any Bratz dolls, no.

Catalina Berguno: And sorry going back into pushing the boundaries with music. I heard that your latest album that was released last year sounded a little different than maybe the previous album? I guess I wanted to ask how do you decide what kind of sounds you want to incorporate within your music, like what kind of influences play into that?

Jeremy Witten: So the record before . . . so this new record is called Crop Circle, Crop Circles. The record before was called Someday Cowboy and Someday Cowboy had a lot more acoustic instruments on it, acoustic guitar, mandolin, banjo. I would say they’re both like poppy records but one is kind of more just stripped down kind of approach, little more indie. I think, personally, I wanted to do something a bit different but that still felt kind of logically connected to the previous record but I didn’t want to just make the exact same record over again. We still used pedal steel guitar on this new record but it’s mixed in with more drum machines and synthesizers and stuff. So it’s more dancy this time around, more electronic. 

Catalina Berguno: So like, what prompted the desire to kind of do a different sound?

Jeremy Witten: I think it was just prompted by a desire to challenge myself as a songwriter and not try to do the same thing all the time. I’m inspired by artists who like experimenting and do different things. I find it’s boring to just fall into, kind of, you know . . .

Catalina Berguno: Put yourself in one niche?

Jeremy Witten: Yeah, yeah. Just that doesn’t inspire me creatively to just keep doing the same thing over and over.

Catalina Berguno: And I know you come from Edmonton. I was kind of wondering, you performed in Calgary before, I know that.

Jeremy Witten: Yeah, we have, yeah.

Catalina Berguno: For Calgary Folk Music Festival? I hope I’m saying that, right. 

Jeremy Witten: I got into their songwriting contest. I haven’t played the Folk Festival. 

Catalina Berguno: Ah ok.

Jeremy Witten: But I performed at their songwriting contest. 

Catalina Berguno: Yeah and so I kind of wanted to ask what’s your experience been performing Calgary?

Jeremy Witten: We’ve only played Calgary a handful of times. Like we played Sled last year and we got into Sled in 2020 but then it was cancelled because of COVID. So I think technically this is our third time, third Sled. We played the King Eddy before when we were doing a little tour and we played Loophole Coffee Bar which is a really cool spot. I like playing shows in Calgary. I like spending time here. I have cousins and aunts and uncles who live here and lots of friends who live here. So I love having a reason to come down to Calgary.

Catalina Berguno: Yeah, and what kind of things do you like about it? Like, what do you when you come here, like, what do you do?

Jeremy Witten: I go to the museums or art galleries or the library. I went to Contemporary Calgary last time. My day job is, like, I work at a library and I studied history in school. So I’m kind of a nerd that way. So I like going to museums and learning about history and that kind of thing, in Calgary or anywhere. 

Catalina Berguno: Interesting. And you mentioned this gonna be your first time, sorry, second time performing at Sled Island?

Jeremy Witten: Yeah. 

Catalina Berguno: What thoughts do you have about performing the performance you had last year?

Jeremy Witten: Last year we opened for Marlaena Moore in the basement of The Palomino. That was a really fun show. This time around I think we’re playing outdoors? On the patio at Eighty-Eight Brewing. So it’s a little bit . .  I don’t even know, but I don’t think it’s right in the heart of where the other venues are. So it’ll be a different kind of setting. It’ll be cool to be outside. Hopefully the weather’s nice. Probably wear a t-shirt. 

Avery Zingel: I’ll be sweating bullets, man.

Jeremy Witten: Yeah.

Avery Zingel: I can’t handle the . .  like, I mean, coming all the way from up north the last, like, eight or so years? And coming down here, I find it kind of tropical? How do you all survive this heat? Yeah, honestly, I feel like I could be on a lawn chair, like, with my flip flops on. I don’t like flip flops though, but you know.

Catalina Berguno: it’s very interesting how the standards of what is hot and what is cold changes depending where you’re at because I come from a hot climate, so it’s like, Canada is like cold, cold for them.

Avery Zingel: Are you Oilers fan?

Jeremy Witten: No, but I’m gonna watch the Oilers tonight. 

Avery Zingel: I think it will be fun to be in Calgary during the playoffs.

Jeremy Witten: Yeah, yeah. 

Avery Zingel: Kind of wild. Like, we’re here to play music but . . . 

Jeremy Witten: But I’ve seen quite a few people in Oilers jerseys walking around in Calgary.

Catalina Berguno: So you’re all staying here for the whole Sled Island show? 

Jeremy Witten: Yeah. Well, we got in yesterday. We saw some cool shows last night and I think we’re gonna stay right till the end on Sunday night. 

Catalina Berguno: Ah, okay.

Jeremy Witten: Drive home on Monday.

Catalina Berguno: Are you going to see any particular performances? 

Jeremy Witten: I want to see Juana Molina tonight. 

Catalina Berguno: She’s performing tonight?

Jeremy Witten: Yeah.

Catalina Berguno: I’m pretty sure, wait. I’m pretty sure she’s performing Sunday again too, right? 

Jeremy Witten: Oh, is she?

Catalina Berguno: I think so. I don’t wanna spread misinformation.

Jeremy Witten: Pretty sure she’s playing tonight. 

Catalina Berguno: Yeah.

Jeremy Witten: Legion, I think. 

Jeremy Witten: Yeah, I’ve been a fan for a long time. 

Catalina Berguno: Yeah? Ok. And I guess that prompts me to my next question, which is what are the future plans of Baby Jey besides performing at Sled Island, what are the plans after this? 

Jeremy Witten: We have some shows coming up in Edmonton and then we have a remix record in the works of the last one. Got a bunch of friends to make remixes. We’re just waiting for a couple more and then we’ll put it out. It’s gonna be a low key thing. We might make, like, 100 cassettes, or something like that. 

Catalina Berguno: Oh okay.

Avery Zingel: I saw some cassettes in your cooler. 

Jeremy Witten: Yeah.

Avery Zingel: I went to go look for, like, an apple this morning, or like an orange. And I open it up, and I see, like, he must have thrown out the stuff in your fridge, and then I just see the Baby Jey tapes like in the cooler so get the tapes while they’re cool. 

Jeremy Witten: Yeah.

Catalina Berguno: I guess, sorry for people who may not know how long . . . like this will be the first time you’ll be with . . . for how long you’ve been with Baby Jey?

Avery Zingel: Yeah, I’m actually just playing during this weekend for the first time but we’ve wanted to play music together for a while and . . . 

Jeremy Witten: It’s the start of something beautiful. 

Avery Zingel: Yeah, I’ve always . . . like, living up north, there’s a lot of really amazing musicians, like in the Arctic, and I’ve also wanted to play with people like Jeremy and you know, be creative and I think we’re definitely aligned on the weirdo music thing. It’s fun to make music that tricks your ears or kind of makes your brain like, ‘whoa, what was that?’ So I’m excited to get creative with him. 

Jeremy Witten: We share political values. 

Avery Zingel: Yeah, it helps we’re politically aligned. We’re not reaching across the stage to (indecipherable).

Catalina Berguno: I feel like there’s an inside joke there.

Jeremy Witten: We’ve just been ranting to each other right about how the world’s falling apart all weekend.

Avery Zingel: But, like, also how it could be way better and we could make it way better if we take care of each other and our communities, honestly.

Catalina Berguno: Well that’s so interesting to know. I’m glad that you’re joining Baby Jey? Being part of Baby Jey? Whatever the experience is, I hope you like it. 

Avery Zingel: It’s fun to play music with your friends. I noticed Edmonton has a lot of people who are, like, homies and playing together and it’s really sweet and beautiful and I hope it’ll be the start of some really good things. So yeah, thanks. Good playing with you man.

Jeremy Witten: Of course. 

Catalina Berguno: Okay, awesome. 

Jeremy Witten: We’re going to rehearse after this. 

Catalina Berguno: You’re going to what?

Jeremy Witten: Rehearse.

Avery Zingel: Yeah, we are.

Jeremy Witten: We practice every day.

Catalina Berguno: That’s awesome. So before we wrap up I wanted to ask if there’s anything you’d like to add or anything you want to talk about in this interview?

Jeremy Witten: The one other thing is when you ask future things that are in the works, I want to make an album that’s even bigger than, you know, the standard four piece band that we play with where it will just be recorded, like, live off the floor and it will just be a show in front of a small audience with, like, you know, like a 10 or 12 person band. It’ll kind of be like the Baby Jey big band with, like, all my friends and different people who play different instruments and backing vocalists and stuff. That’s a bit of a dream that I have.

Avery Zingel: And, like, how many instruments would you switch off? Like, you know, like . . .

Jeremy Witten: I’m not even gonna play any instruments. I’ll just sing. I’ll get everybody else to play.

Catalina Berguno: I support that. We’ll see how that goes. 

Jeremy Witten: Yeah, yeah, someday. Maybe next year.

Catalina Berguno: Okay. Well, thank you, Baby Jey for sitting down with CJSW. I really appreciate it. I wish you guys a great show.

Jeremy Witten: Thank you so much. Yeah, thanks for having us. 

Avery Zingel: Thank you.