HLN meets the musician: Badmind
We met the pop/R&B duo for a pint to chat serendipitous starts, stripping down sounds and why Sting will always hold a special place in their hearts
Last year, musical duo Badmind speculatively released their first single out into a world ravaged by a global pandemic. Just over a month ago, they represented the North East at Radio 1’s Big Weekend.
Speedy, huh? Not that we’re surprised. The Geordie dream team – made up of singer/songwriter Dayna Leadbitter and producer/drummer Jaimie Johnson – have a knack for hit-making. After all, you don’t rack up more than 230,000+ streams and get added to Spotify’s New Music Friday playlist for nothing, do you? Oh, and we should probably mention that all their songs are written and produced completely independently. We don’t know about you, but to us that’s hella impressive.
Having released their latest single, Flaws & Phases, last month – which, in their own words, marks a change in musical direction for the band – and armed with tons of new material ready to release at the drop of a hat, it seems Badmind aren’t even considering hitting the pause button any time soon. And looking at all they’ve already achieved in 12 months, who can blame them?
We caught up with Dayna and Jaimie for a pint at By The River Brew Co. to chat about everything from musical memories and influences to ultimate career ambitions; why they love having nowhere to hide in their music right now, Jaimie’s musical journey from M People to Nirvana, and why you’ll never catch Dayna on the mic at Cosy Joe’s…
How did Badmind start out?
Dayna: Before I met Jaimie, I’d never written a song or anything. I was only about 17. I was singing, but I had no experience of being in a band. Whereas Jaimie had loads of band experience.
Jaimie: I grew up playing drums, but I wasn’t playing in bands until I was about 16.
The first few bands I was in played really heavy, almost grunge music. Nothing like what we do now! Then I got obsessed with Black Eyed Peas and loved the sound of autotuned vocals, so I ended up playing around with that side of things myself. It was an experiment that went too far! The drummer of the band I was in at the time was a real go-getter and he’d booked us on to do a long line of gigs. One of them was a competition at Riverside. I didn’t really want to do it to be honest, but I went along anyway and Dayna was playing it too.
Dayna: I didn’t want to do the competition either! It was my friend Kirsty who said to me, ‘you need to sign up for this’. But yeah, I’m pleased I did now!
Jaimie: I actually missed Dayna’s performance that day, but I got told she was really good and I’d always wanted to work with a female singer, so I got in touch and we just started talking. I was losing interest in the band I was in anyway and it all went from there. We just got lucky, I guess.
For those who haven’t heard your music yet, how would you describe your sound?
Dayna: Lo-fi/pop/R&B. It’s great, because when we write, there are elements of loads of different styles of music in there, even if it’s very subtle.
Jaimie: And even though we’re creating commercial pop/R&B, it’s important to us that we still have that authenticity, which is why we always record using live instruments. There are only the two of us, but we want Badmind to sound like a full band, so we brought in Stu [Davies] and Jimmy [Brown], who are both ridiculous musicians. It’s great to have that kind of help.
Who would you say are some of your biggest musical influences?
Dayna: I love Lauryn Hill, Kehlani, Jhene Aiko and The Weeknd. Their song writing is just great. They’re basically who I listen to every single day!
Jaimie: I feel like I go through different phases. When I was young, I was the weird one in school because I was listening to M People and The Outfield and Talking Heads! I’ve always loved Sting and The Police. Then I got really into Green Day, Blink 182, System Of A Down and Nirvana. But I love all music. Working with Stu and Jimmy has exposed us to music we haven’t heard before too, which is great.
You’ve created, released and promoted all of your music independently so far – what are the challenges and benefits of working that way?
Jaimie: Good pop is so hard to write!
Dayna: Which surprises a lot of people!
Jaimie: Pop’s a mindset. As a musician, you really want to do experimental stuff, but you have to reel yourself back and think: this has to sound good to everyone. Just listen to Max Martin and the way he approaches stuff. Everyone knows his songs – from Britney Spears’ …Baby One More Time to Can’t Feel My Face by The Weeknd and everything in between. Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off. He’s the greatest producer ever.
Dayna: When you’re an independent artist, you have to think about everything, not just music. We spend a lot of time consciously thinking about things like branding.
Jaimie: Take the singles we released in 2020, for example. We didn’t have a specific brand back then, so we wanted to theme the releases around the seven colours of the rainbow. It looks really cool on Spotify!
Dayna: And now that we’ve released Flaws & Phases, which is our first single after those seven from last year, we’re looking even more into our branding and how we want to come across visually.
You’ve described your latest single – Flaws & Phases – as the first song of a new approach to music for you. In what way?
Dayna: Compared to what we released last year, it’s very stripped back. Last year the production was just ridiculous. So we’ve taken it all back and it’s a lot different rhythmically. It’s just a totally different vibe, while still being able to connect with our previous songs.
Jaimie: Songs can hide behind production. You hear it all the time – you stop and think: I don’t actually know if that’s a good song, but the beat’s mint! But with Flaws & Phases, there’s nowhere to hide. The challenge that brings is to still make it commercial.
Dayna: Flaws & Phases was one of about 20 songs that we wrote in a month. We did a really intense writing course for four weeks, Monday to Friday. So we’ve got loads of tunes we want to get out.
Jaimie: You’ve got to keep evolving. That’s why I really like The 1975 – every song they release is a little different.
You only started releasing music at the beginning of 2020, and this year you’ve performed at Radio 1’s Big Weekend. Has it surprised you how much success you’ve had so far?
Dayna: To be honest, we’re in it but we’re also totally out of it! I don’t think we really see it all from that side of things. We just carry on doing what we’re doing. Whenever we’re about to release music, we’re just thinking: we hope people like it!
Which do you prefer: writing in the studio or performing live?
Jaimie: We’re not really studio musicians.
Dayna: The studio is our ‘work’. When we’re allowed to gig again, that’s our ‘play’.
Jaimie: Playing live is the bit we love. I can’t wait for us to get back out there. We’ve come such a long way since we were last playing live – we’ve brought Stu and Jimmy in, for one, which has really helped us elevate our sound.
You’re waiting until all restrictions lift before confirming any live shows, is that right?
Dayna: Yeah, we did a couple of performances last year but it’s so weird playing gigs where the people in the crowd have to sit down! It totally changes the atmosphere. So it’ll be class to get back out there as soon as restrictions fully lift to do a ‘proper’ gig.
How would you describe the North East’s music scene?
Dayna: It’s come on a lot recently. A few years ago, we didn’t really feel like we fit in up here as an urban act, because all the artists here were indie. But now a lot of the local artists coming through are really wanting to do things properly. They’re putting as much into their music as we are, which is amazing.
Jaimie: The reason we’ve produced our music independently so far is because we’ve had to. Four or five years ago, none of the venues up here would put us on the bill because the scene was so focused on indie acts. So we had to really think outside the box. We ended up approaching venues ourselves and were paying them to play there, then put our own tickets on. That mentality has just carried on.
What are your earliest memories of music?
Jaimie: I was about five and I went to Whitley Bay Ice Rink to see Sting with my Dad. There’s a home movie of me after that gig hitting loads of boxes (pretending I was playing the drums) and singing Walking On The Moon!
Dayna: Mine’s my Dad. My Dad plays guitar and sings, so from when I was about two he was like: Dayna, sing this!
Did you always know you had an amazing voice? Or did your Dad know?!
Dayna: I think he did, but he was never pushy with it. For a long time growing up, I was only singing because I loved it. Then I really wanted to go into musical theatre, that’s what I always thought I was going to end up doing. It wasn’t until I met Jaimie that that started to change!
Jaimie: I can never understand how you ever thought you were going to do musical theatre, because you’re so shy! If we’re on a night out and someone’s like, ‘get up and sing Dayna’, she won’t!
Dayna: You just can’t be a singer and go out and do karaoke!
What’s your ultimate career goal?
Dayna: I think it’s being able to do music full-time, without having to worry about anything else.
Jaimie: To get a call saying I need to book a flight over to the UK from my little beach house in Greece! I really want to live in Greece. I got married there and I just love the country.
Where’s your dream gig?
Jaimie: Utilita Arena in Newcastle.
Dayna: Yeah, same for me!
Who was your first gig?
Dayna: S Club Juniors!
Who would you most like to duet with?
Dayna: Nicki Minaj.
Jaimie: I would love to do a song with The Weeknd.
What album could you listen to on repeat forever?
Dayna: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
Jaimie: Zenyatta Mondatta by The Police.
Another local artist we should really look out for?
Dayna: Sourboy. He’s really good.
Jaimie: He’s never done anything live yet, but he’s amazing.
A song you’d love to record a cover of?
Jaimie: Something by UB40.
Dayna: Yes! Kingston Town or Red, Red Wine.