With a string of hits including "Isn't It Time," "Every Time I Think of You" and "Back On My Feet Again," the Babys' brand of classic rock/power pop played a huge part in the musical transition of the late Seventies.
Following their breakup in 1981, members of the band went on to achieve continued success — Jonathan Cain with Journey, Ricky Phillips with Styx and original singer John Waite as a solo artist and with Cain and Phillips in Bad English.
Now, after more than a three-decade absence, guitarist Wally Stocker and drummer Tony Brock have reformed the Babys and will release a new album, I'll Have Some of That! June 24.
Originally brought on just to contribute songs for the project, guitarist Joey Sykes’ wizardry and work ethic impressed Stocker and Brock so much that he was asked to sign on as a new member of the band along with bassist/vocalist John Bisaha. The two musicians add a new dimension to the Babys and bring with them a style that works well in tandem with Stocker and Brock.
I recently caught up with Sykes to ask him about the Babys reunion, the new album and more.
GUITAR WORLD: How did the Babys reunion come about?
Over the years, the guys would often tease about doing one. Obviously, Jonathan Cain is a huge part of Journey and Ricky Phillips is firmly entrenched with Styx, so it was tough to do a full-on reunion. The closest they got was a few years ago with John [Waite], but in the end John decided to continue with his solo career. But there was no animosity. At the end of the day, everyone is a fan of everything that made the Babys' legacy so great and gave the reunion their blessing.
How did you wind up taking part in this reunion project?
Initially, I was brought in just to write. Tony wanted a new single to be reminiscent of some of the band’s earlier hits, so that’s how the song “Not Ready to Say Goodbye” came to be. During the sessions, Wally and Tony really liked the songs and my guitar playing. One thing led to another and they eventually asked me to come on as a full member. Since I was already working on songs for this record even before I was asked to join, I had a bunch of ideas that were written for this project.
How do you write a song for a band with such a unique sound?
The Babys' style of music has a "classic rock/power pop" vibe. Fans expect those kinds of sensibilities when they listen to a Babys record, and for me it's great because I don't get a chance to write a lot in that kind of style. To write something you totally feel and love and something that the fans expect was very cool.
What’s it like working with Wally and Tony?
It's great. We did a few teaser shows, and playing guitar with Wally and performing the Babys catalog was insane. Having the opportunity to make this record with both of them has been a huge highlight for me.
Tell me a little about your musical background.
I started taking guitar lessons when I was 8 and my whole life growing up was pretty much guitar and baseball. I started writing songs when I was 13 and playing bars on Long Island when I was 15. I first began making noise in the bands Boystown and Coward before making the pilgrimage to California to play with Tommy Henriksen, who now performs in Alice Cooper's along with Orianthi and Ryan Roxy.
Who were some of your early influences?
I was always hip to all of the classic stuff like Led Zeppelin, Beatles, Bad Company, Eagles and the Cars). I really love guys like David Gilmour rather than those who always play it fast. Over the years, I’ve become a guitar player who serves the song, and I'm really glad that I did.
Tell me a little about your current setup.
In the studio, I have an old '66 Gretsch that I use on a lot of things as well as a '65 Fender Bassman amp with Celestion speakers. For live work, I'll be using a Metropoulos. George Metropoulos makes great amps and I had him make me a Super Bass clone that's been tweaked up a bit. It's amazing.
What excites you the most about the Babys' reunion?
I'm looking forward to playing the songs everyone loves as well as a few new ones. People are going to be excited to see Tony Brock and Wally Stocker on stage together again. I remember my first gig with the band was at a show in Vegas. Just to see the fans that came out and the looks on their faces — singing the songs and meeting the guys. You could just see how excited they all were. John Bisaha [vocals/bass] does a great job and the band is killer live. There's definitely a rawness and energy on this new Babys project, and that's by design.
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.