The Babe Rainbow on Byron Bay and being a ‘hippie’

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The Babe Rainbow on Byron Bay and being a ‘hippie’

Babe Rainbow

Jack Crowther, AKA Cool Breeze, guitarist in Byron Bay psychedelic pop band The Babe Rainbow, adheres to, and practices Japanese farming innovator Masanobu Fukuoka’s position on herbs.

“If you have a plethora of herbs that’s always growing, perennial herbs, then your dinners are outstanding all the time. You don’t have to go to the supermarket to get a sprig of lemongrass in a plastic package that’s been moved by five different trucks,” Crowther says. “As well, the whole process of growing your own food makes you healthy and wealthy, and wise.”

Our conversation has steered onto the topic of growing one’s own food after I asked Crowther if he was offended if he was described as a hippie. He’s not. “I don’t get offended,” Crowther says.  “Some of my distant relatives call me a hippie. I just smile. Whatever.”

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What is important, however, is the alignment between The Babe Rainbow’s organic musical style, the band members’ philosophical outlook and the natural earth movement that emerged from the alternative political-economy of the ‘60s counter-culture. “I really like the back to the earth movement, putting a really high value on the appreciation of nature, all the resources that we use,” Crowther says. “There was a real movement around where we live in the ‘70s, people were coming from Sydney and Melbourne up here to live that life.  For me, it’s got a lot to do with that, and lots of other things link up with that.”

‘Here’ is Byron Bay, the New South Wales coastal town where Crowther originally met The Babe Rainbow drummer and singer Angus ‘The Hothouse Flower’ Dowling.  Dowling’s parents are from Byron, Crowther’s mother is from a neighbouring town in the same region.  In the ‘70s Byron Bay became a haven for alternatively-minded people keen to drop out of the mainstream consumer-capitalist rat-race. “Some people do tend to think about ‘dirty hippies’, but it doesn’t offend me,” Crowther says.  “Like growing food – if that makes me a hippie, then whatever.”

Crowther met Dowling while in high school – in all places, at the filming of Qantas’ iconic I Still Call Australia Home television commercials. Dowling was singing in the youth choir featured in the commercial, Crowther was hanging out near the shoot. The pair hit it off immediately and started thinking about making music together. Within a short time they had conceived of the songs that would be released on The Babe Rainbow’s debut EP, Love Forever.

For The Babe Rainbow, songwriting has always been a natural, organic process.  “It feels natural when you have a need to express something inside of you, and you have someone that you can collaborate with on a level,” Crowther says. “It was easy, just natural.  We were trying to express ourselves and make nice songs.”

The Babe Rainbow came to the attention of Stu Mackenzie from King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, who offered to produce The Babe Rainbow’s debut album – they also signed to King Gizzard’s label, Flightless Records. In the meantime, Crowther and Dowling had met Venezuela-born bass player Louise (Lu-Lu) in the African quarter of Paris, who’d played gigs in Holland, Germany, France and Portugal, the United States and even a few pop-up shows in Japan.

Listen to The Babe Rainbow and you’re immersed in a glistening world of ‘60s optimism, played out against a fascinating psychedelic pop soundtrack. “You pick up things through books that resonate with you, people’s ideas that resonate with you and try to incorporate that into your own life and ethos,” Crowther says. “We talk about that. Sometimes you can communicate it with words. In a way, hopefully the music can express nice ideals that you agree with. All in the name of positive evolution. It’s a journey.”

The interview comes to a natural end, and Crowther leaves me with a song to listen: Donovan’s Happiness Runs. “He was really compassionate. He was so young, too, and he’s hanging out with all these guys and had so much trouble with his record label.”  A juxtaposition of ‘60s idealism and commercial exploitation, I suggest?  “Yeah,” Crowther says. “But he made some really beautiful music.”

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