The debut full-length vinyl of Charleston band The Artisanals was spinning on the record player when I walked into the downtown studio home shared by Luke and Mary Alice Mitchell of The High Divers and Corey Campbell and Jenna Desmond of Susto.
There was a silver bicycle in front of the brick cottage, and furry friend Norah, The High Divers' tour dog, greeted a knock on the door with a few barks followed by a lot of licks.
The cramped living room had been converted into a studio, brimming with a drum kit and cymbals, rows of speakers, a variety of guitars and a desk covered in recording equipment. The much smaller dining room had taken over the living room's former function, with the sun peeking between blinds and casting sunny slivers on a floral couch facing the extensive record collection. A bean bag chair filled the empty floor space, and Campbell sprawled out on it with a cup of black drip coffee.
It was a temporary abode for all of its residents, who spend most days on the road playing shows. "Home" might be its official designation, but it's the tour van and all those hotel rooms that are more familiar than that bean bag or floral couch.
All four were sharing a rare occasion of being home at the same time. That's partly because Campbell and Desmond officially have parted ways with Susto, the popular Charleston band that's achieved worldwide fame, touring with groups like The Lumineers and Band of Horses and gaining fans in Europe and other alt-country and Americana-consuming music markets.
The duo's last show with Susto was at the Jam Room Festival in Columbia on Sept. 29. Campbell played synth, keys and guitar in the band. Desmond was the bass player.
But now, they're switching things up for new personal project Babe Club, in which Campbell plays lead guitar and Desmond plays guitar and sings.
Desmond started writing songs with Campbell over three years ago, just after the couple began dating and joined Susto. But many of those tunes have never seen the light of day. That's why they decided to part ways with Susto, Desmond says.
"I’m 25 now, and some of these songs I've written are from when I was 22," she says. "If I waited, I feel like singing those angsty early-20's songs while approaching 30, it just wouldn't be as fresh; I couldn't do it." It's time for those songs, and Babe Club, to finally see the light.
Susto lead singer Justin Osborne says he was glad to see two of his longtime bandmates spread their own songwriting wings and fly.
"We are all very excited for Corey and Jenna and can’t wait for all the great things to come from Babe Club," Osborne says.
Susto is continuing on without them. A couple of new members are joining the band and an album announcement is coming soon.
"Susto’s in this transition period where they’re going into a new album and will be on the road for 18 to 24 months," Campbell says. "They’re probably going to be touring the world. We didn’t want to start that new chapter with Susto and then deny Babe Club from happening."
While Campbell and Desmond formerly performed as a project called Rico+Miranda, Babe Club is a more mature version of their sound and reflects their three years in Susto.
"How do you play places? What do you do when you get to a venue? How do you promote your show? We lived it, breathed it, ate it. That’s our world," Campbell says.
The first single "Hate Myself" also is the first song that the duo recorded and produced themselves. They're excited about the creative freedom ahead.
"We get to have no filter in a way," Campbell says. "When we’re playing in Susto, we’re supporting Justin (Osborne) as a songwriter, but this project is our creative selves entirely. If we want to do some choreographed stage movements or props, we get to do just that."
The new sound is more indie pop, and the process of writing and producing together has bridged the gap between Campbell's classical music background and Desmond's intuitive approach.
"Jenna describes things by sounds and words," Campbell says. "She'll say things like, 'Can you make this a little more wiggly?' or 'I'm not sure about all of these squiggles here.'"
So much time playing music together has helped them communicate. After all, Campbell taught Desmond to play the bass; she had only picked it up for two weeks when she first auditioned for Susto and for just a month when she played her first show.
"Musical connection is kind of romantic, and I think finding it is a really rare thing," Desmond says. "But I've found that with Corey."
And the name Babe Club, though an androgynous term ("We talk about women and guys as babes," Campbell says), hints at Desmond's desire to collaborate with more women. After touring with all men for a while, she's excited to form a full-time group that she hopes will include some girl power.
Right now, the Babe Club lineup isn't set, though Camille Rhoden of She Returns From War already has contributed piano. Mary Alice Mitchell of The High Divers will join the band for its upcoming co-headlining tour with Airpark.
Desmond and Campbell hint at an EP dropping early next year, with a full album on the way later in 2019.
"The material we’re writing about is going to attract a whole new world for us," Desmond says, with a hopeful twinkle in her eye.