By Emma Christley
Pittsburgh Current Contributing Writer
The last time Pittsburgh saw Bailen, it was as the opening act for Hozier on his Wasteland, Baby! tour. Now, the NYC-based band heads to Club Cafe on December 5 for its own headlining show with Hailey Knox supporting.
Made up of twins Daniel and David and younger sister Julia, Bailen combines elements of pop and indie rock inspired by their parent’s expansive record collection. Influences such as Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, and even Steely Dan have a heavy thumbprint on the siblings’ work. But Bailen’s sound is entirely its own.
What particularly stands out is the songwriting. A bug, as they describe it, which comes from their musical childhood and their father singing to them.
“He knows every Beatles, James Taylor, and Simon and Garfunkel song and he has plenty of amazing originals too,” the siblings explain via email. “In the beginning, we never really knew the difference between the tunes our dad wrote and the tunes he didn’t write.”
Like many of their musical inspirations, the three describe a lot of their lyrical inspiration as coming from books they’ve read. “Something Tells Me,” a track from 2019’s full-length debut Thrilled to Be Here, was inspired lyrically by Steinbeck’s East of Eden.
The siblings aren’t strangers to Pittsburgh, playing here a few times before, including one memorable and somewhat frightening visit that involved running out of gas 30 miles outside of the city and getting stuck in a wild thunderstorm. They bravely returned again, incident-free, for the Hozier show here in May, which they describe as “seriously one of our favorite shows ever.”
“It also happened to be the twins (Daniel and David’s) birthday show. The Hozier band had the whole crowd sing ‘Happy Birthday,’ and we couldn’t have had a better time,” they write
Fans who may have been introduced to Bailen at that show and know them more as a supporting act will find a very different experience seeing them this time around as a headliner.
“An opening spot is… a shorter set. It’s also mostly people who have never heard of you. You have to get on stage and give it your all for around half an hour, win the crowd over and then get off the stage,” they write.
But this headlining show will allow the band to connect with the audience who is there just for them. It’s also a chance to showcase a wider range, including softer tracks and B-sides. Fans can also anticipate a solo or two, and definitely a few bad jokes. All of which the band says gives “a real arc” to the set, which is hard to portray as a 30-minute opener.
The band remembers exploring the city after that last stop in Pittsburgh, when the city was sunny and gorgeous. Now they can’t wait to come back.