Interview: Julianna Barwick

Interview: Julianna Barwick

Tuesday 18th October, 2016 1:03PM

Brooklyn-based experimental artist Julianna Barwick will be playing three New Zealand shows this week to support her beautiful third studio album Will. Unlike her previous two albums, which were laid down in Brooklyn and Iceland respectively, Will was recorded in transit, in locations including Upstate New York, North Carolina and Portugal. This diversity is reflected in the evocative record, which uses long loops and lush synth textures to conjure up distinctive cinematic soundscapes. Ahead of her debut New Zealand tour we managed to speak with Julianna for a few minutes about the album and her approach to production...

UTR: I saw you posted a little pottle of Vegemite when announcing your upcoming NZ and Oz tour, have you actually eaten the stuff?

JB: I have!

What did you think?

It's unique! It's definitely unique. But I can see how it would be something that if you grew up with it you would love it. Like, I'm a huge nutritional yeast flake fan. I put yeast flakes on everything and some people turn their nose up at that, and then they try it and they are like "oh wait, this is awesome". So I don't know, it might be like an acquired taste.

I feel like eating yeast flakes on everything probably isn't doing much to help your "weird lady living in a tree" image...

Ha! True...

I saw that your debut studio album The Magic Place was recently named as one of the Top 50 Ambient Albums of All Time by Pitchfork, which is awesome. How do you feel when you go back and reflect on that album, if you do??

Umm... I don't really listen to my own music, unless I have to. I've probably listened to every album I've made maybe five times total, each. So it's not something I really do. But I definitely feel like it was a special album for me, in a lot of ways. It was a great time and I was really proud of it. And I am still really proud of it. If I had a "hit" that would be my "hit" so far. Every time I play a show and I talk to people afterwards at the merch table or whatever I have at least one person say "I just love The Magic Place". It seems to have been received well.

And your latest album Will has been received really well also. I see it's number 8 on The Quietus' list of Top 100 Albums of 2016 so far...

Oh really?!? Cool!

Yeah! And I was interested in how you've approached your three studio albums so differently. You made The Magic Place at home in Brooklyn, then your following album Nepenthe was made in Iceland, and Will was recorded all over the place. Why the different approaches??

Well, for Nepenthe, [longtime Sigur Ros producer/collaborator] Alex Somers had sent me an email saying he'd love to work with me, so we talked for a-year-and-change before I even went over to Iceland. So, it was the antithesis of how I usually made a record, which was completely by myself, completely private. But he was just the perfect partner. Everything just clicked and it was a wonderful experience.

And for Will you recorded in a variety of locations around the globe, including at the Moog factory in North Carolina. How was that?

Oh, it's a great place. The people that work there are really really really cool. I've been friends with them for awhile. I met them the first time when I was opening for Sigur Ros, and we rolled through and got a factory tour. I've done two factory tours, one in 2013 and one in 2014. And then I was at a Festival called FORM in Arcosanti, Arizona, and they had set up a soundlab there and they asked me what I was up to, and I told them I was recording that year and they offered for me to come down that summer to use their soundlab to record some stuff. And at the festival they asked me if I wanted to do a demo of their new synth, the Mother-32 - and they would give me one later when it came out. So I jumped at that. And so that's how the Mother ended up being one Will, after I did the little demo at the FORM festival.

In terms of equipment, are you quite a gearhead. Do you excited about different synths and whatnot?

No I'm a total novice. I'm still learning, I don't really know much about it at all. I got really excited about this Mother-32 thing after they taught me how to use it. And I was kind of looking for something different to do. Something to change it up after playing so many shows. I kind of wanted a little something to add to the mix, and it was kind of the perfect thing. Because it wasn't anything too crazy, it wasn't like I was adding a saxophone or something. It was the perfect little addition.

So when you're travelling how much gear would you take with you to play live shows?

Right now I have a keyboard, a sampler, I have the Moog that's going into a Moog delay pedal. I have a Loop Station, and I have a vocal effects pedal.

Is that quite stripped back from what you'd be working with in the studio?

No, not at all. I mean, besides using an actual piano piano to record.

So you're upcoming to New Zealand will be your first time here... Anything on the agenda?

Well, I have a couple of friends who are from New Zealand, and they've given me a couple of recommendations so I'm going to work through those. Is there anything that you think I should check out?.

Well, let's see... you're already going to be visiting Whammy to play. That's one of my favourite spots in Auckland. In Wellington, oh it's so pretty that just walking around the inner city and the waterfront area is really nice... and I don't get to get to Christchurch very often but I've heard the Souvlaki is off the hook.

Cool! I'll check it out.


UnderTheRadar Proudly Presents...
Julianna Barwick

Wednesday 19th October, Whammy Bar, Auckland
Thursday 20th October, Caroline, Wellington
Friday 21st October, Darkroom, Christchurch 

Tickets available now HERE at UTR

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