Interview

BARB

BARB

Tuesday 17th August, 2010 10:01AM

New Zealandís latest supergroup BARB, tries to tread where few New Zealand supergroups have attempted to tread Ė by trying to make a decent album. Composed of Lawrence Arabia, Connan Mockasin, Liam Finn, EJ Barnes, and Seamus Ebbs, the group formed while overseas on their respective projects. The resulting project: the mysterious BARB, captures elements of what has made each of the memberís reputation on their solid newly released debut album - catchy melodies, unconventional characters and lyrics, and sun-drenched harmonies.

How did the project come about?

Weíd all been hanging out for a while. Weíd been talking about it for years, and weíd even done a little bit of mucking around and recording together. And then all of a sudden Liam decided that he was going to book his Dadís studio and get around to doing it. If it hadnít been for him being in there and doing stuff I donít think it would have happened. Heís quite good at doing that, driving stuff and finishing things off Ė Iím not so good.

Was it a natural link given you guys were all ex-pats making music overseas?

I met Liam and James and EJ Ė we kept on bumping into each other overseas a lot, itís not very often that you make good friends with people that easily. I donít think it was the fact that we were over here [in England], because I wasnít actually seeing any New Zealanders anyway. Theyíre probably the only New Zealanders I got to know over here. They just ended up being really neat, and funny Ė they make me laugh a lot, and would hang out a lot.

Was it a hard thing to organise given your individual schedules?

Yeah it was. But we all had this month free so we just came back for a month. It was nice to record a record in a month. We didnít know whether it was going to work out or not, but it seemed like a bit of fun, but there was pressure to get something finished paying for a studio and stuff.

Was there a sense of freedom in the project that you may not have in a solo project?

Yeah, youíre not precious about anything. You donít want to be crap, but you donít really care how itís doing. Itís not weighing on you. If itís going to get criticised, itís not just you whoís going to be criticised.

Were the roles quite delineated, or was it a bit more loose?

It was just whatever happens really. There wasnít really any pre-made stuff at all, it was pretty much doing a lot of stuff, going through it and picking out our favourite bits. We kind of just wrote on the spot. It was really easy, there was no stress.

Was there any planning of overall mood, or album direction?

Oh no. No planning at all. We had no idea what it would sound like.

The album is quite funky, and full of harmonies Ė did writing for a project like this take you out of your comfort zone?

Thatís a good question. I donít know. I think it was sounding different to what all of us each would have made probably. It was a little bit strange, itíd be like Ďit doesnít really sound like yours or mineí. Maybe a little bit out of comfort, maybe a slight bit.

The album has come out a bit after the live tour Ė any reason for the delay?

The live tour was something we decided to do at the end of the recording. We had two days to rehearse each otherís stuff Ė we were just doing our solo stuff. It was quite separate really. We thought it might be a good way to goodbye before we do something separate. It always take so long for a record to come out. We kinda almost forgot about it, itís only coming out now a year later or so.

Is it going to be a hard thing to play live?

Yeah I think it will be. I canít remember how to doÖI only just listened to the whole thing yesterday. And I was thinking about and itís going to take a little bit to try and re-do everything. Itís going to be tricky. Iím going to try and get back sometime in December to maybe do a bit of touring or sometime in the summer in New Zealand anyway.

Were you surprised at how it sounded when you listened to it yesterday?

Iíd heard all the music before but I hadnít heard it completely as a record. Iíd heard enough back then but Iíd kind of left it alone after weíd finished it. Itís nice to hear it a little bit later and enjoyed it a bit more, which is quite rare because I donít really enjoy stuff that Iím in.

Itís quite a mysterious project Ė do you enjoy the anonymity something like this provides?

Oh yeah, like I said before, itís really relaxing you donít have any pressure from anyone.

You guys arenít worried about being seen as the Audioslave of New Zealand indie rock?

I donít really care. I donít care what New Zealand thinks Ė most of them donít know I exist anyway. Itís not a big one to me.

Will the reputations help in getting the album out?

I really donít know. I can kind of imagine, I think Liamís a lot more well-known than anyone else in the group, Iím not sure but if his fans like it, then maybe they might go out and check out the rest, but I donít really care anyway. Itíll be quite interesting actually. Itís a small tricky place actually, I donít quite understand it.

How about in terms of your musical writing Ė do you think this project will help your own projects and songwriting?

It helped, but more the experience of writing with a band. I think I write better when Iím by myself and I think the other guys do too. Itís a tricky one to leave it up to someone else Ė if you really feel strongly about something, a lot of times we had to let things go. We were thinking if we did another one, we might get one of us to drive the record, take control a little bit. I think you need someone in charge a bit. It was definitely not how we thought it would be.

I was going to say, you guys started in bands, and then made careers as solo artists, and now going back?

Yeah itís interesting because Iíve never ever been in a band where weíve written together. I found it really hard. Itís really interesting leaving bits to each other. Weíve got such respect for each other that I think it comes through. You learn not be self-conscious when you need a bit of help and go Ďnah nah I really like thatí. In that sort of ways itís quite helpful. Thatís a good point.

Why Leonardo DiCaprio? You didnít want a more up-to-date heartthrob?

That was something Don wrote which is just a character when Iím with friends, a four year old boy whoís obsessed with heartthrobs. We were in the studio playing around and he just started singing and we kept that whole thing as it was, and I sang over the top of what he had sung. Most of the music we did was made up on the spot. Someone would be singing and weíd go Ďoh yep, we like thatí. It was a really easy and prudent way to make a quick record.

The video is a bit strange as wellÖ

Iíve only seen it once. We sort of just email each other and see who can we get to do it. Itís hard when weíre all really busy, and actually be there and have any input into stuff. I think itís quite strange Ė youíd go ĎI really liked the bit, the Titanic sceneí. I want to use this guy whoís in this short film that I did, Six Dollar Fifty Man, heís this young boy with blonde hair. But you canít really do anything when youíre not really there, but I think the Titanic shots looked quite real with a BARB looking woman.

Was it quite a trippy process giving it all to other people to take care of once youíd recorded?

Yeah. It was the only thing to do though. Liam was doing quite a good job trying to get the rest of us involved, but it was really hard Ė weíve all got a few projects on the go.

Whatís the plan with the album Ė overseas tours and release?

I donít know if thereís UK, Europe or Japan, but thereís America, New Zealand, Australia. I donít actually know, Iím probably the wrong person to talk about it. I think it is a world thing, but I havenít heard about UK, Europe. I donít know about a world tour Ė I think weíll just keep it to a small New Zealand thing, for now anyway. Maybe a few years down the track - I hope so anyway, itíd be really fun.

Brannavan Gnanalingam




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