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Courtney Barnett

Courtney Barnett

Interviewed by
Ben Coley
Friday 5th September, 2014 11:42AM

Australia’s Courtney Barnett has taken the world by storm this year with her infectious brand of lyrically-driven slacker pop. Her double EP record A Sea of Split Peas and the asthmatically-themed song 'Avant Gardener' have become instant classics, and seen her tour all over the world playing festivals such as Coachella and Glastonbury. Barnett and her band will be making their first appearance in New Zealand next month for a sold-out show at The Kings Arms, much to the excitement of fans who were lucky enough to nab a ticket. UnderTheRadar caught up with Barnett from her home in Melbourne to find out how her debut album is coming along, chat about her whirlwind year, and find out if she prefers chocolate or cheese...

UTR: Hey Courtney, where in the world are you?

Hi, I’m currently at home in Melbourne. I just went for a swim at my local pool.

Is it warm enough to go swimming?

Not really, but it’s a nice day. I like to try and exercise when I can. It’s hard when touring, I don’t get a chance to do it that much.

Congratulations on selling out your first New Zealand show. Will this be your first time here?

Thanks, I am super excited to be playing this show. I have only been over for a brief holiday before.

What are your memories of coming over?

I was lucky enough to do a bit of a camping trip. I went to Wellington and then drove all the way up to the top of the North Island and visited some amazing beaches. It was really beautiful, I used to live in Hobart and it reminded me a lot of growing up there. I am actually coming over a week or so before my show for a bit of a holiday. I want to do a whole bunch of exploring, check out some art galleries and see lots of nature. I will try venture a little further out from Auckland too if I can. I haven’t planned all of the details yet.

How is the new album coming along?

Good. We have finished recording. Currently fixing up a few things and putting the finishing touches on it. Pretty sure we will be releasing it very early next year, and hopefully a song or two off it will be out later this year.

How has recording process for the album differed to when you did the EPs?

It has been quite different. With the EPs I knew what I wanted to do and how I wanted everything to sound. However the time and money situation was hard to deal with. I also had never recorded anything before, which made it difficult. So they are scattered all over the place. We recorded them in lounges, bedrooms and had a bit of studio time when we could afford it. I used heaps of different musicians and friends. With the new album it was a lot more intensive, I got the same group of musicians and friends and we bunkered down for 10 days in Melbourne and really focused on it.

You hadn’t done much travelling before this year - has being on the road made it easier or harder for you to write songs?

It’s a bit of both. I just write whenever. Even if I am at home with plenty of spare time on my hands it doesn’t mean I write more. Quite often it calls for added procrastination. It’s good to be really busy travelling around a lot cos sometimes I find inspiration in the strangest places.

What has been the biggest lesson or realisation you have learnt over the last year?

Oh god ... I have many moments and realisations. It’s been a big growing up and evolving experience, which I like. Sometimes it’s really hard because I am such an emotive person, especially on tour. Tours can be so draining and emotional. There are lots of up and downs and I can go from a dark place to a happy place then back to a dark place and then return back to a happy place again, all in one day, which can be tiresome.

How does that affect you on stage, do you have to get yourself up for it?

As soon as I am on stage it’s different. Being on stage is what it’s all about. I suddenly have a lot of energy and positivity. Whatever anger, sadness or frustration I have inside comes out, but in a good way.

What was the reason for starting your own label Milk Records? Was it out of frustration at the music industry?

Not really, it was kinda um …just because. I did it because I had recorded something and I wanted to put it out and I didn’t know how to do it, so I made my own label. I’m not frustrated with the music industry. It is like every other organisation and industry in the world, some parts of it are good and others which are bad.

Would you recommend bands that are starting out create and release music on their own label?

Yeah, personally I do, that is what I have done so far and it has worked for me. However, everyone finds their own way of doing things that works for them. I reckon it is a cool thing to do and it is totally possible and plausible in this day and age to do it yourself. It’s not a far out concept anymore. Anyone can kinda manage it if they try.

You are now also working with Mom + Pop Records. How did your relationship with them come about?

They found us and are really cool. I talked to heaps of different overseas labels and I just liked them a lot. We clicked. They understood Milk Records and where I come from as a musician, artist and person in general. I enjoy working with people whose ideals are similar to yours.

What is in store for the rest of the year?

Currently I’m on a bit of a break and just getting the album ready. We then come over to New Zealand which is the first show of the tour. Then it’s back to Australia for some shows and then we are off to America and Europe. We haven’t really toured Europe yet, apart from a few small shows, so that will be fun.

Will we get to hear some of the new album when you are over here?

Yeah yeah, I reckon we will be playing a bunch of them!

Finally, here are 10 quick-fire questions...

Chocolate or cheese? Cheese

Coffee or tea? Coffee

Black or white? Black

Early bird or night owl? Night owl

Winter or summer? Winter

Gold or silver? Silver

Beer or wine? Wine

Fruit or vegetables? Vegetables

Cats or dogs? Dogs

Picnic or restaurant? Picnic

Courtney Barnett is playing a sold-out show at the Kings Arm Tavern in Auckland on 17th September.

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