Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Brainlove meets Kevin Barnes...


For The Line Of Best Fit

MP3: ID Engager

John Brainlove met Kevin Barnes (right) after a packed out Rough Trade instore to talk about autobiography, inspiration, the differences between dreams and reality, and the fantastical world Of Montreal...

John Brainlove: So, I was googling Airwaves and I got really excited to see you were playing, but it turned out to be a lineup from last year... how was that?

Kevin Barnes: It was great. It's always a bit scary when you're playing a festival, and there's like so many bands and you never get time to set up your stuff, and you get thrown out onstage and it's chaos, and inevitably something sets on fire or breaks... in this instance my amp was making a horrible sound, so I kinda freaked out for the first four or five songs, then I kinda got into it and it was fun, and then the next thing I know I'm being pulled offstage...

JB: Have you been to Iceland before?

KB: No, that was a first...

JB: Do you find when touring that you get a chance to see places? Or is it just like, hotel, bus, plane, show...

KB: Every once in a while you do, yeah, if you get in early enough and the promoters are enthusiastic, a lot of times we'll be playing smaller stages in like Italy or Spain and the promoters feel like they have to fill this role of a cultural liason and show you a good time, and that's always great. But if you get into a place sometimes, you're just left on your own and wander around a little bit and find stuff out...

JB: Which I guess is never that nice, just a few alleyways and caf├ęs around a venue...

KB: Yeah totally. To be honest, this is my first really really good experience of London. I've never had a bad experience, but I've never had a trip where I went to a whole bunch of different parts of the city and really got a good sense. It's always been in more run down parts of London, whereas this area is like super-hip and young, and where we're staying is kinda ritzy. I really like that the city has so much diversity, and I hadn't seen the good side of London before. And I was like "shit man, London's awesome".

JB: Yeah, in some parts it's like a different world, you go around in the day and all you see are decorators and nannies...

KB: ... and no artists live there, sure. What's this area like?

JB: Well I guess we're right in Shoreditch and Old Street, the first time I came here it was mostly just factories and closed up shops, but it's really buzzing now, the artists landed here like regeneration locusts and then got priced out...

KB: Yeah, it's like that in New York, and I guess everywhere. We were in Barcelona and we were like, we wanna move here, and they were like "no, don't do it! You'll raise the rent" and all the reporters will come...

JB: So tonight you're playing in Rough Trade in happening Brick Lane... I think the last time I saw you was ATP playing the Hissing Fauna show. That's obviously a very personal album. You've said that this one is a step away from the autobiographical approach, more fictionalized or written around characters...

KB: No, I didn't mean to say it like that. I don't want to propagate the idea that was writing from the point of view of a persona... I hope I didn't...

JB: (laughs) Maybe I missed some sarcasm or something...

KB: I better go back and read it! There was this character I created called Georgie Fruit, and now I wish I never did, because people are like, "is that a Kevin Barnes song, or a Georgie Fruit song?"... and really there's no difference. They're all Kevin Barnes songs, and I don't like that idea of people seeing a division. I think people would see that as less genuine, but it seems like it's not based in reality, like you're writing from the point of view of a fictional character. That's too much like a defense mechanism. I want all my songs to be like, really coming from the heart and maybe if they're not about something that's physically happened, like a physical experience that I've had, I don't really make a division between the physical and the dream state or the emotional state. I don't really make the division. If you fantasize about something that's just as real as if you really did it.

JB: I was interested in your ideas about identity, the idea of identity as a malleable construction, does that relate back to that fluid idea of characters and points of view... about your own self being a construction that you consciously work on changing or building. And in that sense having a character is presenting a front...

KB: I don't really think of it as a front... I don't think you can ever contradict yourself, even if you contradict what you said yesterday... it's just as real as it was yesterday. I don't think you have a really fixed identity. When people say "you're being phony" I don't agree with that because you can only be yourself. It's impossible to be phony. Whoever you feel you are at that moment... it's real. And whoever you want to be... I don't believe there's one true identity that's the fixed you. It's obviously fluid, and it's effected by your mood, your experiences, your dreams, what you ate... it's constantly changing. Nobody should believe that they only have one fixed persona or character or identity or whatever that's the real them.

JB: Do you think that's a scary thought, to have no sense of permanence? Everything as transitory..?

KB: I find it very liberating. You don't have to worry about being consistent. You just feel what you feel and act how you want to act, without having to worry "is this appropriate for who I am? Is this outfit appropriate for who I am?" ... it's more fun to have that malleable aspect to your character and be free to do whatever. And it's all real.

JB: Did you make a conscious decision about the change of musical direction? Skeletal Lamping seems like quite a deliberate swerve...

KB: I think I really wanted to make something that was constantly shifting, constantly changing, with no rules and no limitations, no structure really... it still has structure. Some songs have do have repeating parts, but repetition seems to me like laziness. A lot of people always repeat things...

JB: Do you think that's in contrast to Hissing Fauna, which had quite tight cycles repeating for a long time?

KB: Well, this time I was in the mindset that it's laziness to write a part, then do it again. It's a very common thing in pop music to verse / chorus / repeat. It's more creative that way.

JB: Yeah it's at the very heart of pop music... if you hear a song again and again and it has repeating parts, you just end up liking on some level through exposure...

KB: Yeah, that's something that's very powerful about pop music, and I think in a way I'm depriving them of that relationship with the songs. On this record it's hard to tell where one song ends and another begins, I wanted to make it flow, and it's kind of random where I placed the track markers. Tonight when we played, the stop and start parts are random without the context of the album...

JB: After Hissing Fauna, which was so intensely and nakedly personal, Skeletal Lamping does seem more stylized or cryptic, even though it's just as lyrically dense...

KB: I think it's just as autobiographical. I mean, Hissing Fauna was like pain. And pain is the great equalizer. Everyone can appreciate pain, confusion, anxiety... these things are universal and easily relatable. But when you talk about more abstract things... Skeletal Lamping is definitely more abstract. I don't think it's less emotional or less autobiographical. Maybe it's a bit less accessible, but it's all about sexuality, gender roles, the politics of sexuality... the complexity of society and finding your way through it... navigating through it... getting through your childhood, your teenage years, your twenties, and then finding yourself in this place where you're like... "what the fuck happened? what's going on?". But I do think it's still a very introspective record, and where something is introspective it has to be autobiographical. It's deeply rooted in my experience, my fantasy world, my dream world... it's everything.

Skeletal Lamping is out now on some exciting new formats, including t-shirt, wall sticker, badge and lampshade. Oh, and CD. Find out more here.

Everything/Everything


MP3: Dumb Terminal

Everything/Everything is the third studio album from London based composer and performer Leo Chadburn, under his nom-de-plume Simon Bookish. Famously evasive in his influences and techniques, Chadburn's output has skipped between dancefloor friendly electro-pop, ambient composition and abstract spoken-word infused electronica.

Everything/Everything is a watershed; a long awaited reconciliation with the many facets of his musical character. The complex backing arrangements are played on saxophones, brass, piano, harp and Farfisa organ and scored so tightly that when played live, the musicians visibly break out in sweat. They swirl in rapid syncopated eddies, mimicking the busy bleeping of Chadburn's previous work. This is electronic composition reinvented and reframed within a live context that relates to jazz as closely as contemporary classical and lounge crooning.

The lyrical content of Everything/Everything is also something of a departure from previous works such as Trainwreck/Raincheck. Emerging from the ramparts of arcane cultural reference points and surreal abstraction, this album feels altogether more personal, weaving encoded thoughts, ideas, sharp flashes of wit and autobiographical strands into an intoxicating whole. Ostensibly about living in the age of information overload, it's nonetheless a lyrical opening up for this most elusive of musicians. Chadburn has finally found a palette for expression he feels comfortable with, and this album feels immeasurably more assured as a result.

Channeled through Chadburn's sternly intellectual aesthetic, this "big band song cycle" is at times overwhelming, awash with timing changes, alive with discordant challenges at every turn, and chittering with the dissonant overlap of sounds colliding and shimmering with strict precision. It's a brave, ambitious, teetering construction of gravity-defying sonic pointillism that creates the disconcerting and exciting effect of an aural Bridget RIley.

This is one of the finest albums of the year, and another step in Simon Bookish realizing his potential as one of the most consistently creative, challenging and interesting contemporary UK solo artists working today.

www.myspace.com/simonbookish
Buy it on vinyl for SEVEN POUNDS from Norman Records

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Two Thousand & Ace

Hey all... this is the latest Brainlove release, a 27 track compilation featuring all of our main bands and all our friends & family bands too. So there are songs from Napoleon IIIrd, Pagan Wanderer Lu, Applicants & Keyboard Choir alongside Bearsuit, Cats In Paris, Capitol K, Ratface, Winston Echo, Friends Of The Bride and many more...



Lots of nice reviews have come in...
"Brainlove Records have put together a mind shrinking collection of underground sounds... so very up to moment but incredibly special too." - Manchester Music

"The outlet for underground hero John Brainlove, his compilation is one of the most eclectic imaginable... the desire to find the bands who match the sounds in his head is laudable." - Planet Sound, Teletext

"You're pretty much onto a winner whatever genre floats your boat... the people at Brainlove have done us proud once more." - Contact Music

"Basically, it's amazing." - Kruger Magazine

"You can tell - just on looks alone - that with 'Two Thousand and Ace' you are are in for a kaleidoscopic, messy journey through all the most loony tunes Brainlove has to offer. Whatever the weather outside, this album is sure to bring the sunshine indoors." - Amelia's Magazine

"A compilation with its finger on the pulse... you'd be hard pressed to justify NOT buying it." - Death To Music

"27 tracks from Modernaire to Capitol K to Friends of The Bride, Napoleon IIIrd, Pagan Wanderer Lu... a really good label." - Huw Stephens

"One of the most varied introductions to underground music in 2008... there's literally something for everyone... you'll each have your own stars of the show." - The Beat Surrender

"Experimentation is lacking in modern popular music but Two Thousand And Ace is essential summer listening. Tap your toes, twitch your wiggle, it's teasingly wonderful. It's also limited edition, so buy it quick." - Music OMH

"the depth and breadth of sounds on this sampler proves why others are so excited by the fledgling label... proof that for all the panic in the industry, some independent labels are flourishing." - New Noise

"Given their track record when Brainlove Records place a record of theirs on a high shelf and ask we jump we willingly enquire how high. 'As high as the shelf' is the response." - Sweeping The Nation

Buy it for £5 wih free UK P+P here




The most recent review is above, in The National Student Newspaper & Magazine.


You can order the CD here.

There's one box left, so be quick :)

JBX