By: Chandra Johnson
When we shot a video (coming soon) with Barcelona on the streets of NYC, it was nothing short of greatness. Yes, there was a dance battle between Rhett and some middle schoolers. And yes, we did interview them in Whole Foods while nomming on some food. Check out this jam packed interview with the charming Seattle band below!
SSS: So tell us how Barcelona got started.
Brian: Rhett and I met each other at school in Seattle. Right when we met, I was releasing a solo album, just locally, then I decided I didn’t want to do the solo thing and that’s when we all met. That was like our senior year basically and [we] kind of came out to New York right away, did some showcases for different labels, which was kind of done in hindsight because we had zero identity as a band, so we didn’t sign because half the people at that label got laid off the night of our showcase. Then, we went back to Seattle and decided to do an album on our own, which was Absolutes and we released that in ’07 and re-released it in ’09 with a label, then left the label and took forever to record a second on-that was the one that just came out in May. We’ve been a band for like 6 and a half years. Crazy
SSS: Was there a big difference releasing it on your own verses a label in terms of your fan base and things like that?
Brian: For sure yeah. We wanted to extend the shelf life basically of the first record because yeah, we’d toured a bunch and gained fans from that, but the year and a little bit more we spent on a label after it was released was good. It increased the fan base and sales, but in hindsight, I’m glad we’re not on a label anymore. It was great because we got to do it on our own terms and they basically released what we had already done. It was a good nod being like yeah we like this, put it out. So that was cool and we never really got the experience of building a record from the ground up with a label, so I’m sure it wouldn’t have been as fun as doing it totally independently, which is how we did this last record.
SSS: Do you guys write your songs together?
Brian: We don’t usually. I write the songs and then I bring the songs to the band and we work on the music together like how it will eventually live. When I write though, it’s just about…well, the whole first record was a lot about this crazy relationship I had and then other than my personal experiences with that relationship and other friendships I’ve had, it’s mostly just about people I know and things they’ve gone through. Very few of my songs have been imaginary circumstances, but for this new stuff we are recording right now, I’m trying to put myself in a different mindset. Something I’ve heard about or read about and going off that, so it’s been really fun.
SSS: So ‘Less Than Two’ that you performed for us early is off of the new record. What’s that about?
Brian: My two close friends who had kind of a similar situation that I was in…they had been dating for ten years or some extreme amount of time. The next step that everyone expected was for them to get married, that was sort of the natural next step and you couldn’t see it deteriorate, it just ended. And talking to both of them afterwards they described why it was that way. I think they both just woke up one day and they were like, ‘I…We are these two people in this loving relationship, but I’ve sacrificed too much of myself in a way that it becomes less than two people.’ Instead of two glorious people coming together for this relationship, it became…I don’t think it was codependency or like I said no one could see it on the outside. It was just surprise, ‘I’ve been this less than whole person for a long time now and I need to step back.’ I was really proud that they were able to make that decision.
SSS: Do you like live performances better than recording?
Brian: Yeah, I mean they’re so different. The energy is so different in a live set.
SSS: How is the energy at your shows because some of your songs are kind of on the mellower side?
Brian: Yeah, they’re not super aggressive. It’s funny because when we do play the upbeat stuff live, even the mellow stuff starts to sound upbeat. I think it just depends on the crowd and the room.
SSS: How would you say Not Quite Yours differs from Absolutes?
Brian: Well in the way that recorded it, it’s much different. For the first record, we took our time. It was very clean and exactly how we wanted it. We recorded the second one live basically, all together at one time in a tiny room. When I recorded vocals, I had just done one take and that was what we wanted-an honest version. It’s not perfect or as epic or in your face, but it’s way different and I’m really proud that we did it that way. I’m really glad we did it that way, but I don’t know if we’ll ever do it that way again. You can record so many different ways. I’m excited to try these new ways of recording.
SSS: You were saying you’re trying some new ways right now for the album you’re working on…
Brian: Yeah, it’s a new sound; almost every song has a really sweet groove to it. It’s really beat, groove oriented. It’s really sexy…I’ll be honest. It’s sexy for sure.
SSS: So what inspired that?
Brian: We listened to a bunch of soul and R&B while we were recording the last record, and I listened to a ton of James Blake. So listening to artists like that, and one of our friends who used to work at our management firm in LA, we were talking about this artist, Father John Misty. It’s like this ridiculous persona that he’s built up. It’s really great hearing and he was actually the drummer in the Fleet Foxes. He doesn’t play anything, he just sings in this band and it’s totally loungey and sexy and stuff…jokingly sexy. We aren’t going to be jokingly sexy-we are going to be really sexy (laughs). Actually there’s this quote saying he just kind of got tired of this sort of emasculated, folk rock thing in the Fleet Foxes. We all, the music we listen to back when we started writing music, was all really tame and limp-wristed.
SSS: Who are some of your favorite artists?
Brian: My favorite artist is Jeff Buckley. Ha, he’s not a good example of emasculated music, but I don’t know that kind of inspired me in writing to get to the point and not be afraid to say what you’re thinking about. It could be sexy or whatever, but it makes it way more enjoyable to record that music.
SSS: If you weren’t musicians, what career would you want to pursue?
Brian: Horse trainer(laughs). No, a music teacher, but I really enjoy architecture and design, but I don’t know enough about either of those things to have a job. I thought for a while about going to school to do some sort of space design. Anyway, Rhett what would you do?
Rhett: Something in the arts/creative; I love business and making ideas happen through business so something like that. I do photography on the side with my wife so that’s been a lot of fun. Helping out the arts, whether it’s helping musicians, artists or poets.
Branden: An actor. I’d be happy doing goofy YouTube videos if that was a profession.
Brian: Branden is new to Barcelona; it’ll be like his fifth or sixth show. Our third member Chris got married and had a beautiful baby boy but was in a job back at home that made it hard for him to be a part of where we are going. It was hard because it was a friendship that we had built up since the band started. The fourth, unofficial member is this guy named Brian who I went to school with. He does all of our bass and strings, but same thing… young family.
SSS: Is it hard to be traveling so much when you’re married? What’s that like?
Brian: Both our wives are very on-board with what we do and it’s very important for us to see them. They help us make good, wise decisions, instead of when we were younger every decision that came across the table we would just say yes to everything.
Rhett: I’d even go as far as saying now with what we are doing…we probably couldn’t do what we do without their support. They become a home base for us; they’re our biggest fans.
SSS: Favorite song off of the new record?
Brian: Either ‘Slipping Away’ or ‘Less Than Two’ probably. I always like the slower, mellower stuff.
Rhett: ‘Slipping Away’ was pretty cool because we’d never played it in its entirety, and the first time that we did was how it was captured on the record. So it falls off at the end because we didn’t know how to end the song. I just think that song translated really well. It had gone through so many iterations and to end up how it was recorded….
Brian: It started out as this weak Dubstep track; I don’t know why.
Rhett: I love the lyrics and sort of the sentiment behind ‘Hanging in a Void.’ It’s about our ex-manager and the relationship that was existing there, sort of how crazy that was.
Branden: It’s a tie between ‘Time to Mend’ and ‘Numb.’ It [Numb] never really gets played live.
SSS: So if you could watch any band perform in any location, like we did today, who would you watch and where would you want to watch them?
Brian: I would love to see James Blake in an epically big, old library with people reading books around him.
Rhett: Toby Keith….just putting someone in a natural state they wouldn’t be used to is pretty funny. I’d love to see a very candid interview with the Beastie Boys because I think they just have a ton of history and they’re all pretty with it socially and funny.
Branden: There’s this crazy old guy who plays in Pike’s Place with this really tiny piano and I’d love to see Paul McCartney walk up and say, “Hey, can I play a song?” I think that’d be a really cool thing to see with all the lights there in Seattle.
You can catch Barcelona at their two CMJ showcases this Saturday at Rockwood Music Hall at 5pm and over in Brooklyn at Spike Hill at 11pm.