Can we move the TDOA offices to San Diego? The other day, I was perusing NME and stumbled upon a great band called Barbarian. The song featured by the influential British mag blew me away. Surely the NME would only feature British bands, I thought as I quickly googled the band. Nope. Yet another great band from San Diego! To call them lo-fi would be a bit of a disservice. There’s nothing reserved or buried about Barbarian. Their music fulminates from the speakers, shredding the ears of anyone in a thirty mile radius, while still allowing you to imagine yourself basking in the sun on a San Diego beach. Andrew and I discussed action figures, massage therapy, cooking classes and something about how they’ve become an awesome band…
Todd: Be gentle with us, we’re just finding out about you and we’ve got some, pleased to meet you questions. How long has the band been in existence and did you guys come from other bands?
Andrew: I put out some demos on Bandcamp about a year ago and the core of the band started gelling together shortly after that, with a few line up changes. As of now, the Barbarian lineup consists of Andrew Mills (vocals, guitar) Seton Edgerton (Lead guitar, vocals) Dan Nichols (Keys, percussion, vocals) Andrew Harner (Drums) and Phil Dupasquier (Bass) A few of us played together in college but nothing really serious but Phil also plays in a rad local band called Roxy Jones who actually got to record with Steve Albini a couple of years ago.
Todd: Seriously, I need to live in San Diego. It seems like a ton of great bands (we’ve done interviews with Plateaus and New Mexico) have come from your fair city. Lo-fi (can we use that term without fear of retribution?) seems to be influential currently. Any sense of why SD is churning out so many good bands and why lo-fi seems popular there?
Andrew: San Diego is an awesome place to live and play in a band right now! We are really stoked to be a part of an amazing thriving music scene that is beginning to break into more of a worldwide audience. There is definitely camaraderie between the bands in the scene which makes for really great live music bills with similar yet eclectic music differences between the bands. If that makes any sense haha. There has definitely always been a “lo-fi” or DIY ethos in San Diego beginning with the rise of Swammi records in the 90′s i.e.: Drive Like Jehu, Rocket From The Crypt, Hot Snakes. I think right now is just another wave of bands to emerge and we’re all kind of waving our hands at the rest of the world and going “Hey San Diego has great music too!!!” not just San Francisco, Brooklyn, London, Etc.
Todd: To that end, lo-fi seems to be making a big push nationally. What is it about this genre that keeps bringing people back for more?
Andrew: I think the lo-fi aesthetic has an appeal because it’s raw power, ya know? Really shiny polished music can get very boring, too straight forward. I feel that some of the best records ever made such as The Idiot by Iggy Pop and Let The Love In by Nick Cave are so good because you feel like your in the room with those bands while there making it, or all going out after a recording session to ruckus whatever town your in. Also leaving little nuances and “mistakes” really make a record last because each listen you find something new, even if it’s just someones footsteps creeping out of the bathroom in the studio.
Todd: Can you tell us a bit about the residency you’re doing at Soda Bar this month? Will you use this as a forum to work on new material or do you prefer to do that in private?
Andrew: Definitely, I thought it would be a great way to try out new songs and scramble the set around and see what really works with an audience. The hard thing about the music scene in San Diego is that it is not at big as the scenes in San Francisco or London, those towns just have larger/condensed populations, so you can play more often because there’s more venues. Really, you can only play in San Diego once maybe twice a month to get a good draw of people out. We are playing with some great bands too! Parquet Courts (Brooklyn) The Abigails (OC) Dirt Dress (LA) to name a few outta towners.
Todd: Let’s get technical! I love the sound on the new single. Can you tell us what kind of guitars, amp, pedals, hair products…..you use?
Andrew: For drums, guitars and bass we pretty much use our live set ups. My main guitar is an Epiphone Sheraton II (no mods) just set up well (not by me haha) a Fender Deluxe Reverb with a vintage speaker and I’ve definitely dumbed down my pedal board MXR Carbon Copy Delay, Route 66 overdrive, Micro POG and a Fulltone Deluxe Clyde Wah…I just bought a DigiTech JamMan for loops and that thing is pretty rad. Seton plays a standard Fender Strat through a Fender HotRod Deluxe and he just got an older Orange Combo that sounds amazing so we have been using that live and on the newer recordings. Most of his tone comes from a RAT, Mr. Echo, Fulltone Trem and a Phase 90 I believe. Live keys consist of a Nord Electro 2 and some MicroKorgs. In the studio I couldn’t tell you what keys we use hahah. Our engineer has so many cool gadgets. We did use a Hammond B3 on “Daze of Youth” and then random Rolands, Moogs, Korgs, Rhodes. We actually record with Jon Greene from Plateaus, he really understands what we’re trying to achieve sonically and makes it happen. He has tones of rad analog gear, Space Echos, Maestro Echoplex, vintage compressors, etc.
Todd: You’re a new band, so I’m going to assume you’re not rolling in money for big-budget production. Nonetheless, I really like the sound you get on your recordings. Can you talk about the recording process for these first two (right?) singles?
Andrew: No big bucks, actually no bucks as of now. We pay for recording, mastering and production so we have to be very strategic. It is very important to be very prepared and well rehearsed when entering the studio or you will be disappointed when you leave. We try to capture as much of a live foundation for the songs as possible and then layer on top of that. We actually record with Jon Greene from Plateaus, he really understands what we’re trying to achieve sonically and makes it happen. He has tons of rad analog gear, Space Echos, Maestro Echoplex, vintage compressors, etc.
Todd: I’ve read that you’re working on an album. Can we expect this to resemble what we’ve heard thusfar? (please?)
Andrew: As of now, we just finished six new tracks and they will be mastered in the next couple of weeks so we should have the new EP ready to roll late Feb/early March. We have really found our sound as a band and the tracks are cohesive yet each songs is really different from each other. We are really proud of these new songs and they are definitely the best Barbarian tracks yet so I am stoked to release them soon.
Todd: Let’s talk about the videos! Who directed them and came up with the concept? Do you plan on doing more?
Andrew: The Daze of Youth video was a bastardization of random live footage and other random footage I compiled. I have always been into film so I started to learn editing programs and threw that together. It took like 18 hours because my computer kept crashing and I had to start all over, so frustrating! But it’s a labor of love. I like to keep as many aspects of the band in house if possible, Andrew Harner our drummer is a graphic designer so he does all our album artwork, posters, merch, etc. and I enjoy working on the videos. Just put a new one out for the B-side Medium Spirits. Check it out!
Todd: I discovered you via NME, who listed you as a “buzz band”. Do you know how they came across you and have you been able to discern whether that mention created more publicity for you? other than us…..
Andrew: Our PR guy got through to NME and they dug it and it went from there. I’m stoked they were into it because they are picky, but hopefully we’ll get some kind of feature on our next release. And yea the NME feature has been great publicity!
Todd: Last, what can we expect from Barbarians in 2013?
Andrew: We really have some steam under the band and I think we have really found a gelled lineup and distinct sound. We’ve got a new EP coming out in the next couple of months. West Coast Tour with local heartthrobs Wild Wild Wets in February. Hopefully get a vinyl release of the EP. We just signed with Loose Recordings (subsidiary of Manimal Vinyl and Frenchkiss Label Group) to release Daze of Youth and hopefully some future recordings. We want to play live as much as possible so definitely some summer touring. Action figures, massage therapy and cooking classes.