Published on October 7th, 2015 | by Mike Ainscoe0
Catching Up With CHARLIE BARNES
Charlie Barnes plays Manchester’s Castle Hotel on 18th October as part of A Carefully Planned Festival. With his ‘More Stately Mansions’ album out on the Superball Music label and a handful of links to the local music scene, Mike Ainscoe finds out a bit more about what he’s up to ahead of the gig and the accompanying tour.
MA: Hi Charlie! Your name might be familiar to some from working with a few of the Manchester crowd (Amplifier, Steve Durose) but just for the uninitiated, give us a quick tour of your background.
CB: Hullo! I spent my late teens playing every half-empty-at-best pub back-room across the north of England armed with a plethora of cables running between loop stations and laptops and the suchlike. I put out a handful of self releases whilst gallivanting around Europe on a very regular basis either on a train hauling my gear in a suitcase, or tagging along with one of my favourite bands, Amplifier. I’ve also been on keyboard duties for London band REVERE, and more recently I’ve been jumping around like a fish out of water at the back of the stage for Bastille.
MA: You’ve got a ‘new’ version of the title track from the album out as a single – what was the idea behind doing that? (or is it just a case of the song evolving and making a record of that?)
CB: When the folks at Superball were talking to me about releasing the album, they were quick to mention the idea of a radio version of the song, structured in a slightly more linear way. I was well up for the idea, but making it happen did feel a bit like a square peg, round hole situation. Eventually with a couple of swooshy noises I think we got there.
MA: Talking about the album, some of the songs seem to go back a few years. Is that a case of them just not quite being in a form to put on record?
CB: After I put out one of my self releases a few years ago, I formed a live band so that I could try out playing with other people instead of just relying on technology too heavily. It took us quite a long time to work out how to play the material I had at the time, and it just never really worked quite right. We tried going under a different name for a while and sticking to heavier material, but eventually we landed on the sound for More Stately Mansions and it all seemed to fit back together. That’s the main reason for some of the material having been around for a while.
MA: Your Facebook profile says “big, morbid death pop” – is that a bit tongue in cheek underselling? I thought Tim Bowness was the one who did what he calls “slow songs about slow death” 😉
CB: Pretty much, yeah! You always get asked to describe what you sound like; I just thought of ‘big, morbid pop’ a long time ago and my drummer Ste added in the death part. It’s a very important part of it all.
MA: So, what were the writing inspirations behind ‘More Stately Mansions’? Are there any songs in particular that have interesting story behind them?
CB: For the most part it’s a very personal record. It’s just how I work really. The most interesting song lyrically for me is ‘Easy, Kid’. It’s sort of an open letter to my younger self, using lines from songs, letters and notebooks I wrote as a teenager. Except for the oblique reference to The Cure I threw in, but that just cements what part of my life the song’s really about. Anyway…
MA: In the past you’ve used a lot of electronics on stage, so what can the fans expect on the upcoming tour? Although the Manchester gig if I’ve read correctly will have you playing solo acoustic?
CB: All of the shows on this tour will be solo, but they’ll be a mixture of acoustic versions of songs and also some of the looping stuff I used to do, although I’ve worked out a new way of doing the looping to freshen things up a bit. Means I’ve got plenty to go wrong which keeps it all on edge! (Southsea Pie & Vinyl will be purely acoustic though by the way…)
MA: You did a support slot with another of the Manc proggers, Mike Vennart, back in May – we love his ‘Demon Joke’ album at Sonic Bandwagon – have you done or plan to maybe do anything else with him?
CB: I’ve listened to that record compulsively since I got it. Ludicrously good work. It was a real joy to support him and the guys at their first Manchester show. Proper teenage dreams shit. Maybe someday we’ll do something again. If only to reunite Steve and I in our endless quest for curry.
MA: You’ve been doing some work as a touring member of Bastille – how did you get that gig and how’ve you found the experience?
CB: It’s been absolutely amazing. I love my ‘work’. I got recommended to them through my friend Stephen from the band REVERE because he heard they were after somebody who could jump around a few different instruments and sing reeeeeaaal high like. I’m loving it. They’re great guys, the crew are amazing, the shows have been stunning so far. I’ve had some monumental jaw-on-floor, pinch myself moments throughout the summer.
MA: I noticed you were doing something quite original and selling coffee on the website (which sold out too!) – a special blend you had created…..
CB: Throughout my twenties I’ve been keeping the wolf from the door serving people coffee, so I got to know the guys at a local coffee roastery who supplied a lot of the places I worked in. They were really into the idea of my having a custom blend to coincide with the album coming out so they helped me put something together. I think on the night of the album launch we probably sold more bags of coffee than copies of the record to be honest!
See Charlie on the official ‘Sing To God’ video from ‘More Stately Mansions’:
You can find Charlie online here: http://www.charliebarnesmusic.co.uk/