Hello friends! Today we have a bit of a vintage interview, this is one that was originally written for The Music Site, but with the closure of the platforms news and reviews section, it seemed a shame to let all of the posts die a death, so you may see some of the bits I wrote finding a new home on the very much alive Daveygranger.co.uk.
Today, or rather, last January, I had a chat with Charlie Barnes, music maestro and all round top guy. Since this interview went live, I had the pleasure of seeing Charlie do his thing at Manchester’s The Eagle Inn (criminally underrated venue), he smashed this venue, then went on to smash a similar set at the bloody Royal Albert Hall as part of Bastille’s ReOrchestrated tour, catch my review of that on TMS, maybe it’ll end up here one day too.
He’s a very talented fellow and his latest album, Oceanography, quickly became one of my favourites in 2018. Without further ado, enjoy the interview and remember that it’s a year old!
It’s been a busy couple of years for Leeds’ Charlie Barnes. Hot off the back of his last album, Barnes ended up touring worldwide as live guitarist for massive British band Bastille. In between all of this, he’s somehow found time to not only start a whole other band (The Society Pages) and complete his next album.
Oceanography is already destined for greatness, based on the suit worn in promo and the ‘All I Have’ video alone! Ahead of it’s release in March, Charlie’s let us in a bit on what we should expect.
More Stately Mansions was described by you as ‘ big morbid death pop’ how would you describe the sound of Oceanography in 4 words?
Hullo! Well, there’s definitely been a change in vibe since last time round. The old handle wasn’t half catchy though…you’ve really got me on the spot here…maybe… ‘Less morbid, still pop’? that’s a bit of a cop-out, isn’t it? Sorry…
What should fans of your music be prepared for in the run up to Oceanography‘s release?
Well, last weekend I was with some of my best pals filming a music video for the next single, so keep your eyes peeled for that one. I had a fun day at the Sony offices just before Christmas filming a few bits and pieces of me rattling on about myself, so expect a reasonably strong tide of, dare I say, CONTENT, in the run up to the album release. Anybody in or around Leeds can also come and celebrate with us a couple of days before the album comes out at Oporto, with my first live band show in almost three years.
I have to ask about the FABULOUS suit you’re wearing in all the promo and the video for ‘All I Have’, where’s it from? Is there some meaning behind the choice of clothing or just that it’s an incredible two piece?
Oh, this old thing? I decided that I needed to leave behind the kind of bookish, morbid look of yesteryear and go for something with a little bit more razzle dazzle for this album. It kind of reflects the fact that the music itself has become a little bit more playful, maybe. The inside-joke for me is that it’s kind of like I’m ‘coming back’ to the pubs circuit, but now I think I’m this big deal pop-star (even though, obviously, I very much do not think that at all). I bought two suits, they’re from a popular online mail-order retailer, and the quality of one of them is so bad that I have already had to retire the slacks from duty, after all but a video and photo shoot. You get what you pay for I suppose…
Speaking of ‘All I Have’, you’ve said to Dork you inspired the video (featuring you singing to various Eastbourne walls) from working in the music industry feeling like you’re shouting at a brick wall at times. The song is a very relatable one to those chasing their dreams, even to myself and my own writing career, although starkly different to your own struggle. Was it at all cathartic to vent these feelings in that track?
It came out of a very sarcastic conversation I was having with Bastille’s lighting chap Jamie after a festival performance. A fair whack of the album is along this sort of ‘woe-is-me, what’s the point?’ line, and, whilst that does, in a way, reflect where my head’s been at with regards to my solo output for many years, more recently I’ve got to a much better place with it all. The whole idea of chasing your dreams and success and ‘MAKING IT’ and all of that can be such a giant distraction from the actual joy of doing the thing you love. It doesn’t matter who’s listening, or in your case reading, you do it because you couldn’t do without doing it? Right? So I wanted to write something like ‘All I Have’ to round the album off (and introduce people to the new material) with a sense of optimism, reality, and sticking to your guns. Though these sorts of struggles absolute pale in comparison to the enormous issues that face the world, they are still struggles, and they still take their toll on people. We’ve got to keep a look out for each other, because a world without music, writing and visual arts is no world I want to have anything to do with.
What does the rest of 2018 hold for you? You have the album out, you’re touring the UK and Europe for Bastille’s ReOrchestrated tour (I’ll be seeing you at the Manchester show), and you’re just dropping a few solo tour dates too! It seems like a busy year already, is there anything else coming?
It’s an enormous year for me, aye. I’m so excited for that ReOrchestrated tour. I can’t believe I’m going to get to play onstage at the Manchester Apollo. It’s straight up wildest dreams shit. The one performance we did last year with that re-imagined lineup featuring the strings, brass and choir was one of my major highlights of playing with Bastille. It took everything about a normal Bastille show and flipped it on its head. I’ve no idea what the plan is this time round, but if it’s anything like that Union Chapel show it’ll be something really special. I’m also full on hide-behind-the-sofa terrified about the shows I’ll be doing with my own band to launch the new album, but it’ll be great to get back into the frontman role again. I’m sure I’ll be fairly busy for the rest of the year…there are plenty of ideas kicking around and calendars getting filled up.
Oceanography contains a track (‘Wills & Testament’) with Dan Smith of Bastille, is there anyone (big or small, dead or alive) you’d love to collaborate with?
It’s a real honour to have Dan’s contribution on the album. He gave the song such a lift with those pop-star vocals backing up my scary old lady warbly falsetto! As for other collaborations, to be honest, I think I’ve been pretty spoiled in that department so it wouldn’t be at all fair for me to ask for any more. I’ve now made TWO records with the guitarist from my absolute favourite band (Oceansize), and also had the ridiculous pleasure of joining him for a year in the live lineup of my OTHER absolute favourite band (Amplifier), on whose previous albums I’ve also contributed a few bits of piano, organ and backing vocals. I still have to pinch myself sometimes you know.
Finally, who were you listening to during the creation of Oceanography? Is there any hint of their influence?
I’ve definitely got into capital p-o-p POP music a lot more over the last few years, so Steve and I were listening to a lot of Sia, Lorde and Beyoncé for production ideas. As ever the likes of St Vincent, Local Natives, Biffy Clyro, The National and Dry the River all have a strong presence in my musical make-up. What might not seem all that obvious at first though is how much classic 50s and 60s Pop seeped into the making of this album. Steve and I are both massive fans of that era, so I definitely owe a lot of my melodic style to the likes of The Everly Brothers and Roy Orbison.
Watch Charlie sing to various walls in the ‘All I Have’ video below.
If you liked this interview, you might like a few of the others on this site, take a gander.