I didn’t write any questions because I got the impression that Brendan Fowler (who is Barr) is pretty talkative. He says that’s probably a pretty good impression. Barr is one of the editors of this super rad free magazine called ANP Quarterly. On his records (most recently Beyond the Reinforced Jewel Case on 5RC and Doggpony), he kind of sings/kind of raps/mostly talks with an awkward but carefully constructed flow, over these catchy drums and some other instruments. Each song seems like it tells about 80 stories at once in a really fragmented but somehow understandable order.
Only: What do you like to talk about?
Brendan Fowler: I try to just talk about life. People accuse me of being overly open and personal. I guess it’s off-putting sometimes. But I’m pretty honest. I like to encourage people to be open and talk about stuff because I think that’s healthy. If people are emotionally healthy it will help the greater everybody. So I’m kind of into emotional health and wellbeing. Maybe I try to talk about my own experiences as a means to encourage people to be open and dialogue about that stuff. My music’s political in the sense that personal politics affect the bigger politics. If people are personally healthy then they’ll realize the way the bigger scheme can operate. Maybe they won’t stand for so much bullshit. We have a really fucked up political situation right now in America.
Only: Things are kind of fucked up here right now too.
B: Well I’m excited to come up and hear how terrible it is. Well, not excited… I feel weird though. Isn’t it weird that you guys hear a lot about our jacked political stuff but we don’t even hear about you guys? That’s the thing–America’s so fucked up and dumb. Like it’s such a big, stupid media celebrity. It’s so jacked. I apologize. I feel terrible.
Only: It’s not your fault. You’re doing your best, obviously.
B: I’m trying hard. Thanks for noticing.
Only: Is there anything that you don’t like to talk about?
B: Uh… There are some things that might seem cheesy or… There’s a line on the new album where I tried to write a really, really uncomfortable line. Like I tried to write the most uncomfortable line I could. Sometimes I don’t like doing it live.
Only: What’s the line?
B: …I don’t know. I’ll tell you at the show when I play it.
ONLY: Is it weird to you that other people feel uncomfortable with you talking about personal things even though you feel comfortable with it?
B: Yeah, it’s funny. I’ve always been really open. I guess I played with that dynamic my whole life a little bit–like in school with other kids. I think I’ve been navigating that weird space of “public/private: what’s okay?” for a long time.
Only: Is there some kind of awkward dynamic between you and the audience that contributes to the performance?
B: Like nervous talking or something? No. When I was younger I definitely suffered from this thing called “pressure of speech,” which is where you have to be talking all the time in social situations. But I don’t think I have that anymore. In fact, I was diagnosed as being over it. I just kind of like talking. I’m a chatterbox.
Barr plays at the Commodore Ballroom on March 1, 2006 with Animal Collective and First Nation