Sunday, August 12, 2012

Interview with Barley Station @BarleyStation

BARLEY STATION is one of those rare double-fronted bands whose music combines the roots of Americana, Pop/Rock, Country, and Folk and puts them in a blender with a dash of amaretto pouring out a tasty glass of contagious sound! The result is a distinctly alternative blend that draws deeply from its roots yet looks forward and to the future.

Please enjoy our interview with the guys from Barley Station conducted by Ced of Independent Music and Media.

From start to finish, your debut album "After All" truly delivers a refreshing experience, with it's eclectic mix of styles. How long did it take you guys to complete "After All" and what were some of the challenges bringing this masterpiece to completion?

Randy: Well thank you for the kind words about it! Our masterpiece is yet to come though (laughs) There were a few singles released before-hand that ended up on the album, though totally redone drums and all. But I'd have to say the bulk of the album was completed in about three or so months. Then we had to take some time to listen back after not hearing it for awhile, to approach it fresh. Then we tweaked it. Mainly mixing stuff, but also redid some bits. We went back right before pressing and added female vocal parts on "I Found You" which was how it was originally intended. That whole process was about 5 months. Two of those months were mainly mixing and remixing. 

Challenges... hmm. There were some complicated harmonies on a few of the songs that were challenging to work out just right. A lot of the harmonies were very spontaneous. If we got stuck, we'd wait a week or two then tackle it again.

Brian: "Can't Sleep For Venus" was a major pain. We chose it over another song called "This Morning After." Right choice in the end, but before it was over I wanted to punch the song in the face. (laughter)

Randy: Yeah, that one was tough. We really pushed the limits on that one. The original idea was to have harmonies over the "chorus" part, but when we took them out of the mix we decided it sounded better solo and made the song resolve better. Weird. But it worked. Structurally, that is an odd song, but it works.

There is an organic blend of styles and genres going on with this album (maybe you guys are all chemists and not telling us). Is there a struggle to try and stay true to a certain sound/genre or do you just let it flow?

Randy: Yeah, everything is pretty rootsy and organic. We just let the songs go where they seem to lead us. When I write I just let it flow. When I wrote "I Found You" I had just watched the movie "Walk the Line" for the first time and was revved up by the beats and was inspired to write a slew of new songs. Both "Close To One" and "I Found You" came out of that batch of songs. It was the train feel that inspired the songs, I think. I just took the rhythm in my head and let if flow from my guitar.

It's not exactly a Monsanto induced album, so maybe we're botanists or biologists more than chemists. (laughs) There's no struggle. We just let it flow, but obviously we are influenced by things. (all eyebrows go up)

Hmm… that sounds funny, let me re-phrase that... ha ha I mean, obviously we are influenced by the music we grew up with and what our parents listened to. That's what I like about the Beatles' White Album. It just flowed and you have all these different sounds and feels and genres. I don't think this is THAT diverse, but if we were, so what? There's too much homogenized music in the mainstream right now and mixes don't even sound good in headphones anymore. Everything is "Chorused" and each instrument "stereo-ized". That’s no fun to listen to. We don't want to do that. I have heard some good mixes, but not as many as there used to be. I like to put on headphones and be able to say "wow!" 

Nil: Let it flow. We write what we love by purpose or accident and diversity makes us unique. We just stay true to what we do because writing music makes us feel good. An advantage is it gives the listener a unique listening experience. Who cares what genre we are or not, you don’t know what your gonna get when you get Barley Station, like one reviewer said, "it is just Barley Station".

At the end of recording "After All," how did you figure which songs made the cut and how did you come up with the song order?

Randy: That's complicated. (laughs) We actually have a massive amount of material so I don't remember exactly how we arrived at those songs. hmm...

Sometimes there may be a couple we were just really excited about at the time and some that we've been dying to record for awhile. We're very prolific and write a lot. I think we just introduced which songs we each felt were among our strongest and that we would be able to stand to hear a thousand times over. (laughter) Brian and I are always introducing new songs to each other and when he introduces his I try to imagine how they might sound worked up a bit, or sometimes they just hit me right away as if they demand to be kept more simplistic. For example, "Abilene" is a song Brian wrote that in bare bones was a good song. But I think what we did in the studio to it made it a great song instead of just a good song. So sometimes it's about vision and thinking ahead what something can be. When I introduce a song to Brian, the same thing applies, I think. Brian and I have been doing that for years and we've been playing together for a long time, so we get brutally honest. Now, with Nil in the band we have a third opinion as well. We don't get all bent out of shape if a song doesn't make the cut and we have a huge catalogue on hand. If one of us really believes in a song, we'll keep pushing it to the other. It's somewhat democratic, but if someone just absolutely believes in a song even though the other may doubt it, we keep it because we realize we may not have the vision the other has at the time and our tastes vary. So what I might think is a great song, Brian might think something else is better or vice versa. I guess you could say, we are pretty good at gauging our own songs.

The song order... That's complicated too. ha ha. The easy part was listening to different orders and seeing what flowed best. After hearing the songs a million times, we just took the last few seconds and made sure things flowed like we wanted them to. The most complicated part was opener and closer. I think we picked Can't Sleep For Venus" to open because it was different and we didn't want anyone to be able to easily guess by the first song, what the album was like. And we made it like a variety sandwich. We closed with "After All" for a number of reasons. One was because someone told us they hate it when a band puts the title track as the last track. So I think we did that just to annoy a few people.

Plus it is at the end and the title is "After All" and it comes after ALL the other songs. And there's a personal insider meaning to it which can't yet be revealed! We also closed with that one because we felt it might be a good one to lead into the next album. It's kind of progressive if you think about it, the bridge switches to a 6/8 time then goes back to 4/4. A fun one to do live. We were thinking ahead.

Enjoy After All

There's a hint of Credence Clearwater Revival in a few of the songs. Who are your influences, musically (mainstream and/or independent)?

Randy: The Beatles is one we all share in common for sure. You gotta study them, and Johnny Cash and Queen for starters if you're gonna write songs.

My parents listened to CCR so I was exposed to it, but not a direct influence. Maybe subconsciously? They were unique though. I'm always influenced by different types of music. From the great showtune writers, to 60's music (the best era in my opinion anyway) to The Cure to Bob Marley and the Wailers to Keith Urban, Alison Krauss & Union Station, Kathleen Edwards, Ryan Adams. Songwriters like Ron Sexsmith and Matraca Berg. A couple top notch Independents I would plug would be Renee Wahl and Cecilia McLaren. Both excellent singers/songwriters. You should get them on here.

Brian: Gordon Lightfoot always has to be first, followed closely by R.E.M. and of course the Beatles. Radiohead, Tom Waits, Neko Case, Blue Rodeo, Old 97s, The Jayhawks, I could go on and on.

Nil: Mitch Mitchell, Keith Moon, Elvin Jones. I am very old school in terms of my influences.

The band and the songs are really getting noticed, right now. What other plans do you have for the album? Are there more goals that you would like to reach before recording the next release?

Brian: I'd like to be fluent in Chinese...

Randy: He's on this learning Chinese kick right now! (laughter) For real!

We have actually already started the groundwork on the next release and will start tracking this month. We'll be adding a few more tour dates this year as well and maybe some local-ish shows. But the main thing is to continue the non-stop monotonous, perpetual daily grind of promoting this band and album and making a bigger footprint for the next one to step into and take from there. A video is still in order to be done as well. We're behind on that because there's little point unless it's an amazing and incredible video, and we are looking for viedeo talent for that still. Some of the folks that said they'd help are just way too busy... unless you have a lot of cash of course. ha ha Radio has been good to us and we will continue promoting to radio all the way until the next release. I'm running our label and things have to keep moving. Nonstop. Always new goals - always something new to learn.

What will the next release be like?

Randy: Well, you're going to hear some new sounds for one thing, like the mandolin, and a bit more experimentation overall. More complex vocal work. Some warmer tones with some tube pre-amps we've acquired  It'll probably be similar to After All, in some ways but also different in other ways. Someone called us the Radiohead of Country and I don't think we deserve such a great compliment (I took it as a compliment anyway, whatever it was intended to be) but it could be a bit accurate in the sense that we like to experiment and do our own thing. It will be rootsy and futuristic at the same time I think. We'll find out when we go back in the studio! We have an all old-timey album planned as well.

At the end of the day, what do you want your body of musical work to say to listeners?

Randy: "Play it again Sam!" What more could you hope for? Music brings back memories and we hope it will do that. We just want to connect.

Thank you guys so much for taking the time out to do this interview. Is there anything else you would like to say, in closing?

All: Thanks for taking time with us! We really appreciate it!

Special thanks to Ced


Support Barley Station

Randy: Oil painting,
 reading, history,
love cats and horses

Brian: Record collecting,
Water color and 
Chinese brush painting,
 Chinese writing, movies

Nil: Cars (gearhead),
Tennis, bowling, sports


  1. Excellent stuff,...and a cool, proper interview with good questions.

  2. always look forward to your interviews, and this one didn't disappoint!

  3. wow man this is a great interview.

  4. I can hear the ccr in there, no doubt

  5. Love it ! Yes - can hear the CCR and lots more in there - thanks for the interview - got to know yet another class act ! :-)


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