Little Barrie have been growing up in the shadows for 15 years now. Slowly honing their sound and crafting their art. Avoiding hype and surviving fashion and its whimsical dalliances. It’s what great bands do. Few bands make it past the first album and many more never make it that far. It is a testament to the three players involved – Guitarist and vocalist, Barrie Cadogan, Bassist Lewis Wharton and drummer extraordinaire, Virgil Howe – that as a band they are about to release their strongest album to date. Aptly named “Shadow” Little Barrie are about to unleash a musical statement that will undoubtedly fire them into the light.
From the opening of ‘Bonneville Ride’ — one of several tracks that emerged with a theme of motion’ — the album oozes a brooding self-confidence, brilliantly combining texture and liveness. “I wanted to do something a bit darker and slightly soundtrack-y,” says Cadogan. “The last record was a bit more surf rock ‘n’ roll. I wanted to think about some different guitar sounds, a different approach to playing. More of a mood, more reverb and fuzz.
Three years after the release of the critically acclaimed “King Of The Waves” album they return and if you thought they were ready to take advantage of the current vogues then think again, Little Barrie are on their own journey and pursue their own musical agenda.
“I don’t ever want us to repeat ourselves. We want to keep moving, your tastes change, and the way you want to go. The band’s sound has changed, there was more of a soul influence on the first album, then there was rockabilly and the surf thing, and now it’s a bit more garage-y. But we’ve played together so much more, and because of that we’ve been able to do a lot more. It’s not just the gigs, but recording and rehearsing together. There’s much more of a performance element in the band now.” Barrie explains.
Returning to Edwyn Collins’ West Heath Studios where they recorded “King Of The Waves” is by no means an attempt to recreate a past glory either.
“Shadow” is an expansive, swaggering, musical masterpiece blending all their previous influences with a darker, more cinematic edge to the production. Anyone who has witnessed the band’s live performances over the past few years will testify to just how tight, accomplished and telepathic each element has become.
As a result “Shadow” oozes the kind of confidence only gained through understanding how to get the most out of every note, every hit and all the spaces in between. It’s an intuitive grasp of music and all its many variables. Recorded and mixed in just 17 days there is a relaxed urgency about “Shadow” inspired by having recently worked with Anton Newcombe of The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Damo Suzuki (Can), Andrew Weatherall and Pete Molinari.
“That’s the healthy thing about working with other people. It brings stuff out of you that you wouldn’t automatically come up with.”
Bassist Lewis Wharton continues the theme of musical exploration.
“There’s definitely been a watershed with us. Now we’re only interested in fulfilling our own criteria, so the album feels good for that, it’s more self-confident and relaxed. Barrie’s come to us with more of an initial concept, he’s had a quite a vision this time of what he wants, and I think that’s helped glue it all together.”
“We’ve found a place at Edwyn’s where we all feel really relaxed, none of us feels out of our depth or under time pressure, and all of those things contribute to how an album sounds. You can’t have a plug-in that sorts that out, you have to really feel it. I think ‘mentor’ is a good word for Edwyn, he’s that go-to opinion that you need in the studio.” Howe Explains.
Wharton, also a motorcycle enthusiast and blogger, is looking forward to his first exhibition this year of his illustration work (“it’s more traditional, like you might get in a Champion annual,” he says). Howe, the acclaimed drumming son of rock figurehead Steve Howe, produces, DJs in the UK and abroad and has even introduced some of the new songs from the album at his sets.
Having toured extensively around the world throughout the time between “King Of The Waves” and the making of “Shadow”, including personal invitations to support artists such as The Stone Roses, Charles Bradley, Dinosaur Jnr, Kasabian and Primal Scream there is a feeling of a band with a lot to say and get off its chest. Lyrically it deals with personal trauma, isolation and a social desolation mirrored by an equally evocative aural assault on songs like “Eyes Were Young”
As always, Little Barrie’s inquisitive ears led them to new places. Barrie currently eulogises about everyone from Bo Diddley via Funkadelic to Californian experimentalist Ty Segall. “We listen to so much different stuff, but we’ve got a lot of common ground as well,” he says. “We’re almost like record collectors who formed a band,” smiles Wharton.
“So fate’s sticking true to form. And Life’s sick of living you. To revolve at an equal distance. Apart from a dream come true.”
On the title track “Shadow” Cadogan intones “I was burned in a sound” And who would argue?