‘Anyway, I love contrasting energies in art. I don’t need things to be wrapped with a pretty bow… life isn’t like that. Contradiction – and its difficult twin, hypocrisy – is a basic part of human nature, and we’ve all got a thousand devils hiding behind our smiling features.’, says Anton Barbeau about Power Pop!!!, his unbelievably beautiful latest record, recently released by Big Stir Record.

Isn’t it complicated for a freethinker like you to be embraced by the Power Pop Community where the rules seem quite strict?

Well, I specifically titled my album such with the hope of poking the genre-purists in the eye with my unwashed, salty finger! It’s not to say I’ve had great luck defining my own music, partly because I play within and beyond stylistic norms all the time. If I do a concert with only an acoustic guitar and play only my saddest songs, then I’m a folk singer. If it’s me at the piano, then maybe I’m a “singer/songwriter.” If you hear “Little Daisy” or my cover of “I’m In Love With A Girl,” then, phew, I’m a power pop dude after all.

I’m grateful that Big Stir have been so keen in their support of my music, and I try to honour their energy by releasing albums that will ultimately (hopefully) appeal to their core audience as well as reaching the other worlds my music lives in. Thankfully, when I have a 10-minute krautrock drone in need of a home, I can turn to Fruits de Mer for that.

But wait… my last release on FdM was me singing “Pleasant Valley Sunday!” I’m confused! What’s my genre again?

The Drugs and Hillbilly Village are two completely different songs. Writing in different genres does that happen to you or are you consciously looking for new challenges?

Think about the Beatles’ Revolver album… from one song to the next there’s a stylistic and tonal shift. “Here, There and Everywhere” lives inside the same 35 minutes as “Tomorrow Never Knows.” That’s basically how I grew up thinking music worked.

I’ve done jazz gigs (definitely not my calling!) and I’ve played with more than my share of classical musicians. My favourite cafe in Berlin today was playing Can and Small Faces. I like reaching for the unknown, but I also love playing with tradition.

I’m a messy fellow who likes very structured pop songs. “Hillbilly Village” came to me very quickly as I drove home from coffee in the small Californian town I now live. There’s nothing to it beyond what you hear and the recording took no time at all. “The Drugs,” believe it or not, was written simultaneously with a song called “Death and Divorce.” Subject-wise, very different, but the latter song will be on my next record and you’ll hear it’s connection – musically and sonically – to “The Drugs.” I’m just saying, not everything is as far-apart as sometimes it might seem.

I have the feeling that you like to provoke reactions with the stories you sing about. As your lyrics sound ‘personal’, do you also get reactions that upset you? And how do you (Julian) cope with that?

With the Power Pop!!! album it’s true I’m being a bit provocative, popping the balloon from the inside. I’m no fan of fundamentalism in any form. I think so far, my new record has stunned some people into silence! My previous album, Oh The Joys We Live For, did get a few head-scratching reviews. A few people took “I Love It When She Does The Dishes” as a blissful testament to domestic life. If they’d made it all the way to the end of the song, when the handgun appears, they might’ve had to reconsider!

The only thing that actually upset me was having “It’s Alright Rosie” taken as a song of “barely contained anger” in a relationship. Uh, it’s a song about my cat. My lovely cat who came to us troubled but has made amazing progress in the years we’ve had her. Hurt my feelings to think people got that song so wrong – my sweet Rosie! But back to the new album… maybe there isn’t actually any conflict. Maybe listeners just think I’m an idiot who doesn’t know what to call the music he makes!

Lines like ‘Rolling in pig shit’ and ‘I smell her sweet perfume’ are on Power Pop!!! only a few seconds apart. I think that says everything about your music and maybe also how you look at the world but maybe I’m exaggerating too much?

True enough, but bear in mind those songs are also decades apart. The “perfume” line comes from a song, “Whisper In The Wind,” which I wrote as an un-requited teen. Perfectly “power pop,” no?

Anyway, I love contrasting energies in art. I don’t need things to be wrapped with a pretty bow… life isn’t like that. Contradiction – and its difficult twin, hypocrisy – is a basic part of human nature, and we’ve all got a thousand devils hiding behind our smiling features.

I’m more than happy to make music that travels the world and explores the stars, yet never comes to a conclusion about what the number 42 is all about.

What a cool cover?!

Thank you! I took that picture on tour in Spain. (Don’t worry – Julia was driving while I was snapping away!) One of the Spanish labels I’ve worked with wanted to use it as an album cover, but the record we were talking about making never happened, so I stored that photo away for a rainy day.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s