Montreal quartet The Barr Brothers are set to release their second album Sleeping Operator next week (6 October) - but you can hear the whole thing now exclusively via Q. Plus along with the full record, the band's Brad Barr has written us a track-by-track guide to the record.
Static Orphans This instrumental opener was originally written as a bed-pulse for our version of Woody Guthrie's Who's Gonna Shoe Your Pretty Little Feet. Sarah [Page, harp] discovered a way to transition into Love Ain't Enough. What she wrote - it's one of those moments where you hear it and know that someone was loving music that day. Our friend Pemi played an amazing first take of improvised violin over this.
Love Ain't Enough Love Ain't Enough is the song that happens when you give up on giving up on love. Either one has some kind of epiphany, or it becomes too exhausting to fight it anymore. The title is kind of misleading, as it draws from the preceding state of mind, one in which the heart is less open, insatiable. This song is optimism. We were inspired by Steve Reich to create a pulsing bed of harp, marimba, banjo, dulcimer, and other percussion, over which the guitars and vocals can rise and fall.
Wolves This song came very quickly, writing and recording-wise. The guitar is in a deep, drop tuning. It feels like a quest for intimacy in the landscape of modern wilderness. You can really hear and feel Ryan Freeland's mastery of the art of recording on this one. At one point, we thought we should strip it down to just bass and drums, because they felt so good on their own.
Even the Darkness Has Arms Even the Darkness Has Arms takes its cues from the old ‘talking’ blues’ style of songwriting, but with a more personal subject. The lyrics are fast, the tempo is brisk, it stays light on its feet. If you ever woke up in a bed without somebody, and you didn’t know the bed or the room or the city, this song might be for you.
Come In The Water The event that inspired this song was the 1997 killing of seven young girls in the park on the Island of Peace, on the Jordan river, along the border between Israel and Jordan. It was designated a peaceful place, where Israeli and Jordanian kids could play together without fear. One day a Jordanian soldier open fired on a group of Israeli girls, aged 13 and 14, killing seven of them. Israel was created in a moment of compassion, national interest, and delusion. "On the day that you were born, legions laid down their arms/ On the day you lost control, legions leapt for your throat".
Little Lover I wrote the basics of this song on a trip to the interior of British Columbia. Someone asked me to look after their 6-month old baby for 20 minutes. This little riff was the only thing I could find to play that seemed to keep him calm. It’s about when the passion for your lover goes.
How The Heroine Dies After hearing this mix back through the studio monitors, my thought was that I hope a couple of teenagers take a car out to the edge of some cliff that overlooks an ocean or the city or a canyon somewhere, smoke a joint, discover this song, and turn it up really loud. Might be my favorite song on the record. It was recorded by Valgier Sigurdson at his studio in Iceland, and, to me, has all the eeriness and mystery and chill of that landscape.
Valhallas I wrote most of this in my bedroom in what was supposed to be a temporary apartment situation that turned into a two year stay. For me, it provides relief from the gravity and tension of this record... simple little song. It’s about letting someone go who needs to go, even when things are going good. I borrowed the chorus melody from a song called All You Old Cowboys, known and sung by only a hand-full of thespians in the Okanagen.
Half Crazy This song, Half-Crazy, could be described as the tenacious offspring of the North African desert music of Mali/Morocco, and the sweat and electricity of the Chicago and Mississippi Delta blues. That music is like a stem-cell, really open to going in many directions. On this track, we wired the harp through a dirty little amplifier. I played my early '40s Oahu lap-steel. Andrew uses a loping high-hat feel, and the electric bass pushes the whole thing. The lyrics got a nudge from our friend Nathan Moore - we're all half-crazy, half clear as a bell."
Bring Me Your Love Maybe one of the freshest live performances on the record. I think this is the second or third take, still very new to us at the time. Andrew [Barr, drums] uses a beat of his that I've always wanted to record, the roots of which would be North African, but which he plays almost like John Bonham. Miles Perkin plays some monster upright bass parts. It's saying "all these rare and precious things - I'd burn them to have your love".
England These words are adapted from Yeats' poem Easter 1916. The poem deals with the Irish uprising and the heroes of that revolution who died. Yeats was not a "political" poet, but he addresses this subject with such humanism and social awareness, it’s like he is putting faces to the faceless.
The Bear At The Window Another playful song with lyrics that are intended to be very matter-of-fact. There's also something desperate about the situation... in a cute way, like a sad clown. I love the harp and nylon-string guitar interaction. Andres Vial is quoting away on the piano, and Miles Perkin takes one of the weirdest bowed upright bass solos ever... sounds like a flute. This was always going to be the album closer for me, until...
Please Let Me Let it Go We recorded this about six months before the rest of the album, in a studio in Banff, Alberta. The engineer, Graham Lessard, did such a good job capturing it. He's a very patient guy, and that relationship yielded a very patient performance. We layered ourselves singing backups, then piped them into a concrete stairwell for the reverb. Feels like a church, but is really a pretty drab piece of architecture. Goes to show what you can get out of the most unassuming things. Brad Barr @thebarrbrothers
For more head to Thebarrbrothers.com.