Interview: Old Barber

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This piece was originally published on the 16th of July 2015 by The 405. It was the third and final piece I wrote for ‘Glasweek‘.

Pop duo Old Barber are fascinating within the context of Glasgow’s underground music scene for that exact reason: they’re a pop duo. They make accessible, dreamy pop music that is wonderfully unabashed, with nary a guitar to be found amid a mix of synthesisers and drum machines from prolific Glasgow musician Taylor Stewart and vocals from Luna Webster (who also releases music as a solo artist).

Like many Glasgow based artists, Old Barber have a lot going on – Stewart juggles many different musical projects such as Rapid Tan, Bin Men and Jinzo, and Webster runs the youth politics site Have I Got News for Youth – meaning they’ve only released one EP thus far, 2014’s UFO Phil. Despite their lack of material, however, we were compelled to talk to both Webster and Stewart because of their unique position within the scene. That and the fact that our love of their first single ‘Liquor and Lipstick’ (a remix of a song that Webster recorded in 2013) instigated the process of organising Glasweek (because, honestly, it should be huge). And anyway, there’s always the tantalising of more Old Barber yet to come.

Hey! How’s it going?

Luna: I am very good! I am feeling positive at the moment and lots of exciting stuff is happening in my life so yes! Good!

Taylor: Hello! Hello hello hello! I’m very good, I’m loving it baby!

Okay, so, from the outside, what’s most immediately striking about Old Barber’s music within the whole context of Glasgow’s scene is that you’re not a guitar band. Would you say that’s quite rare?

L: Eh, well, there are aspects of electronic music within Glasgow bands, but I don’t think there is that much of it really. There are people likeDead Bart, but they’re darker than us – we don’t really fit into that category. Then there’s cool bands like King Wine, but they’re more upbeat than us? We are probably a bit of a one off; a friend once described us as a “cooler CHRVCHES.”

T: Yeah, I think Glasgow, as of the past few years, has been dominated by big guitar bands; we’ve got a few pals who do cool electronic stuff, but it’s mainly big guitar rock bands.

Why do you think that is? We’ve seen so far is that the scene is very DIY, which you’d think would lend itself to producing music electronically – on a laptop or something.

L: I think Glasgow has always been known for more indie and guitar bands, the most famous Glaswegian and west of Scotland bands tend to be, really. I reckon a lot of bands are influenced by that, maybe not even knowingly.

T: I think it’s basically just because guitar music is easier in some aspects. Like, once you learn guitar or drums, that’s you done; all you really need to do to be in a band.

L: Yeah a lot of people wouldn’t even know where to start with electronic music quite frankly. It’s not your typical thing. People tend to get guitar lessons as a kid or do higher music or whatever and develop their interests through that, but they don’t teach you synth generally.

So how did you come around to making electronic music?

L: Taylor totally got me into it, he is an electronic wizard.

T: When I was thirteen or fourteen my pal Chris posted a song he made with FL Studio on YouTube and I asked him how he made it. He showed me how to get FL Studio and for the next couple of years I made loads of drum & bass songs constantly and they were all terrible. But then over time I worked out how to actually make decent stuff.

So I take it you’re into drum & bass? Assuming that you’re not influenced by the same pool of Glaswegian and west of Scotland artists as your contemporaries, what are your influences – individually and as a group?

T: I’m very into drum & bass yeah, but not really influenced by it a lot anymore though. My main influences for what I do now would probably be, like, Women and Viet Cong – I don’t think it’s obvious in any of the music though. Like, it’s weird, I’m not actually sure who influences my own sounds really.

L: I’m really into a lot of two piece electronic bands like Purity Ring and Phantogram. We’re also pretty influenced by Gorillaz, I think. The stuff we are writing at the moment comes from a million and one influences ranging from Kylie to Talking Heads to Death Grips

T: Yeah, I’m pretty influenced by Death Grips now that I think about it. I try not to make it come out too much in the songs though.

You mentioned that you’re writing new material now, how’s the process going? You both juggle Old Barber with what seems to be a million other projects – musical or otherwise – is it difficult to fit it in?

T: It’s not difficult to actually write so much as it’s just difficult to find a lot of time to do the writing, really. When I sit down to do Old Barber stuff, it tends to just come to me. But recently, because of how busy I’ve been, I’ve definitely been pretty limited with how much time I’ve been able to actually give it.

L: Yeah, same. I’ve been working hard with Have I Got News for Youth, so it’s been a slow process. But we will get it done, it’s just a busy time of year I think.

Does that mean we won’t be hearing any new material any time soon?

L: I think it’ll be done soon, maybe?

T: Yeah, I think we will have some stuff out pretty soon. It’s just a case of us sorting out a release. I have no idea how we will go about it, though. I’m really into the idea of us doing a cool physical release; we won’t do CDs, but we will definitely put out tapes!

L: Hopefully we can work something out for the tapes, yeah. We are both always very poor but we will MAKE IT WORK!

You mention tapes, which is interesting because it seems to be a format that independent artists and labels seem to be gravitating towards again. Why does the format appeal to you?

L: I like them because they’re pretty popular for DIY artists at the moment, they’re relatively cheap, and have a nice homemade vibe to them.

T: I just like how fun they are. I think they sound cool too, like, if it’s one you’ve made on your own on an old rubbish tape (big up Kieran Thomas), it just sounds really mad and nice – I’m very into it.

How about gigs? As far as I’m aware you haven’t performed as Old Barber yet. Is that something we can expect soon?

T: I really want to do gigs, again, though, I’m really unsure about how we would do them. But we definitely will as soon as we work it out!

L: I can’t wait to do gigs as much. As I love what I do solo, Old Barber will be much more exciting to perform.

T: Yeah, I think Old Barber gigs would be so much fun, I really want to do them. It would be cool to work with our cool pals for mad live instruments.

L: That would be amazing, we said a while back we’d love to do like a weird electronic cover of a Talking Heads song or something and get our music pals involved. I will easily be the last talented in the bunch I am just good at words and voice stuff, but I will play the tambourine!

Well, Taylor, you managed to do a gig as part of Nigel and the Savages, so anything is possible, right?

T: Hahahaha. We’ve actually done two gigs now, the future is looking bright!

L: Can Bin Men and Nigel and the Savages and Old Barber and Rapid Tan do a gig? I just want to watch you become exhausted, Taylor.

T: I would love nothing more.

L: It’d be so good

Even if you haven’t gigged as Old Barber, you have as part of other projects. How do you both find gigging in Glasgow?

L: I’ve only done a Glasgow gig once, but I loved it so much. It was Nice n’ Sleazy and the sound system there is crazy cool. I had so much good feedback and the people were so lovely.

T: I love gigging in Glasgow, it’s my favourite thing to do with music. I’ve made so many cool new pals and it’s just so much fun.

You’ve mentioned your music pals quite a bit. Would you say the scene functions more like a community, or is it loads of bands doing their own thing? Or somewhere in between?

T: It’s definitely somewhere in between that. Like, so many of our pals totally do their own thing, but it’s still a really cool and good community. Everyone is just good pals and it’s a lot of fun.

L: I love the Glasgow gigging scene, it’s like a lovely big family. I know that if I go just to watch a show, loads of people will be there. Like the boys from Flakes or the people in Strop or the Antique Pony lads. It’s dead good, everyone knows each other.

T: Antique Pony are so amazing!

L: Oh my god I know right! I listen to ‘Equestrianism’ on the bus to college every single morning!

T: Yeah, I love that pretty much any gig you go to within our sorta big Pal Group will be guaranteed to have 5 or 6 folk you know at it.

L: Yeah, it is a community, definitely.

Would you say you’re pushing each other to make better music, or are you just pissing about and having a good time? Or does one feed into the other?

T: Yeah, definitely. So many of the people in Glasgow who I’ve played with have really impacted the way I go about making songs, it’s like everyone just borrows elements from what their pals do. I love it. I really love it.

This whole Glasgow week feature spawned from listening to your song ‘Liquor & Lipstick’ and wondering why it wasn’t, like, fucking huge. We then talked about The Cherry Wave and Antique Pony, and other brilliant Glasgow bands that more people should listen to. So why do you think the wealth of great music happening in Glasgow is being overlooked?

T: I think it’s mainly down to people being ignorant and pretending nobody is making a certain type of music. When, really, there are so many cool bands doing really, really cool stuff, but they just can’t be bothered looking for it.

L: I think it’s like with any city: people are kind of lazy when it comes to local music. They want everything served to them on a little internet plate, in the form of a Spotify playlist [Look out for The 405’s Glasgow playlist later this week!] or an NME recommendation or something.

T: Yeah, like, if it’s not being shoved in their face then they’re not going to hear it, basically, it’s really daft.

L: It’s a shame that people aren’t that involved with their local scenes. But I think people will learn. A lot of the bands we associate with are so talented. They’ll go far and they WILL end up on those playlists and on music magazine websites.

This interview was conducted February 2015 via Facebook.

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