Preview the band's new single Lovestay ahead of its official release.
Bay of Plenty post-hardcore outfit Barracks (Jared Ipsen, Hunter Branch, Tom Revell and Martin Mihaka) are on the verge of releasing their new EP, Lovestay, the follow-up to their debut album that came out back in 2014. To celebrate, we’re setting free the title track from the project, one which the band say is about growing up and the realisation that you’re not the person you used to be.
To get the full lowdown, we dropped the band a line to ask about the EP, new line-up changes, and why authenticity is always the most important aspect when it comes to everything that they do.
You’ve described the theme of your upcoming EP Lovestay as centering “around the transition to becoming an adult and the feeling of longing for friends gone away”. What elements or experiences from your life fed into the making of the EP?
Jared: I feel like I'm in that time of my life where I'm seen as an “adult” but still drink two litre bottles of Mountain Dew in bed and barely know how to use a microwave. Thematically, Ghosts was about all of the shit I had going on at the time, while Lovestay is about that endless empty feeling that’s left after you’ve moved on. I guess you don't realise how important the connections you have are until they're gone. I'm extremely grateful for everyone in my life.
The track Lovestay is my second favourite on the new EP after Don’t – it’s about realising you’re not the person that you used to be. It’s a slow process, one that takes place over a few years, but one day you look in the mirror and that kid you used to be is gone. Suddenly you find yourself in your own house with your own bills working an office job somewhere, and life sort of just happens to you without you realising where the time went. I don’t want to grow up. I don’t want to lose that energy, that passion where everything is new and it feels like anything is possible. That’s probably the most depressing realisation I ever had: that anything truly is possible if you just do it – we just don’t.
At times, you tend to parallel the post-hardcore/melodic hardcore acts that are the benchmark of the genre. Is avoiding imitation something you’re conscious of and discuss together as a band?
Tom: In terms of any parallels between us and any current big acts, it's hard to avoid influences creeping in. Though avoiding ripping off current trends and what's popular is something we did do. We don't want to sound like anyone else, nor tie our music to a certain time period. Certain hardcore and melodic elements can't be avoided when writing melodic music, but we wrote songs that came naturally to us. We're certainly noticing not many bands sound like us, especially in the New Zealand music scene. This is most noticeable in the audiences, cause we don't really have any. We're probably our main fans, playing for ourselves. If anyone digs us, hey, even better.
Jared: I'm extremely lucky to have a bunch of talented people that let me do whatever I want over their tracks. My voice has been taking a beating over the years from terrible technique, so I went with more of a clean approach this time – I think there's only two or three sections of screaming on the EP. We didn't use any pitch correction either, which I'm pretty stoked about.
I think the most important thing to us is authenticity. We want our recordings to sound as close to what we do live as possible. I think it applies to everything we do – awful stage banter, our various social media, recording diaries – we just want to be our real selves and connect with people in an authentic way.
What went into recording the EP?
Hunter: For this EP we opted to try to do some of the recording ourselves. Nathan Sowter tracked the drums earlier in the year, so once we had those mixes back we started re-building the songs up from there. For guitars, we ran them direct into the amps and played around with different tones and combinations for a few days until we found what we liked. Effects wise, we used reverb from the amps and delays courtesy of Pro Tools. Fast forward a couple blurry months and the tracks were ready enough to send back to Nate, so Jared could start doing his thing.
Jared: I screamed really loud in to the microphone a bunch of times. Nate rules because he tells me straight up when I've done a shit take or if my lyrics suck. He straight up laughed at one of the songs we had. I'm afraid of him so I sort of just laughed along.
Hunter: Overall the process took a little longer than we anticipated, but it was a great learning curve, and we know what to refine for the next record.
There’s been a high turnover of band members since you got together. How much of a challenge is that for you? Do you see the line-up changes as an opportunity to redefine your sound or ethos?
Martin: The changeover of band members has and will always be a positive thing. It allows for growth and change, mostly when it comes to our sound. For example, when we write music, most of the time we write to the capabilities of our vocalist. Seeing as we have a vocalist that can sing exceptionally well, we can shift our sound, adding further melody. This is by far our best line-up to date, with the band focussing on good vibes and attempting to create heavy music with feel and soul.
Jared: I wouldn't really say we have gone through a lot of members – we basically just have six band members that we cycle through, haha. Our guitarist, Hunter, left the band to go and tour Europe with Dead Dreamers, so we just pinched him again after they moved back here.
You’re not just recording music and chucking it into the ether, right? The EPening was a series you hosted on YouTube about the making of the EP, and your Facebook page seems to emphasis connecting with your audience over self-promotion a lot of the time. Is that something you’re mindful of when rolling out a new release?
Jared: Putting together episodes of The EPening was actually my favourite part of the recording process. We didn't head into the studio with the intention of making recording diaries – we sort of just started filming and it turned out great. The feedback we got blew me away. I still get people asking when the next episode is coming out. We try not to hold back on social media and just be ourselves which will probably get us in trouble at some point.
Mudge: I think whether we have music ready to release or not, connecting with our fans is something we strive for. As fans ourselves, our favourite bands are those we feel like we "know" and it's something that I don't think happens enough in our scene.
Barracks’ new EP Lovestay is out October 13.