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The Barbs

Article written by Kev O - Oct 19, 2003

Interview by Paul M and Kev O. Pics by Grim.


The Barbs are a London based four piece – Tim (vocals, gtr, chief song-writer and wearer of john spencer sideburns, from Medway), Amy (vocals, gtr, left her parents’ farm in Oz to swap sheep shearing for a six string), Simon (Coventry born drummer, knows a thing or two about carp), and Jim (London born skyscraper on bass). They’ve been together for over a year. Live they are fun and exciting to watch and the music is guitar note driven indie rock/pop which has a certain je ne sais quoi about it. They have one single, on Mother Tongue records, ‘Massive Crush’ which SoundsXP rates highly.

So a bit of The Barbs pre-history. Simon and Jim met at Brunel University where, with a certain Carl Barat (latterly of some band called The Libertines), they’d get regularly ‘caned’ by the banks of the river. About couple of years ago, Simon met Tim through the classifieds of NME – Jim was in another band but when he left that to join them things started to move and the search was on for a female vocalist to suit the songs. Jane, the original vocalist, left but after three weeks of auditions Amy walked through the door and cemented the current line-up. The fact she also plays a guitar has proven a bonus, adding to the dynamic of the band. [In a nice touch, The Barbs website thanks those who applied and didn’t get chosen].

“Massive Crush was one of the first songs we wrote, so that set the format for us” explains Tim. “We’re big Pixies fans and like the dynamic of their approach.” Talking of influences The Barbs music is often compared to the B52s or the Cramps, although this bemuses the band a little. “I don’t think any of us have a B52s record!” says Tim,“ although I used to work with someone who played them all the time. We’ve also been compared to The Rezillos. And I don’t think I have consciously heard The Cramps. These are bands you have to respect and I want to listen to them but I’d say the guitar is more influenced by Dick Dale – but he may have influenced those bands so it could explain it!”. We point out that Lux Interior also gets his ‘member’ out as part of his stage act ….”Well, I need to do something to draw attention from Amy!” says Tim, “Actually, I don’t think anyone would notice as they would all be too busy looking at her….”

There are influences and there are influences though – The Barbs’ website lists some of their favourite bands – John Spencer Blues Explosion, Boss Hogg, er, Pantera, The Carpenters, ahem….”Well the thing with JSB is that they are a band that makes me want to play and make music – but not necessarily to play like them.” Good point. And whilst these mentions may be US bands, there is also a fondness for bands from these shores - Simon expands “The Smiths, Stone Roses, The Jam, Joy Division, but not much else…” These are bands you love and admire – they may even inspire - but you don’t always want to sound like them. There is a general despondency about the lack of great UK bands in recent times, as Simon adds, “The last thing to come from Coventry, The Specials, was 20 years ago!”. We look into our beers.


Discussion moves on to ‘scenes’. Given Tim’s connection with Medway, we ask if he is linked to that in any way. “I am aware of it and Billy Childish, who I’ve seen riding around on his old bike, but I don’t go out of my way to hear it. Good luck to him but I don’t think he represents Medway. There are some good bands in Medway but not a lot. It’s not part of a circuit so not a lot of bands go there but work is going on trying to make it a good area. But we don’t want to be part of that scene. What we do isn’t part of a scene.” Indeed, The Barbs appear to have a healthy scepticism about scenes in general. “Because ‘the scene’ can be so trend based,” argues Tim,” if you do what you want you are either in vogue or you’re not and we suffer from that. NME don’t think we’re ‘now’ whilst other press think we are. But everyone seems to agree when they see us live that it’s a really good show, sometimes even grudgingly…All you can do is what you do, as well as you can.” However, there seems to be something stirring around London town at the moment. Tim agrees “ We have seen lots of good London bands, such as Special Needs and The Rocks, who like us do what they do and do it well….although our music isn’t radically new we try to add something to it that will make us appeal and for people to remember us.”

We remark that we like the video [also on the Massive Crush single], especially the ‘amateurish’ background. A gasp of incredulity comes from Tim, “Amateurish! That cost £20,000!”. For those that haven’t seen it, the video includes Tim and Amy singing/acting out the song in a car with back-projection. The car turns out to belong to the manager, but they had to be careful not to damage it…”He’d say ‘Give it more, but don’t damage the car’, and ‘Jump on the seats, but be careful!’” The car fits in with the lyrics but originally they’d wanted to be jumping around in front of comics background. Most of the band are interested in comics (one of their songs is Straight Outta Comix – also on the Massive Crush single), and their avatars on the website message board are comic characters. When asked about their favourite character Jim is first in with Judge Dredd of 2000 AD whilst Tim opts for Batman. [Our psychoanalyist is currently studying this for significance].

We diverge on to the subject of The Barbs website, and how searching on google can take you to different sites (there is more than one barbs website out there, so type carefully) and we conjecture about the number of angling sites that might be thrown up. However, it appears that one member of The Barbs might appear on these…Simon has been in a fishing magazine (Carp World, My Carp, Your Carp, Which Carp? who knows) Tim continues ”He’s a really keen angler. He bought[general laughter]…sorry,‘caught’… a really big carp and as you might expect he took a picture and called some magazine. ‘Cos that’s all these magazines are, pictures of people with really big carps! So he rang up and said I caught this really big carp and the guy said, ‘You’ve come to right place’, like it’s the CIA or something! It’s all true. Every pound of it.”

Apart from this fishy tale, it seems Tim has worked in a brothel. “Well, I plumbed in their sink” he says defensively. We’re not sure if this is a polite euphemism or not and enquire whether he was as a full time plumber or he was making a ‘film’ at the time. Tim explains, ”It was quite weird. I was called to this place where they hadn’t had water for weeks. I didn’t twig it was a brothel but I kept passing lots of dodgy looking guys in the alley when going back to the van to get stuff, and they all seemed to be going into this flat.” We couldn’t help noticing Tim seemed to be there a long time, “Well, obviously I had to go into the second hour! [as any plumber worth his plunger would – waterworks Ed]” says Tim amidst the laughter. But the penny dropped “when a Thai girl in a black bra and panties appeared asking ‘hello, we got water?’ But a brothel without water for two weeks – can’t be hygienic!”

So what next? The Barbs have signed up for a debut album and two singles. The album should be out in January, with a single being taken from that, and then a further single by March. As to what the singles, and tracks on the album, will be is still being discussed. “Nowwaitaminnit was going to be the next single but we’re recorded some other stuff, such as The Importance of Being Evil, which have all sounded really good. We’ve got 25 songs recorded or demoed so it’s a question of narrowing it all down.” Sounds like an overabundance of riches to us. If this is as good as their live performances promise then The Barbs will have you hooked [Ouch! – Pun Ed].

The Barbs website


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