Sipping coffee at the Luna Café with Matthew Barber
By Carmel Garvez
Your latest album, Ghost Notes, came out March 2008 here in Canada. But it was released April of this year in the US. Why did it take so long to have it out south of the border?
Matthew Barber: That’s just the way it goes. It was available digitally in the US right from the beginning, so people were buying it on iTunes and things like that. But just the terms to finding an actual label to release it physically and distribute it and put it in stores took a little while. But that’s pretty normal in the indie world.
How is it different from your previous albums?
MB: Overall, it’s a mellower album. I don’t know. I was just trying to really make my voice and the acoustic guitar or piano to be the focus of it, and just sort of build up sparse arrangements around it. On some of my previous albums, it’s a little bit more like the songs have been written for a rock band – been a little bit more aggressive.
I read something about some supernatural occurrence while you were recording Ghost Notes – hence, the name. What was that all about?
MB: There’s a noise in one of the songs that I can’t really explain. It sounds like a voice, although I can’t make out what it’s saying. And there was nobody else in the room when I was doing it, so it’s a bit of a mystery to me.
Which song is it?
MB: Somebody Sometime, it’s the second last song in the album. You really have to listen very carefully to hear it. There’s a noise right at the beginning of the third verse. “It’s Christmas Eve and my girl’s out to sea/ She’s a thousand miles away” – that line, and then, you kind of hear like there’s somebody in the background saying something. But there was nobody else there! I mean, it was just myself in one room. And then the guy who was engineering it was across the hall in another room. We recorded it in this big old house that was supposedly haunted. But I don’t really believe in ghosts.
But it’s a good story! Where did all this happen?
MB: Yeah, I kind of like that goosebumpy feeling sometimes, y’know? I recorded it in this place called the Bath House, which is near Kingston. It’s an old Victorian house right on the shore of Lake Ontario. It’s pretty secluded, but it’s a really cool studio.
Having done your masters in philosophy, do you incorporate that into your music?
MB: I think maybe subconsciously. I don’t really try to write songs about philosophical themes, other than the overarching, sort of just trying to make sense of the world. I try to take what I perceive in the world and just try to put it back in some sort of story or just try to capture a moment in a song. So there’s an element of philosophy in that, I suppose. But not in the rigorous, logical, academic way.
No songs about Aristotle?
MB: No, no. But I called my first album “Means and Ends”, which is kind of an Aristotle reference! But philosophy is kind of this subtle little thing that’s still a big part of who I am, because I’ve spent so much time studying it. Actually, in a lot of the new songs that I’m working on now, I’m addressing metaphysics a little bit more.
So, what is Matt Barber up to these days?
MB: I’m right in the thick of trying to figure out who I’m going to work with on my next album. I’ve been working a lot in my basement, recording demos, and writing songs. And I’m going to get busy again with touring in the fall. I’m going out west for a bit in September. And I’m going to try to set up a tour again in the States in October. But I have a fair bit of time right now, which is nice.
Don’t miss Matthew Barber with Claire Jenkins on Wednesday, Aug 12th at the Theatre Centre!