The Bowery Presents
Courtney Barnett

WFUV Presents

Courtney Barnett

Chastity Belt, Darren Hanlon

Wed, May 20, 2015

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm

The Bowery Ballroom

New York, NY

$20

Sold Out

This event is 18 and over

Pre Show (7pm-doors)/Post Show Happy Hour Lower Level Lounge

Courtney Barnett
Courtney Barnett
Mixing witty, often hilarious, occasionally even heartbreaking observations with devastating self-assessment, Courtney Barnett’s debut album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, cements her standing as one of the most distinctive and compelling voices in indie rock. These songs reveal not only an assured songwriter and guitar player, but also an artist who in just a few years has already proved highly influential.

Fueled by the nimble crunch of her guitar and the loose groove of the rhythm section, Courtney Barnett’s songs are wild and shaggy and wordy, her lyrics plainspoken and delivered like she’s making them up on the spot. The music is rooted in the slack jangle of the late 1980s and the early 1990s, which has prompted the adjective “slacker” from journalists and critics around the world. That word is fitting for tunes that sound like they only just roused themselves out of bed. As a description of Barnett’s work ethic and musical influence, however, “slacker” is all wrong.

Even just a few years into a solo career, she has already proved herself an idiosyncratic and boundary-smashing artist and a passionate advocate for the arts who is changing the face of indie rock in her native Australia and around the world. After leaving art-school in Hobart, Tasmania, Barnett moved to Melbourne and became a mainstay of the local scene. She paid her dues and honed her chops in short-lived garage outfits before playing lead guitar in the twang-psych band Immigrant Union (which featured Bob Harrow and the Dandy Warhols’ Brent DeBoer).

When she went solo, Barnett launched her own label, which she dubbed Milk! Records, to release her own material as well as music by some of Melbourne’s finest singers and songwriters. With the 2013 release of The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas (which combined her first two self-released EPs), she embarked on an almost never-ending tour that took her to North America and Europe, barely stopping long enough to record her first true album.

Her songs may not sound tightly coiled, but they are carefully and exactingly structured. Her lyrics may ramble, but each word is carefully chosen. She is, however, no perfectionist. In fact, she may be an imperfectionist: Barnett strives to fine-tune her songs as much as possible, but she knows that their flaws—a missed note here, a flubbed line there—can make the music sound more human, more relatable, more sympathetic. “My songs follow me as a normal human with normal emotions,” she explains, “so there are great highs and great lows. They span everything in my life.”

Barnett and her band—which includes Dan Luscombe on guitar and the surprisingly nimble rhythm section of Bones Sloane on bass and Dave Mudie on drums—recorded the album at Head Gap Studio in Melbourne during the fall of 2014. “We’d start midday and work until quite early in the morning,” she says. “Of course, half the time is sitting around waiting for the engineer to get a mic into place or something like that.” The band used the downtime to take these songs apart and put them back together again. Nothing was taken on faith; every note and every word was parsed.

“We didn’t just go in and bang it out. We mucked around with it. There was the panic of not having the songs prepared, but I think that energy works for the album. And we were drinking a lot of coffee.” (The process was documented by photographer Tajette O’Halloran, whose images are included in the liner notes.)

Barnett took drastic measures to make sure every song came out as perfectly imperfect as possible. When “Pedestrian At Best” wasn’t working out in the studio, she took the backing tracks home with her and listened to them over and over and over, trying to get the right words to come out of her mouth. “I had some words on paper and a half-assed melody that I hated,” she recalls. “I rapped over it until I found something I was happy with. It’s an embarrassing process, though, and the first time I sang that song was when I recorded it. I had to make everyone leave the room, because I felt really vulnerable.”

No nerves are evident in the final take, which includes some of Barnett’s most incisively indecisive lyrics, crammed with internal rhymes, inside jokes, and stinging self-deprecation. “I must confess I’ve made a mess of what should be a small success, but I digress. At least I tried my very best… I guess.”

Writing these songs can be a drawn-out and nerve-wracking process, especially when she finds herself recording a song that she hasn’t written yet, but it pays off beautifully on Sometimes I Sit and Think. It’s a beguiling collection of songs that reveals her as an ambitious songwriter with an ear for clever turns of phrase and an eye for story-song details that are literate without being pretentious. Barnett even did the artwork and hand lettering for the liner notes, showcasing a whimsical style similar to indie comics or the sketches of Eric Chase Anderson (who does most of the sketches for his brother Wes’ films).

Now that these songs are on record, she will not stop tweaking and perfecting them. The more she lives with them—the more she plays them out, the more fans react to them—the more alive they sound to her, often disclosing new meanings and direr implications. “They keep revealing themselves,” she says. “They change from touring and recording. They morph and change form and can end up sounding completely different. I hope it’s like that forever.”
Chastity Belt
Chastity Belt
A few years ago, while in a tour van somewhere in Idaho, the members of Chastity Belt—Julia Shapiro, Gretchen Grimm, Lydia Lund, and Annie Truscott—opted to pass the time in a relatively unusual fashion: They collectively paid one another compliments, in great and thoughtful detail. This is what we like best about you, this is why we love you.

I think of that image all the time, the four of them opening themselves up like that, by choice. It’s hard to imagine other bands doing the same. But beyond their troublesome social media presence—see: the abundance of weapons-grade duck face, the rolling suitcase art—and beyond the moonlit deadpan of say, “IDC,” lies, at the very least, an honesty and an intimacy and an emotional brilliance that galvanizes everything they do together. Which is a fancy way of saying: They’re funny, but they’re also capable of being vulnerable. “Giant Vagina” and “Pussy Weed Beer,” two highlights from their aptly titled 2013 debut, No Regerts, were immediately preceded by a sublime yet easily overlooked cut named “Happiness.” I saw a younger, still unsettling version of myself all across 2015’s Time to Go Home.

This June marks the release of I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone, their third and finest full-length to date. Recorded live in July of 2016, with producer Matthew Simms (Wire) at Jackpot! in Portland, Oregon (birthplace of some of their favorite Elliott Smith records), it’s a dark and uncommonly beautiful set of moody post-punk that finds the Seattle outfit’s feelings in full view, unobscured by humor. There is no irony in its title: Before she had Chastity Belt, and the close relationships that she does now, Shapiro considered herself a career loner. That’s no small gesture. I can make as much sense of this music as I can my 20s: This is a brave and often exhilarating tangle of mixed feelings and haunting melodies that connects dizzying anguish (“This Time of Night”) to shimmering insight (“Different Now”) to gauzy ambiguity (“Stuck,” written and sung by Grimm). It’s a serious record but not a serious departure, defined best, perhaps, by a line that Shapiro shares early on its staggering title track: “I wanna be sincere.”

When asked, their only request was that what you’re reading right now be brief, honest, free of hyperbole, and “v chill.” When pressed for more, Truscott said, “Just say that we love each other. Because we do.”

This is who they are, this is why I love them.

—David Bevan, February 2017

“They’re funny, and slightly goofy, and gently vulgar, and they play with an appealingly loose, relaxed confidence.” – Pitchfork

“In between pelvic-thrusting sexual innuendo and self-mockery, Chastity Belt filter feminist theory, cultural commentary and general intellectual bad-assery…Chastity Belt isn’t the band 2013 wants—it’s the band 2013 needs.” – CMJ

“The guitars on this record…have a nice ring to them, like Liz Phair’s recordings.” – NPR
Darren Hanlon
Darren Hanlon
Darren Hanlon grew in a place described in tourist brochures as: "the town that saved Queensland". The grandiose statement refers to the discovery of gold in Gympie in 1867. The house overlooking the river in the Southside of the regional town contained his parents, his sister and their scant record collection but it seemed the two albums played continually were Kenny Rodgers 'Greatest Hits' and Slim Dustys 'This is Your Life' which they'd all listen to from their rooms at bedtime. "We might even get to hear side 2 if dad stayed awake long enough to get out of bed and turn it over," he remembers.

Scarily, his musical education could have started and ended there if it wasn't for a music teacher from a rival school who lived on his street. Owning a record collection that spanned 3 double arm lengths and 4 shelves high, it was from this stack miscellaneous enlightening gems would be plucked at random on the afternoons Hanlon would arrive uninvited. Whether or not the teacher put them on to actually educate this inquisitive rural nerd or simply shut him up was unimportant. He would sit there bug-eyed hearing everything from the Sex Pistols to the Smiths for the first time (and that was just the selections under "S"). The pestered neighbour eventually moved away but Hanlon found his new address by simply asking another teacher.

Fleeing Queensland after high school to Music College in Lismore his eyes were opened wider. If one would visit the town now it's hard to imagine that at the time it was a hotbed for original music and creative energy. From a long list of local bands, the 7 or so venues would fill their chalk boards most nights of the week, Hanlons favourite being University art-pop combo, Playground. He slowly got to know them by loaning them his guitar leads and was soon asked to join as guitarist, was fired on grounds of being "too country" and then rejoined in time to record their first EP under new name 'The Simpletons' and with them he toured Australia for the first time. Over five or so years, standing stage right of songwriting genius Shane Gelagin, he was happy to embellish tunes rather than build them. "To witness Shane working out songs was equally awe-inspiring and intimidating. He had limited musical background so therefore had no pre-conceived ideas on harmonic or melodic theory. He made his own rules. I wouldn't dare try compete."

But songs did slowly materialise over that period, mainly written for friends to perform at parties, some of them intended to be played once at the most. By the time the Simpletons dissolved messily at the Plantation Hotel in Coffs Harbour, Hanlon had a small but growing rucksack of tunes that he started performing on low-key early weeknights in venues around Sydney. After a brief stint touring as guitarist/keyboardist for Simpletons label mates the Lucksmiths and the Dearhunters and a year with Weddings, Parties, Anything leader Mick Thomas, Hanlon was finally convinced by Candle records mogul Chris Crouch to commit some of his songs to tape.

Getting the 'Early Days' EP out of the way quickly and heading to America for a whistlestop greyhound bus tour, national radio at home picked up on an unlikely banjo driven last-minute track called Falling Aeroplanes that meant he had some kind of career to return to. "I'm as surprised as anyone" he was heard muttering at the time.

During the recording of 'Hello Stranger' in 2002, Hanlon collaborated with drummer/instrumentalist Bree van Reyk on a couple of tracks and a musical partnership was formed which came to full fruition when the pair travelled to Tucson, Arizona in 2004 to record the next collection of songs. This time not only did Van Reyk contribute all percussion but also helped with a lot of arrangement and melodic ideas as well calming his nerves on turbulent plane journeys. They both bought ice-creams from a little shop under Wavelab Studios served by Mexican children. The words 'Little Chills' were crudely written on a piece of paper stuck to the window and were soon stolen by Hanlon and van Reyk to be the banner under which the new recordings would lie. The success of this album slingshot the pair into fairly constant touring splattered throughout Australia and the rest of the globe it belongs to.

In 2005 Darren moved to Oxford, UK to live for 7 months. His writing for the next project was interrupted briefly with a couple of trips to Scandinavia to support and play in that years line-up of Ladybug Transistor, as well as yet another tour in the US with NYs the Magnetic Fields. We first played together in Australia years ago and got along quite well. They seem to think I'm low maintenance and that suits them. I'm not sure how. I've lost a backpack, guitar and a passport while touring with them. But hey, they keep asking me back and I'm not complaining.

After returning home to Australia in 2006 plans were made to record the next album in a place that meant a lot to the singer spiritually and geographically. The Majestic Theatre in Pomona, QLD is but a few kms from the Hanlon family farm and Darren spent a good few Sunday matinees trying to get comfortable in the lumpy old seats there. His own grandmother attended school dances there and now years later the building could boast being the oldest operational silent movie theatre in the world.

Darren, Bree and good friend Mark Manone (Lucksmiths) ensconced themselves in the pub opposite and for 2 weeks recorded the album 'Fingertips and Mountaintops.' This would also mark the first of a long collaboration between Hanlon and Portland, OR piano/trumpet wiz Cory Gray (Carcrashlander) who flew to Australia to contribute. We'd met while I was recording at Type Foundry Studios in Portland and hit it off. Cory has been playing piano since he was 2 years old and you can hear that it's instinctual when he plays. He dreams up grand, nostalgic, mournful tunes in his sleep.
Hanlon added lyrics to one of these very tunes for his first co-write, included on the album as 'Old Dream.'

'Fingertips and Mountaintops' yielded radio songs and new live favourites which began a relentless touring schedule for the next few years and yet another support tour with the Magnetic Fields, this time in Europe.

In early 2009 a Rarities collection was released called 'Pointing Rayguns at Pagans'. Other stuff happened around this time but lets face it, he's not Sir Edmund Hillary. If you've read this far, Congratulations. That's the problem with these things: he records, he tours, he records, he tours.

And as you've probably guessed already this is me writing this. Hi. Well who else is gonna do it? And yes I did feel stupid being in third person and typing out all those quotations. But they are all things I've said! Or at least thought.
Better finish this thing. I'm going back in...

This year heralds 9 years of 'Darren Hanlon the Artist.' In a few months it'll become double figures which will mean all this is no longer a hobby.

An easily distracted pinball/crossword addict Hanlon now lives wherever and walks the streets with empty notebooks. "I find buying note books more inspiring than writing in them. They're just so perfect and pure, like a blank canvas or unflavoured tofu. I don't want to ruin it by writing in them."
Venue Information:
The Bowery Ballroom
6 Delancey St
New York, NY, 10002
http://www.boweryballroom.com/