Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Interview with Barney of Wordlife

 WORDLIFE. A promise. I swear to you on my life that I tell you what is true. Whatever comes out of your mouth is true to yourself and you ain’t lying about and people can’t change what you just said.

Typically, that’s what the throwaway slang term stands for and for this Sydney duo, it looks as they though have adopted a mirror attitude to life: be yourself, be expressive.

“It’s kind of like the mindset that we try to have, we try and do stuff that’s a little bit against the game and not let big, commercial concerns of making music affect what we want to really make –not do what everyone else is doing and just do us really.” [It’s really important, you know, for us as artists.]

But for now, Barney, one half of the progressive dance duo feels like he’s working all the time prepping for their east coast Club of Life tour “almost like the calm before the storm”. 

Despite their wish to prioritise their work over commercial interests, earlier this year they were signed to CLUB MOD of Modular label. A big move, considering the boys are used to working with smaller, independent labels.

“Usually you only have one or two points of contact whereas with Modular you have a whole bunch. But it’s been good, you know. It means that our music will get out there further, to more people than ever, which is a good thing.”

It wasn’t a quick start for Worldife, but Barney says that they learnt that it’s better to work on their own style rather than trying to emulate a certain trend.

“It’s a good time for artists to be brave and play their own music rather than relying on others singles to save your set. Then we have to work harder to rock the crowd but it’s a lot more rewarding and I think it’s going to pay off in the long run.”

Besides, he agrees that the Sydney beat scene is opening up its ears to the more experimental. Even in more general sense, there is a lot more appreciation of wider types of music.

“I think that people appreciate lots of different tempos now. More than they did before. It used to kind of be like sort of centred around 135bpm or 125bpm. House music and that kind of stuff is still very popular but I think that the kind of stuff people are into is growing wider.”

“It kind of reminds me of when I first got into electro music in the 90s - when you had your Chemical Brothers but also things like Massive Attack and all those kind of different flavours of electronic music that were around then. I think that the time now the music’s evolved a lot more. I think that the evolution in technology has meant that instrumental music’s a lot more accessible as well.”

Barney is careful, however, to make the distinction between artists and DJs-turned-producers.

“People like Alison Wonderland and Indian Summer and Flume – I see them more as artists rather than DJs making music to follow their DJ career.”

To complete the picture of key influences, Barney realised that international artists have made a big impact; citing French label San Pellegrino, Club Cheval, newly exploded Disclosure who they’ve been watching for some time and the fiercely divisive new Kanye material.

“Whether you like that or not is beside the point. I think it’s brave that he has gone and done that and made that an album that’s aimed at the commercial market but it’s not commercial at all. I think that’s brave and exciting. A lot of the things have been retro, looking back at the past, and I don’t find that as exciting stuff that looks forward.”

As part of their job, Wordlife keep on top of new tunes to inform their DJ sets. Then, when it gets time to perform live the duo chop and change their own work in a sort of deconstruction.“Adam plays synthesisers and drum machines over the top of the live mix, which is the barebones of our music stripped back. Then we try and make all the music that we’ve made in our career into an interesting one-hour experience for people.”

All of which took them to the US for a string of live performances. Last time Wordlife spoke to AU Review they said they were keen to head overseas with their music. A year later, they’ve met some icons and explored the LA beats scene.

“It was interesting to see all of these artists that we’ve heard over here and we think, “oh that guy’s massive”. We read all about the hype over them but then you go over there and see them in their natural element and they’re just people like us and all of our friends who hang out, go to restaurants, go to the movies. They do the same things as us it’s just a bigger world.”

In the end, Barney says it was very much like home.

“Well it’s interesting because it’s like very much Australia in a way. If you’re making underground music, no matter where you go in Australia it’s underground.”

Apart from the fact that it’s mainly a midweek affair, where the underground acts take over the regular clubs, and there is a strong sense of corporate sponsorship, which doesn’t exist in Australia.

“It just means that they present their music in a way wins over new fans, which I think is really cool. If you give a room full of hipsters free beer they’re going to be a lot more interested in the music. It’s like going to an art gallery, you know, and you have a few wines and then all of a sudden you’re buying a piece of art. I think that works well.”

“I think there’s a lot of opportunity in America because there are so many more people I think there’s definitely a lot of good stuff happening there and a lot of positivity and people pushing each other forward just because there’s that many people doing that in one place.”

While they praise the work of the original underground, Barney says they still come across a few WTF moments online.

“I saw a website the other day that you can get people to make music for you and you just put your name on it. Basically selling your DJ career and they’ll set up a soundcloud and twitter account with followers.”

In all seriousness they acknowledge it’s much easier to break into the industry as a people-pleaser, especially in the realm of dance music. Barney says it’s disappointing that some artists choose accessibility over innovation.

That would not include the acts who they have done support for – production legends Ryan Hemsworth, Hudson Mohawke and Rustie.

“In a way it freed us in the end to do that kind of stuff. It makes it harder to get your music signed but I think that if you do your own thing and stick to your guns then eventually people will see the value in it even if they can’t in the short term.”

After their Australian tour, Wordlife will be returning to the US.

“We’re going back there to do some more music in a couple of months. Hopefully we can work with a few more vocalists and we’ll be able to bring back some work, which will be cool.”

And that ain’t a lie. Despite the international touring, club shows and having signed to a huge international label, Wordlife keep it cool.

Barney pulls a lyric that he remembers from Underground Resistance circa 2002: “There will be people who say you don’t mix this with that and you will say, "watch me".

Published on the AU review.

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