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07 May 2008 @ 12:17 am
Parsing This New Puritan  

When Jack Barnett and his then teenage band mates in These New Puritans first caught our ear back in November of '06, there wasn't much to go on but a few cryptic podcasts and the ring of mangled synths. In the intervening months, the twitchy Brits have spanned all corners of their home isle, provided a stark soundtrack for the high fashion runway, released their debut album Beat Pyramid on the estimable Domino label, and conquered South by Southwest's dog-and-pony show clad in gladiator's steel. As his band now prepares to bring their own stomp-and-grumble review through the US on their first proper tour this June, we stole a few minutes of young Jack's valuable time. Our digitally transmitted discourse below...


Jeff Klingman: How long have you and your twin brother George been making music together?

Jack Barnett: Ages. Since we were really young. He played on my songs.

JK: Why do you think British brothers seem to form bands at a greater rate than Americans?

JB: I don't know -- it's weird -- it's the same as how Dutch brothers seem to become footballers - the De Boer Brothers, the Krol Brothers, the Mühren Brothers.

JK: Was SXSW your first trip to the US ever?

JB: Yep.

JK: Are you looking forward to playing proper gigs here after the big public relations orgy of Austin?

JB: Yeah. Austin was fun though. Different.

These New Puritans - "Numerology (aka Numbers)"

JK: I apologize in advance for this, but what's your favorite number, and what does it mean?

JB: Ha! I like 5, 7, 12, 15, 19, 25, 27, 29, 33, 333, 555, 1222, 1987 .... I don't know what they mean.

These New Puritans - "Navigate, Navigate"

JK: Why did "Navigate, Navigate" work for you as a stand-alone piece, but not as a track on the album? Why parcels its bits up among other songs?

JB: Well, "Navigate, Navigate" was just a collection of musical themes that I'd been thinking up for a while and I like to re-use themes - obviously that's something that's been done in music for ever....classical music anyway. and also because I was writing the album at the same time as I was writing "Navigate..." for Hedi*, and they were just musical ideas that were close at hand at the time. So it's more that the ideas were running parallel for two different releases.

JK: Repetition of song fragments across multiple songs seems to be a theme on the album. Does the context of the individual songs change the meaning of the repeated bits? Or did you just intend it to be a refrain?

JB: It's a refrain - I'm planning to have refrains that span multiple albums as well.

JK: Do you consider your music as continuing the tradition of 70's post-punk groups to whom you're compared, or as a specific expression of the here and now?

JB: Erm, i think there was a bit of that when we first started, but Beat Pyramid drains that away from our music quite a lot. I think old punks try to claim every piece of post-1976 music as their own. Like on TV there's always stuff about how "the Velvet Underground invented everything" or "the Sex Pistols invented everything"... it's quite boring. Clearly Aphex Twin invented everything.

These New Puritans - "Swords of Truth"

JK: Are you more interested in rhythm than melody?

JB: Yes, most songs begin with the beats.

JK: I'd read that you've done a bit of production work for the London band Sunni-Geini. Do you see the role of a producer as completely distinct from that of a band?

JB: Yeah, I've been working with them - Mohammed Durayd and Marie Quest. they're more of a collective than a band.

I think TNPS' music is really production-based and is becoming so more and more. I always thought i'd be a producer, not a band-person. There are some brilliant producers in the Ivory Coast at the moment with whom we should collaborate.

JK: What can you tell me about the Experimental Circle Club?

JB: That's a club run by some of our friends including Ciaran O'Shea who's done artwork for Def-Jam and helped out with some of our early podcasts. They play noise and beats at their club which is in a hotel in Southend near the sea-side.

Jack Barnett @ the Experimental Circle Club
(Southend, 11.18.06)

JK: Do you imagine your work with TNPS moving in a more improvisational direction?

JB: No. We're not really improvisers. It's got to be worked out.

JK: What do you like most about chain-mail?

JB: Everything.

photo by Lee Hopper

* Designer Hedi Slimane, who commissioned the band's music for the Dior Homme Show 2007.

Posted by Jeff Klingman at May 6, 2008 08:25 AM