‘It was a bit less thought out, a bit more off the cuff.’
Sitting in the bright Windsor home she shares with husband Oscar Dawson (HOLY HOLY), his parents and a train of siblings and toddlers, Ali Barter is talking about her latest single, ‘Far Away’. Built around a classic four-piece rock set up, the track howls with echo, cymbals and huge guitar riffs, foregoing much of the studio-derived ornament of last year’s AB-EP.
It’s the result of a series of last-minute writing sessions, arranged at the tail end of a family trip to LA.
‘I went and spent two or three hours with this guy I’d never met before, called Harlan Silverman, and we wrote this song in his garage. It was sort of half finished, ‘cause I was really tired… But I think the lack of thought that went into it is why it’s good’.
Back home, ‘Far Away’ was recorded quickly in a simple basement studio – ‘and that was it. No hiring the best studio, trying to get the best sound.
‘Sometimes I feel like I overcooked things on my last EPs. I’ve had too much time to mull over things and think about references and who I want to be. And this was just a song. I brought this half-cooked song to my band, and we rearranged it a bit and played it in one rehearsal, and then we were like, “Well, that’s done. Let’s record it and not fuck with it too much, and then let it go”’.
The LA sessions resulted in a number of songs intended for Barter’s debut LP, which she plans to record later this year in much the same style as ‘Far Away’.
‘I would like to do them all that way – like, all in the room – because I think sometimes I put too much pressure on myself. We did this Pozible campaign in 2013 and raised 15 grand. We went to Brisbane to work with Matt Redlich, who’s the HOLY HOLY producer, and we were there for six weeks recording all these songs. By the end of it my voice packed up completely, and eventually I had to have surgery. I think there was just too much pressure…
‘Courtney Barnett recorded one of her EPs in, like, three days in a house and it was done, you know. It’s like Neil Young says – “the more you think, the more you stink”. I definitely identify with that’.
When we visited, Barter was gearing up for a hometown performance at St Jerome’s Laneway Festival. It would be her second appearance at the festival; in 2013, she joined the Melbourne line up as a triple j Unearthed winner. ‘That was awesome. From that, I met my manager and my booking agent. Everything started from there for me’.
This year she played alongside locals like Blank Realm, Royal Headache and DMA’s (‘They played “Delete” the other day, and even though I’ve heard it a million times, I almost cried – I got goosebumps’), and headliners Beach House, Vince Staples and Grimes.
By this point, she’d already played two cities. ‘We’ve had some hiccoughs,’ Barter admitted. ‘At the Brisbane show, my guitar died. The amp blew up halfway through my set, so I couldn’t play – and I always play with a guitar. I don’t have any mic skills, I don’t have any dance moves…’
It must have sounded better than she let on, though, because after Silicon left the tour, Barter shot up the bill to take an afternoon slot on the festival’s main stage. She glided through her set, dance moves and all – and we were there to take some photographs.
Photographs by Bucky Toller