Little Barrie growing up fast
By Stephen Taylor / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer
It's the day after August's Summer Sonic rock
festival and the lobby of Tokyo's ANA Hotel is teeming with small groups of
teenage girls. Presumably, they're on the lookout for some of the stars that
have graced the stage in Chiba for the "Tokyo" leg of the festival
over the weekend.
When Little Barrie turn up they choose the
seclusion of the hotel lounge rather than risk the lobby. They're looking a
little ragged after playing both days at Summer Sonic, not to mention
celebrating drummer Billy Skinner's birthday the night before. The thought of
screaming girls might still be wishful thinking, but it certainly wouldn't go
well with these three sore heads.
On their third trip to Japan, the group are
pleased with their rising profile. As bassist Lewis Wharton remarks, "This
[time] was different, everyone was ready [for us]," a point echoed by
their frontman: a singer and guitarist who is indeed called Barrie, although
he's no longer as little as his childhood nickname suggests.
"I think people maybe know us more,"
Barrie Cadogan says.
If more people knew them then, even more know them
now. Their latest album, Stand Your Ground, has been selling well since its
subsequent release in October, and the promotional video--shot in Japan--for
their song "Pay to Join," has been a regular item on music TV
channels. When the band walk on stage in Tokyo on Monday they'll find that many
more people have discovered their soul-based funk rock, a style that owes as
much to 1960s bands like the Small Faces as classic Motown.
So what kind of music has influenced the band?
"Barrie's into a lot of Blues and stuff, but
we started talking over things like Sly and the Family Stone and a mixture of
things," Wharton reveals.
Cadogan continues: "There's so much. Gene
Vincent, Link Wray...[and] the indie bands in the late '80s--Stone Roses,
Spacemen 3, My Bloody Valentine, Dinosaur Jr.--those groups."
"I saw something on TV with B.B. King and
Chuck Berry and I just thought, 'Wow, these old guys have really got something,
they seem to make their guitars talk,'" Cadogan says. "Gene Vincent I
didn't discover until the last two or three years...and I became a big fan of
Cliff Gallup, the guitar player for the Blue Caps."
Cadogan goes on to explain that the group are no
overnight success--they've done the rounds.
"I'd started writing and making some music on my own, got a demo recorded
and a small label, Stark Reality, that we put our first three singles out on,
"For the next few years, we put out a few
more 45s and started touring a bit and then did our first album."
That release, We Are Little Barrie, was recorded at Edwyn Collins' studio in
London, after a meeting with Collins through former Rockingbird Andy Hackett.
"We wouldn't be here now if it wasn't for him
'cause at the time we could have done more recording with what was available,
but the [other studios and producers] were a bit more geared towards things in
the bravado, old heavy funk sound from the late '60s and early '70s. We like
that, but we weren't just into that and getting hooked up with Edwyn started to
open things out," Cadogan explains.
Still the group's recording schedule was rather
"He used the studio on Monday, Tuesday,
Thursday and Friday, so Wednesday was his free day. We used to go in there on a
Wednesday," he adds.
Not that it caused any disruption for the band, as
the bassist points out.
"We were working at the time so we'd just get
that day off work and we didn't know any different, which was fine. We just
couldn't believe that, basically, Edwyn's offered to do this for us, on tick
[credit] so to speak, until something happens, so you just think yourself
The recording of Stand Your Ground in New York,
with Dan the Automator twiddling the knobs behind the producer's console, was
an altogether more demanding process.
"It was a learning experience; some things
didn't work out as easily as we'd hoped...We rehearsed and recorded about 16
tracks in 14 days," admits Cadogan.
"I think we overstretched it really,"
adds Wharton. "We tried to bite off more than we could chew going over
there. Dan wanted to work over there but it was a lot more expensive...we just
run out of money. Trying to do everything transatlantically, even though it's
supposed to be easy with the Internet and everything now, [it] wasn't at all
"Getting hold of everyone, getting everyone's
schedules to work and match up proved an absolute nightmare,"
Nevertheless, the trio were happy with the
resulting album, with "Pretty Pictures" a particular favorite with
"We wrote that together. It's the first song
we've all written together, which was really cool because, for various reasons,
we hadn't really had that collaborative thing before," Cadogan recalls.
It seems then that Stand Your Ground resulted in
quite a lot of growing up for the group in line with their growing reputation.
At this point, the birthday-boy of the previous
day enters the fray, having let the other two do all the talking. Japan has
certainly made an impression on Skinner during the band's short trip:
"This is the place where a teenager would
dream of growing up," Skinner says with an excited look.
"I saw a
radio-remote controlled plane for 10 pounds (19 dollars) and I remember really
wanting one and I couldn't afford one and I'm like, well they're 10 quid over
But like the band, he too has moved on.
"Did I buy it? Naah."
Little Barrie will play Dec. 11, 7 p.m. at Club
Quattro in Shibuya, Tokyo, (03) 5466-0777; Dec. 13, 7 p.m. at Club Quattro in
Hiroshima, (082) 542-2280; Dec. 14, 7 p.m. at Club Quattro in Shinsaibashi,
Osaka, (06) 6281-8181; Dec. 15, 7 p.m. at Club Quattro in Nagoya, (052)
264-8211; and Dec. 18, 7 p.m. at Unit in Daikanyama, Tokyo, (03) 5466-0777.