I've been listening to that new Bart & Friends album I was rabbiting on about the other day constantly since Friday. One of the great things about it is you can listen to it five times in one hour. Suck on that, stats fans.
In a fit of love, I emailed Bart Cummings to thank him for sending me his new record, and then I asked him if he'd mind doing a bit of an interview. Him being the lovely bloke he is, he of course said yes. So, here's what he had to say.
How do you go about picking and choosing your co-conspirators for each B&F album?
It’s pretty intuitive, just people who I think I’ll enjoy spending an afternoon with and who will compliment the songs musically. On the first cd 10 songs about cars and girls it was a different lineup for each song and in a couple of cases Josh (sugargliders) and Laura (autocollants) were chosen because I was after someone to write the lyrics as well as sing.
With the present lineup, the idea for that came about 18 months ago. I hadn’t done anything musical since 2001. I hadn’t even so much as picked up a guitar. Mark was up helping me paint my house and I asked him if I wrote some songs would he help record them. And its kind of grown from there. I’ve outsourced a bit of the recruitment to Mark.
Tell me the best things about being in The Cat's Miaow, The Shapiros and B&F?
The other people in the bands. I’ve been really fortunate that each of those bands has had exactly the right lineup for what we were trying to achieve at the time. The music we made was good, but it’s the time spent with the people in the bands that means the most to me.
The most daunting thing about the present lineup of B&F is that everyone involved, from the drummer through to the producer is a better guitarist than me and also has a songwriting catalogue every bit as good if not better than mine. It can be a bit intimidating at times. I generally apply the rule when forming a band of surrounding myself with people more talented than me to make me look good, but this is ridiculous.
Your songs are so short; is this something that happens consciously - or just something you can't really help?
It’s a bit of both. I do try to be concise. If something isn’t working or adding to the song I tend to edit it out. Because the songs aren’t written with a live audience in mind it does allow me to have them any length the song requires. But take “Memories fade” for example, its got an intro, 2 verses, 3 choruses and an instrumental bit and still only goes for 2.02, You can put a lot into 2 minutes. With songs its not just what you put in that matters, its what you leave out as well.
Why did you pick 'Blue Moon' to cover on the new record?
I like the lyrics, specifically the line “you saw me standing alone, without a dream in my heart”. It’s a bit cheesy I guess, but I still like it. I’ve always been fascinated by the Elvis’ version from the sun sessions as well.
The covers to your records are beautiful. is this an important part of the whole recording/releasing a record process to you?
Thanks, I do like the CDs to look swish. The Cat's Miaow and Shapiros CD sleeves were done by a extremely talented guy (refer to above rule about surround yourself with talented people to make yourself look good) called Steve Crushworthy. He was a fan of the bands so you didn’t really have to explain things to him, just let him get on with it.
The sleeve for Make you blush was done by the very talented Matt Edwards who may be familiar to you for his blog Skatterbrain. I quite liked the sleeves he was doing for his monthly mixes so I asked if he’d like to do the CD sleeve.
Who is making music that excites you at the moment?
Is this the question where I pretend to be hip and in touch as apposed to a sad old bastard who only listens to music recorded pre 1995? My favourite band from the past couple of years would have to be the Motifs. Love the songs, the harmonies, the whole package. I’m also quite partial to Very truly yours, Metric mile, Zebras. Summer cats, Fireflies and countless Swedish bands. Its probably not an era of greatness, but its definitely an era of “lots of very good things”
What do you do in real life when you're not being a pop star?
I’m a librarian, specifically working in collection development. I buy all the books, dvds, cds etc for 12 libraries. It sounds more fun than it actually is, I’m not endlessly swanning round bookstores with a credit card. I’m mostly staring at a computer. Oh, and there’s a wife and kids as well. They take up a surprisingly large amount of my time.
And would you want to be a full-time pop star?
Oooh no. I couldn’t handle the stress of worrying if a song I was writing was going to pay the rent. I’m by nature pretty shy so the whole performing thing has never been big on my agenda either.
I do occasionally get envious of Mark when I get emails from him on tour in Europe or hanging out with indie legends in Brooklyn, but I get hugs from the kids and a kiss from my wife when I get home from work each night so I figure I’m in front. Either way, the boat has long sailed on me becoming full time pop star.
What's next, musically, for you?
I’ve retained the core of me, Mark and Louis and we’ve added Jeremy from the Zebras on drums. We’ve done 1 day recording which went really well and we’ve got 5 songs ¾ done. I need to redo the guide vocals. We tend to record really quickly. I live out in the provinces and only come into Melbourne once every 6 months or so to record. We rehearse a song for 15 minutes, press record then move onto the next one. Ive got a few songs half written which im hoping we’ll record later this year, so all going well another 8 song ep early next year?
You can, and you should, buy Bart & Friends' new album 'Make You Blush' here.