Melbourne’s Courtney Barnett only arrived in England late last year with her debut release, The Double EP: A Sea Of Split Peas. The collection of her early works drew plaudits from critics and her handful of live shows across London clearly went down well as she’s already planning her third round of UK shows.
We caught up with her to talk songwriting, Nirvana and her debut album plans.
Hi Courtney, you recently played a couple of shows in London – how did they go?
They were amazing fun. We played some packed shows, people who had never seen us before but were really supportive and friendly. It’s so good working off that high energy that a full room provides. It was fun traipsing around the streets of London and seeing some new sights too.
How comes you decided to rerelease your first two EPs as a single release, A Sea of Split Peas, over here?
It was just kinda easier to introduce it as a whole package. Plus it’s easier to carry around 30 CDs to sell at shows instead of 60 you know?
Does it seem a little strange releasing and promoting songs that have already been out for a while in Australia?
Nah not really. There’s a lot of people in the world, it’s crazy to expext that everybody picks up on things at the same time and with the same interest. It takes a while to share your message around. In ten years there’ll still be billions of people who’ve never heard of me.
Have you started work on a follow up yet? If so, what can we expect?
Yep we’re recording an album next week. It’s a collection of songs I’ve been working on this year. I’m not sure what to expect, similar songwriting styles, louder guitars. If I knew what to expect I wouldn’t bother making it. It’s the unknown-ness that’s the fun part.
What kind of music were you into when you was growing up? Any local heroes?
I listened to a couple of Australian bands when I was growing up. Silverchair, Something for Kate, Frenzal Rhomb, Hoodoo Gurus, ACDC etc but we listened to heaps of Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix mostly.
Who are the guys in your band and how do you know each other?
Dave and Bones are the other guys. They are like my best friends, my little and big brothers. We met through music and pubs. I joined a band that they were in and we used to make stupid jokes and make each other laugh and spend lots of time hanging around in pubs (either working or playing or just drinking) being silly.
You’ve also got your own record label, Milk – tell us about that.
I started Milk! Records to put out my first EP. It was a small affair and I didn’t have many people interested in buying my CDs, but it grew slowly and pretty naturally by word of mouth (I didn’t have any money for advertising) and then I put out a few friends records and it just keeps trucking along. It’s kind of a little community where people can share music and artistic ideas.
A lot of your songs reference your own experiences and draw from your observations on life in Melbourne – how do you go about writing them?
I normally write this entire journal-like entry in rhyming structure and then hate it and then dwell on how bad it is, and then I simplify it and once it’s simplified it’s a bit better.
Do you find it easy to write songs about yourself?
It’s kind of like counselling. At first it’s hard to communicate what you’re thinking/feeling, but once you get on a roll it’s not that bad, in fact it’s kind of therapeutic.
What have you got planned for the rest of 2014?
Recording an album next week, then we head to Coachella somewhere in the Californian desert. Then we do a UK tour and then a US tour, including headline & a bunch of festival shows, then back to Australia to play some more shows! Lots of travelling which will be exciting. On a personal level, I’m gonna learn French and watch all the Alien movies before 2014 is finished.
Courtney Barnett returns to the UK in May for a string of headline shows and festival appearances – tickets are available here.