by Lauren Rosier
There’s something about newness and the unfamiliar that tends to turn people away, but the uniqueness and experimental qualities of avant-garde musicians like Julianna Barwick set them apart from the masses. I recently had the opportunity to have a phone conversation with Barwick about her current tour, latest album, and her preferred style of recording, and she gave off this special vibe; one that wasn’t afraid to be herself, to create music that she loved.
Her latest record, Will, was released in May, and it was a bit of a new and different experience for her than her previous releases. “Making Will was like a little bit of a challenge for me because I had made basically, ‘bedroom’ recordings for so long. Like Sanguine, Florine, The Magic Place, you know, I made 100 percent on my own, and it was like ‘bedroom’ style,” she explains. “Of course I did Nepenthe and that was like a whole production as far as like going to Iceland and having [Sigur Rós producer] Alex Somers, too, and having people guest on it in an exotic location. That was like a new experience for me and it taught me a lot.”
Once it was time to put a new record together, Barwick wondered what it was going to be, what she was going to do.
“Returning to my ‘hermit-y’ recording style was like exciting, but I didn’t want to regress, I wanted to keep moving forward. It was a little of bit a challenge, so I kind of took my time over 2015 and recorded in a bunch of different places,” she reveals. “I used the opportunity to make a few musical recording wishes come true. It was kind of like a diary of the places I went to rather than one cohesive production.”
Despite her usual “bedroom” recording style, she felt an instant connection with Somers, where she was able to create music that felt like it was hers. With Will, all of the recordings were “rooted in improvisation and they always are.” For example, Barwick learned how to use a Moog (Mother-32) at a music festival and had come up with some ideas on the spot, and that experience had been filmed. She was able to return to that film and those ideas became “Nebula” and “See, Know.”
Last Wednesday kicked off her 11-date tour with with Philadelphia’s harpist, Mary Lattimore, in Baltimore. “Baltimore was great,” Barwick says of the pair’s date at Metro Gallery. Since then they’ve been to a handful of other cities sharing their beautiful music with those city’s respective scenes.
The friendship between Barwick and Lattimore began through simple means. A few years ago, Lattimore composed a simple expressing her love for Barwick’s music and if she ever needed harp, to hit her up. They’ve been friends and colleagues ever since.
The brief tour with Lattimore is exciting to just be able to “hang out with her for a week and a half. It’s very exciting. She’s a good human to be around,” she says. “And also, being able to hear her beautiful music every night.”
The pair will perform at PhilaMOCA on Saturday night.