Gillian Lantouris / @gillianlant
With sexy guitar licks, crackling speakers and deeply nostalgic melodies, Barcelos is an emerging Melbourne band atypical from the others that form the local dirty music scene.
Unlike their seamless guitar riffs, Barcelos has struggled to keep their band afloat and as the lead singer James Medley put it “sometimes you have to put the bong away and write that song.”
In a beach house down at Blairgowrie their feature debut of the same name was born, but not only is it a killer track, it marks the renaissance of the band. “Me and Will, the drummer, had been away, I’d been off doing lots of drugs and we weren’t really committed to the band so we said let’s fucking meet up and give this band thing a go.” The band who, had been playing since high school, changed their sound from funk and rap to a more psychedelic and ambient genre and thank god for that.
Their mix of kaleidoscopic sound and ambient electronics reminds me of another Aussie band, Sticky Fingers but their poetic, and deeply metaphoric lyrics conjure up Arctic Monkey’s front man Alex Tuner circa 2009. The way Barcelos uses their electronics with both their vocal sounds and their instrumental sound also has hints of Tame Impala, which James Medley says is a big influence of John’s who is the bands bassist. Tame Impala is a psychedelic rock/pop Aussie band, with this similarity in genre, you can draw parallels with Barcelos and Tame Impala.
The band’s rebirth came about during a weekend away which James describes as a vital part of the band’s brotherhood. “We hadn’t played for ages then coming back form six months of not even being mates, it was just a beautiful moment where we got fucked up for a week together which is a really big part of our band now.”
Although the bond is “one we’ll never lose,” according to James, he does admit the difficulties of organising the band both financially and individually. “The hardest part is getting ourselves organized internally, Like we are all doing different shit and money is an issue for some but not others.”
The bartender also vented his frustration over working full-time whilst trying to crack into the music industry, something many young artists face. “I work full time at 56 Bricks and it takes up a lot of my time but I wouldn’t be able to live if I didn’t. It’s so frustrating to work full time to fund something I can only do on my days off and of course because I work in a bar, I drink too much, and you become complacent with what you want to do.”
Not only does James struggle to find time for his music but, like many young artists, James struggles financially. Being paid a fairly minimal wage as a bartender as well as enduring long and often tipsy nights, it seems likely that many artists in this situation would give up their music for financial security. Even when the gigs reward the band financially, it’s not enough to make a living off and often this money is put back into the band with new equipment or further advertising. As the saying goes ‘don’t quit your day job’ and this cliché can definitely be applied to being in a band.
Living in a shared house in Prahran James chose to leave home for more independence and well let’s face it; it’s harder to smoke a jay whilst your parents are home right? James is the only one in his band living out of home and this does put a lot of financial stress on him. “I’ve had financial struggles recently and I’ve wanted to say fuck it but and travel for six months but I’m not gonna do that because it’s worth chasing it while we’re young whether it gets anywhere or not.”
To the Gasometer Hotel
For bands like this, and even more so for bands that are just beginning, The Gasometer Hotel is the perfect place to start. Located on a street corner in Collingwood, The Gasometer Hotel was built in the 1860’s and is now the epitome of Melbourne’s music scene. With a darkly lit barroom and an even darker, almost surreptitious band room around the back, new bands are playing there every week. Mikey Sturgeon from The Gasometer Hotel let me in on how such a historical and influential location is doing their part to help out local talent and how they decide on which bands to book. “We look for diversity, bands disco to dancy gigs we look for people, with a pretty good following,” Mikey said. But hidden gem of the Gaso Hotel is the smaller space upstairs. The space is intimate and is a great way for bands to shake away their nerves and play some sweet melodic tunes.
“The smaller space upstairs a free venue hire is offered, for younger new bands and for people who are starting out.” Mikey added which is a great initiative in a music world that is so competitive and challenging to get into. The Gasometer Hotel also accommodates for the undertones of sub-culture, which again highlights the Gaso’s commitment to progressive and fresh musicians. “We are renowned as being a super safe place and we also hold gay events and are into the alternative gay scene.”
To the bar
As I interviewed James outside the bar, we were interrupted several times by friends and bar goers greeting him as they went by the Chapel Street hub. Whilst I sat and sipped on my vodka soda, on the house cheers for that James, I couldn’t help but think, why. Why would someone with such financial struggles keep funding something that seems almost futile? “I didn’t do uni, so I’m not set up to get a good job and get lots of money so that’s why I’ve been chasing the music thing, even though I don’t do it for the money really.” James said and his passion was evident when when I saw him live on stage.
Back to the Gasometer Hotel
On Wednesday the 12th of May I rocked out in the main band room of The Gasometer Hotel to Barcelos and Odd Souls. It was a quieter night but you could still feel the music pulsing through the audience as we loosened up and started to dance. There is always that electric vibe when you listen to a live band play and Barcelos was no exception to this. Watching the enjoyment on both the audience’s face as well as the band’s made me understand how they continue to create art despite their personal difficulties. All of the things James had told me before the performance made sense, as I became part of an unspoken world, the world of live music.
As I have mentioned earlier, there are many new up and coming artists emerging in Australia, it’s had to tell them apart at times but Barcelos has a unique sound that you can actually call ‘unique’. “We have a new sound and we’re trying to get people to catch up on it. We are hard on ourselves and we’d never release something that isn’t perfect which is frustrating in the song writing process but killer in the performance.”
Regardless of how talented the band is and how large their following has become, I was curious to know if James had ever just wanted to give it all up and “travel the world for six months” but he summed it up in true rock and roll style and spoke from the heart about something many of us can relate to. “I’ve wanted to give up but music has brought me back, life is a struggle, but you gotta keep going.”
Barcelos on Facebook: CLICK HERE
Barcelos on Soundcloud: CLICK HERE
Gasometer Hotel: CLICK HERE
Gillian Lantouris on Instagram: CLICK HERE
Gillian Lantouris on Twitter: CLICK HERE