Artist Fea­tures

ONE OF THE SHARPEST SONG­WRIT­ERS IN AUS­TRALIA RIGHT NOW, ALI BARTER HAS DE­LIV­ERED BIG TIME ON HER SEC­OND AL­BUM – COM­PLETELY AVOID­ING THE SOPHO­MORE SLUMP. SHE SPOKE WITH DAVID JAMES YOUNG ABOUT HOW IT WAS FOR­MU­LATED, AND THE GEAR RE­SPON­SI­BLE FOR ITS SOUND.

Australian Guitar - - Contents -

The term ‘power cou­ple’ is of­ten tossed about with a sense of irony these days, but when it comes to the hus­band-and-wife team of

Ali Barter and Os­car Dawson, there’s no bet­ter term. Hav­ing been a co-writ­ing force through­out all of Barter’s solo ca­reer, the pair kept the ball rolling with the col­lab­o­ra­tive writ­ing, record­ing and pro­duc­tion of her sec­ond al­bum, Hello,I’m

Do­ingMyBest. “I write all the lyrics, melody and the chords,” ex­plains Barter.

“Then, Os­car and I will build it up from there –

I’ll have the idea for the sound and the tone, and

I’ll of­ten have very clear ideas. When it comes to map­ping out a solo or a gui­tar part for Os­car, I tell him ex­actly what I want in the spirit of the song – some­thing en­er­getic, some­thing hec­tic, some­thing that mir­rors the melody, any­thing like that. This record has a lot of quiet verses and loud cho­ruses

– a lot of fuzz, a lot of grit, a lot of dirty tone into clean tone… We’re re­ally set in the way that we write to­gether, and I think you can hear that on the al­bum.”

The end re­sult is a lis­ten that’s dy­namic, volatile and unashamed in its ap­proach. It takes both the rock­ier and the pop­pier el­e­ments of Barter’s de­but,

ASuitableG­irl, and blows them up even fur­ther.

A lot of it has to do with the gui­tar sound of the record, which can jump from shiny and re­splen­dent to gut­tural and churn­ing. “We ex­per­i­ment a lot, but I think we’re a lot clearer and more spe­cific about things now,” says Barter on achiev­ing her new tone.

“When we were mak­ing ASuitableG­irl, there were mo­ments where ev­ery sin­gle pedal that we had was an op­tion for ev­ery sin­gle song. That’s not re­ally the case any­more – it’s down to a key few of them. For in­stance, I have this Fuzz Fac­tory pedal that we have a lot of fun with. It’s com­pletely bonkers! I also have a Cream Puff fuzz pedal made by Fran­tone, which is used a lot on the al­bum. For any­thing we just wanted to go crazy with, we’d bring in the [EHX] Mem­ory Man – we love that one.”

Mix­ing power-pop, alt-rock and the hy­brid now com­monly known as ‘bub­ble­grunge’, Barter has nailed the com­bi­na­tion of su­gar and spice for her all-im­por­tant sec­ond al­bum. The self-as­sured­ness that came with se­lect­ing pedals and tone also trans­lated into Barter and Dawson’s gui­tar choices. “I’m play­ing a Tele on the al­bum for the most part, but Os­car was al­ways good at pick­ing up when we needed some­thing dif­fer­ent,” she says.

“There are a few in­stances where we’d move it over to the Strat, or where we’d use this SG I’ve got that has Hum­bucker pick­ups in­stalled. Alex [Crosara, tour­ing guitarist] had a dif­fer­ent gui­tar he played, but for the life of me, I couldn’t tell you what it was called. It looks like a Tele, but it’s not. It’s got a very jan­gly, ‘90s kind of sound to it – it goes well against the harsher, fuzzier stuff on the al­bum.”

The dream of the ‘90s is alive and well on Hello; much of it is in­debted to Liz Phair, whom Barter toured with back in March, as well as bands like the Pix­ies and the sound es­tab­lished on their Surfer­Rosa

LP. One al­bum Barter points to in par­tic­u­lar, how­ever, is Weezer’s oft-ma­ligned sec­ond al­bum Pinker­ton.

“In terms of pro­duc­tion, I was lis­ten­ing to it a lot and get­ting in­spired by it,” she says.

“It’s funny... I wanted the record to be re­ally raw, rough and live-sound­ing, but my voice is ba­si­cally like a choir­girl’s, so it’s never go­ing to sound any­thing but squeaky clean.” She laughs, be­fore con­tin­u­ing: “That re­ally was the endgame with the sound of the al­bum, though. Just two gui­tars, bass and drums. That live sound. Os­car would keep want­ing to add more gui­tars, and I’d have to stop him straight up – like, ‘No more gui­tars!’”

Barter also notes the in­flu­ence of The Breed­ers on the sound of the al­bum, as well – “I re­ally like the way they in­cor­po­rate space into their songs,” she says, “and how their songs are of­ten cen­tred around the way Jo [Wiggs] plays bass. I’d just started play­ing bass live be­fore we went in to track this al­bum, and I def­i­nitely wanted there to be a big­ger pres­ence of bass on this al­bum.” In­deed, Barter made the switch from six to four strings in the live set­ting back in 2018, to con­vert her once five-strong tour­ing band into a power trio. Although it was ini­tially a busi­ness de­ci­sion, Barter has found her­self right at home amidst the low-end.

“It was orig­i­nally a fi­nan­cial de­ci­sion,” she says of her swap. “Be­ing a tour­ing band is re­ally ex­pen­sive, and just be­ing a trio is a sig­nif­i­cant help. I did this mas­sive tour with The Prea­tures last year, and when we got the of­fer I made the de­ci­sion to move over to bass. When I was play­ing gui­tar live, I was of­ten just chug­ging on the one chord. It seemed like a nat­u­ral move to switch over to bass – and now I just love it. It’s a whole dif­fer­ent en­ergy for the live show.”

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