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Total Fantasy Fiction: An Interview With Barn Burner

Posted by: Necci – Jan 05, 2011

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I first heard Barn Burner during their set at Belgium’s Ieper Fest. The band was a strong contrast to the majority of the metal and hardcore bands that played that weekend, with a sound more akin to heavy metal circa thirty years ago than that of today. Like Metallica circa Kill ‘Em All and Jailbreak-era Thin Lizzy taking a tour of the Schlitz brewery, the band mixes galloping rhythms and duel guitar harmonies with lyrics that don’t let their tongue-in-cheek humor overshadow the urgency of their delivery. I had a chance to get a few questions in with singer/guitarist Kevin Keegan prior to the band’s January 7th show at Empire.

RVA: After playing in heavier bands like Black Ships and A Javelin Reign prior to Barn Burner, was it difficult to make the transition into a more melodic rock-oriented sound?

KK: It was different and sort of difficult for sure. After playing in bands that tried to cram as many riffs into one tune as humanly possible, it was sort of a relief to be able to construct tunes where repeating things was ok and sounded good. At the same time, when simplifying things like that you still need to try to bring something to the table, and hopefully we manage to pull that off.

RVA: It seems that some of your material retains a heaviness that might seem at odds with the sense of humor and melodic sense present in the songs. Is it ever difficult to balance the darker and lighter aspects of your sound?

KK: It might seem difficult if I was concerned with how people might interpret my lyrics. Most of the material deals with either really personal stuff or total fantasy fiction, which I have no qualms with shrouding in humor. People can speculate whether they know what I'm on about regarding my personal themes, or they can just listen to the tune and chuckle at the goofy title. Either way, if the music and presentation is engaging in any way, I'm stoked.

RVA: The songs on your last album were released in 2007 then re-released in 2009. Has the lull been a productive one? And when can we expect a new record?

KK: Most of the songs were recorded in 2008 and initially released in 2009, then re-released in 2010 with 2 new songs, which were recorded just prior to the latest release. The lull only seems present because of the opportunities that came with the re-release of the album and the labels need for us to tour their version of it. For us it has been a long process of touring the same record for over 2 years, which is wearing on us for sure. We've had a new record written for over a year but due to the label's release schedule, we haven't been able to record until now. So yes, expect a new album in the early summer. We enter the studio in 3 weeks to begin tracking this long overdue beast.

RVA: I first heard you guys when I happened to catch your set at Ieper Fest, a situation where your music stood out like a sort thumb from pretty much every band playing. Do you guys end up playing with many similar bands, or is being the odd band out a common experience?

KK: We've had kind of shitty luck because of the label we're on [Metal Blade Records], mostly. Being on a label that is comprised almost entirely of death metal and metalcore bands, we often get pegged with the wrong crowd. We have just resigned ourselves to now playing with bands we know we like and are our friends until we can stand on our own and not carry the stigma of our label. Often it has worked out though, Ieper Fest was a really good time and we met some crucial homies (like you, Graham!).

RVA: It seems like pretty much every review I read of your record lumped it in either with stoner metal or some sort of 70s retro deal. Is it ever frustrating to have other people place these sorts of genre tags on your music, or is it something you guys embrace?

KK: I think with the last record it made sense to jump to a lot of those conclusions. I won't deny it. Although I thought a lot of people missed some of the other influences at work that maybe set us apart from being just another throwback band. Certain punk rock and even death and thrash metal influences were at work with all of us, and I feel they can be heard mingling with some of the overarching classic rock and stoner metal themes.

RVA: It's pretty rare these days to have a band with their own mascot, but Barn Burner has Bernard Burner. Was his creation a nod to earlier bands that created their own distinct iconography, or does it carry a meaning more specific to your band?

KK: It was sort of an accident that we totally embraced. Our good friend and artist Cody Fennell did a flyer for us years ago when we played a show in Vancouver. Bernard made his first appearance on that and we fell in love with him ever since. After that point, we couldn't stop fantasizing about Bernard doing tons of ridiculous things and basically mapped out the next 4 album covers and 18 t-shirt designs.

RVA: Any final thoughts?

KK: Come party with us on the 7th!

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Barn Burner plays at Empire January 7th with War Animal (Portland, Maine) and Forensics (last show). 8 PM, $5.

By Graham Scala

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