It’s more punk than punk. It’s more EDM than EDM. It’s more metal than metal. It’s more electronica than electronica. It’s just better music in every way. The reason houses in Los Angeles are so expensive is because this band started here.
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Picasso said, “Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not.”
Josh, Dan, and Brian saw what could be—wearing matching NASA uniforms and Neanderthal masks—and asked themselves “why not?”
Fartbarf has been captivating crowds with an All-Analog, Paleolithic experience since 2008. The trio stays within the daunting limitations of analog synthesizers, vocoders, and live drums, to create a lush wall of sound. I had the absolute privilege of interviewing the awesome dudes behind the masks.
HappeningInDTLA: When/How did Fartbarf come into fruition?
FARTBARF: The idea began in early 2008, and we started relentlessly playing shows in 2009. It was a general response to the collapse of the record industry, a social experiment on acceptance, and a way for us to have fun with strange instruments, that at the time, weren’t overly common. Could a band exist that took their core values seriously, but had a ton of fun in the meantime? Could we market ourselves broadly, but with so many things that would be considered self-sabotage? Without knowing it early on, we chose the name and the look to instantly weed out those who don’t have a sense of humor and lack an open mind for something new. We weren’t trying to be cool. There is no facade here. We’re just 3 dudes who had a concept and ran with it. We wanted to do every single thing DIY without any help from labels, agents, management, etc.
Studies have proven limitations help make better art. With most electronic musicians glued to their computers, they can dial up any synth-sound ever made with a few clicks. Do you feel that hinders their output?
We cannot stand the infinite variables that computers give. They breed very bland and boring results. Even sequencing and arranging, we chose the MPC2500 for that. Not Ableton, or whatever else. Those computer programs are very cool, and early on, we built one of the first Monomes that worked with MaxMSP in kit form, but in the end, found that it was much more fun to create sounds with actual knobs using electricity, than a fake version of the real deal. They’re much more organic and unpredictable. We very purposely gave ourselves limited access to instruments to see what we could come up with. That, and there is no plug-in in the world that can recreate the true sound of an analog synth sent into a couple thousand watt speakers. Sound cards fall flat in comparison.
Being on the other side of that – What are some challenges that arise with going Analog?
Prior to Fartbarf, none of us had been in bands that used strictly and mainly vintage analog gear. So we didn’t really know what problems would pop up until we had already set that standard. They drift out of tune like crazy depending on heat, humidity, the cleanliness of the power we’re plugged in to, etc…They’re moody. They’re also highly fragile. And more times than not, especially on the road, non-replaceable. So we have to treat them like our babies. We have them chained up, locked down, bolted and secured with weapons and eyes on them at all times. They’re also hundreds of times more expensive than their digital counterpart. We could easily go to Guitar Center and buy a couple of MicroKorgs to Vocode through, but in the end, they sound like complete consumer grade garbage. So we chose using some Dave Smith polysynths along with a Roland SVC350 from the early 70’s and some other strange pedals to sing through. Same with the drums, we wanted real drums. Not electronic. Electronic drums are a cool supplement, but nowhere near aggressive and dynamic enough for what we wanted to achieve sonically.
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When you listen to Dirty Power, every song is a completely different beast. How do you keep it fresh with new ideas?
The relentless number of shows we’ve been doing have sort of put us on a writing hiatus until more recently. We just now are starting to get our fingers dirty again. We are constantly gear swapping. Every analog synth has it’s own personality. New ideas come easily with new gear. If we sat down with a Roland SH-101 and wrote a song one day, it would be a completely different thing than if we sat down with one of our Korg MS10 or 20’s, or a Moog, or ARP. They’re all so organic and tactile, different results happen instantly. Luckily, there are a zillion old synths out there to keep the creative juices flowing.
How does the Fartbarf songwriting process start? A Melody? A Beat? Or ideas while jamming?
We typically begin with a beat made on the MPC. Then add a baseline and melody. We soft-released a compilation of tracks that show our process called the Improv Cassette Vault that you can find online. Our songs normally begin life a very different thing. Mainly from long improvisations, sleep deprivation, and alcohol. They’re typically 9-20 minutes each. Only a couple parts with slow variations. It’s only until we take those tapes back and re-listen to them all, that we hear key moments we will dissect and turn into something more digestible.
From your posts online it sounds like there’s a new album coming! Is there anything you can tell us?
Nothing to say officially yet. But we know the time has come to get some new stuff out there. Sophomore albums are hard to do. So much pressure.
From past interviews you guys have referenced coming from a Punk background. Who are some artists or bands that inspired you guys into making music?
Not only punk, but a lot of different genres. All three of us have very different tastes in music with some crossover. Normally when on tour, we just end up listening to a lot of Yacht Rock. Here are a few of our favorites. Guess who likes what: Minutemen, early Metallica, Talking Heads, Circle Jerks, Black Flag, Mr. Bungle, The Dwarves, Rush, Genesis, Sisters of Mercy, DEVO, The Clash, Black Sabbath, Hall & Oates, Fantomas, Ghost, The Beach Boys, Emperor, Hot Chip, Martin Denny, Siouxsie & the Banshees, John Carpenter, Michael McDonald, Depeche Mode, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Slayer. So many more, we’ll stop there.
Do you have any advice for the young kids going out and starting bands?
Do what you want to do. Never sacrifice that to accommodate other people’s tastes. Normally, everyone else tastes suck anyways. Also… Never, Ever pay to play. Anywhere.
You guys have been playing all over for years. Are there any changes you’d like to see in the L.A. music scene? Or the “Music Scene” in general?
More than us wanting to see a change in the local artists that are actually spending their time and money to create, we are much more hyper-critical of the clubs and “promoters” that set up shows. If your job title is Promoter…That means it’s your responsibility to actually PROMOTE a show. You know… Flyers, emails, ads, hashtags, etc… As far as we know, 90% of all promoters’ jobs are simply there to nag the band in getting their pre-existing fans into whatever club the show’s being held at, and then take a cut from the door. Therefore giving zero value to even play the show to begin with. It’s absurd. The battle for respect between the artists and the clubs is the single most annoying thing about the music scene. Without the artists, the clubs would be nothing. Somehow that simple detail has been flipped upside-down and we can’t wait to see that change.
Where’s the best place to keep up on Fartbarf news?
Right now, our Instagram or Facebook feed. Google us, there’s only one group of idiots who would want this name. For the more intimate details, text us, 424-2-FRTBRF! See ya’ll at the next show! xoxo.
The next Fartbarf shows are:
Saturday July 30th Phantom Carriage Brewery in Carson, CA.
Saturday August 20th Brouwerij West Brewery in San Pedro, CA.
Oct. 14-16 Desert Daze 2016 in Joshua Tree, CA