The Smile Politely Show Series installment for March is happening tomorrow night at Cowboy Monkey, as The Dirty Feathers team up with Barrowe, Swords & The Struggle, and DJ Belly. Out of curiosity, I wanted to see what Barrowe was all about, so I got the chance to discuss this new project with front man Mark Wyman. You might recognize him from the thunderous post-rock local crew Take Care.
Wyman discusses how the band came to be, what the plans for the band’s future are, how to balance a bunch of projects, and what Barrowe does that other projects do not.
Smile Politely: How did Barrowe come about?
Mark Wyman: Barrowe started with Darwin, Nelson, and I just wanting to jam at random. We got there and got set up and Nelson was ready to get shit set in stone. I had some ideas that I wasn’t using for anything else, so it was off to the races with them. We nailed out like four songs in one practice and were already talking about shows and what we wanted this to become.
SP: What were the inspirations behind starting a project like this?
Wyman: We are writing songs that are short and to the point. There’s been a couple times where we get stuck on what to do next in a song, and then we realize that it should probably just end. It’s kind of exciting to be writing two-and-a-half-minute songs. So, basically, when you listen to Hank. you hear really well-orchestrated, difficult time changes. Barrowe isn’t doing that. When you hear Take Care, the songs are long and really dynamic and mood changing. Barrowe isn’t doing that either. This band is our little vacation from all of that.
Darwin Keüp (2nd from left) performing with locals Hank.
SP: What are you all looking to gain out of this project compared to what you’ve been doing with your other bands the members of Barrowe are a part of? How is what Barrowe is doing fulfilling something you can’t accomplish with your other projects?
Wyman: I think the main thing is that we stay a little bit more consistently busy. When Take Care has needed to take breaks, I was ready to go full-on and it seems like everybody has so many other big things going on in their life in Take Care, and my big thing was Take Care. So now I have a band where the big thing is this band for all of us. The first time Barrowe had practice we were already talking about what we wanted out of this band and the big consensus was we wanna practice, we wanna play shows, and we want to push this band forward. Once I heard that, I knew this band was something I want to be a part of.
SP: Talk about the split vinyl release with The Stars, They Beckon.
Wyman: I typically get really big ideas when I start a new band and I want it to start moving immediately. So this time around, I was looking at prices for doing a 7” and the time line for getting a record out for Record Store Day, and turns out the timing was perfect. We were thinking about an out-of-town or region band, but when we thought about in-town bands, we thought it was just right to do it with The Stars, They Beckon. We knocked out the recording in a day over at the Dirty Feathers HQ with James [Treichler], and it sounded great. James is really easy going, and Darwin Nelson and I were going a mile a minute trying to knock everything out. We worked really well together.
SP: Discuss the single you’ve put out on Bandcamp for everyone to hear and how that song was developed.
Wyman: I think out of the songs that we’ve written, it’s the most approachable for a broad audience. I think it sounds the most like a pop song, I guess. I don’t think it is, but I think it has a lot of catchy parts. We personally just think it’s the song we can move furtherest with the broadest audience.
SP: Do the plans with Barrowe trump plans with other projects like Hank. or Take Care at this point in time?
Wyman: Right now, they do. Barrowe is in the forefront of my mind and if for no other reason than it’s the easiest thing to move forward right now, and that’s basically what I’m always looking for anyway. I wanna be moving forward in a band and progressing.
SP: What do you look forward to most when starting up a new project?
Wyman: Just seeing what’s gonna happen; I just think it’s super exciting. This band started moving forward so quickly and easily and seamlessly, and everyone in the band is on the same page and it’s clear, and voiced, and there’s no doubt.
SP: You guys are playing in the show with the Dirty Feathers and some other non-rock related acts (DJ Belly, Swords); is that unlike something you’ve done before with your other bands?
Wyman: No, we’ve played with rap groups before in the past. Take Care has played with Swords and Harsh both. We’ve always been kind of close with all the hiphop guys in the past, and I think it goes to show a lot for the music scene in Champaign that two completely different genres can come together so easily without any problem, and it’s like, yeah, this will definitely work; it will definitely be cool.
Wyman (center) performing with Take Care. Photo by Troy Stanger.
SP: You’ve been playing live for a while now with Take Care. What is going through your mind, as you’re going to perform with a new act that no one has seen yet?
Wyman: Well I’m just really excited to show a different side of the music that I enjoy playing. I love playing with Take Care because all the songs are really well thought out, intricate, and have a lot of meaning. But I also like playing music that’s just fun. I think it’ll be cool for people to see the other side of rock music that we listen to. We all love bands like Sigur Rós, Mogwai, and Mono, but I also love bands like Hot Water Music, Lawrence Arms, and the Smoking Popes, and Bear vs. Shark, and if I had to say what bands we sound like, I think that would be a few.
SP: What are the plans for Barrowe in the future?
Wyman: Just playing in the region as much as possible to as many people as possible, keep writing. In the near future, we’re going to be pushing the 7 inch hard to labels, distros, venues, and to — of course — anyone who will lay their hands on it. I have a feeling it won’t be too long before we are going on tour and staying in sleazy motels, probably for the rest of our lives.
You can see Barrowe make their debut Saturday night with The Dirty Feathers, Swords & The Struggle, and DJ Belly as a part of the Smile Politely Show Series at Cowboy Monkey. Tickets are $5 and the show starts at 8 p.m.