April 4, 2014 in Features

Evolving from ‘Absolutes’

In the years since its debut, Barcelona has shifted in look and sound
By The Spokesman-Review
 

From left, Brian Fennell, Rhett Stonelake and Branden Cate of Barcelona.
(Full-size photo)

Map of this story's location

If you go

Barcelona

With Mackintosh Braun and Lavoy

When: 8 p.m. Tuesday

Where: The Bartlett, 228 W. Sprague Ave.

Cost: $13 in advance, $15 day of the show; purchase tickets online at http://thebartlettspokane.com

A lot of bands are wary of sounding too much like their inspirations, but the members of the Seattle three-piece Barcelona proudly wear their influences on their sleeves.

“I’m a firm believer in there’s nothing new and that ‘emulation’ is not a bad word,” said Brian Fennell, the band’s lead singer and primary songwriter. “When we started out, we very much emulated bands we loved. In some ways, that holds true in every song I write and every song we create together. Our tastes over the last few years have really shifted, individually and also collectively.”

They’re also not afraid to change their style. Fusing ’70s guitar funk, ’80s new wave and ’90s R&B, with the somber electronics of M83 and the pop sensibilities of Passion Pit, Barcelona’s sound has evolved significantly since the band’s debut album, 2007’s “Absolutes.” By the time their second LP, “Not Quite Yours,” dropped in 2012, Barcelona had lost a member, come and gone from a major label and had more or less abandoned the lush indie pop sound of “Absolutes.”

“It was a hard couple years,” Fennell said. “We were going in a couple different directions and trying some things, but we came out OK. We even considered changing our name because it was so different. A lot of bands we respect change their sound from album to album … so we decided, why can’t we?”

That delay between their first two albums ended up working in Barcelona’s favor. Not only had they matured as musicians and songwriters, but they’d toured extensively and had gained a significant fanbase, and they were able to raise more than $42,000 to independently issue “Not Quite Yours.”

The release strategy for the band’s newest material is an unusual one: They’ve compiled 13 new songs on three EPs and released them individually a month apart. “The songs started coming together, and we thought we’d do one EP and test the waters with that,” Fennell said. “Then we decided to just release everything in this way. I’m really feeling EPs, from a listening standpoint to a creative standpoint.”

The series, known collectively as “The Melodrama,” forms a sort of romantic triptych that illustrates the band’s personal development: “Love Me” is painful and pleading, “Love You” is blushingly idealistic, and “Know Love” is world-weary and perceptive.

“Our biggest hope was that the fans would grow with us,” Fennell said. We’re not trying to appeal to the same people from 2006. I mean, we’re not the same people. What relieves the pressure is to just shut up and be yourself, rather than trying to project what people are going to like in six months or a year.”


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