The Barr Brothers deal with the accolades

by Chris Morin

The Barr Brothers

The Barr Brothers
The Artesian
Saturday 20

It’s no secret that Montreal folk-rock quartet The Barr Brothers have come a long way career-wise in a very short amount of time. The group’s first and only full-length album found them competing for the 2012 Polaris Prize, which in turn got them on stage at major festivals around the world and even a stint on The Late Show with David Letterman.

And, having recently been nominated for a Juno Award for Adult Alternative Album of the Year, The Barr Brothers are still reeling from a solid two years of accolades.

“It certainly means a lot to us,” says percussionist Andrew Barr. “This was like the little record that could. We made this album in a small studio that we built ourselves and it was the flagship that sent us out touring got the band going. So to see it getting to the point where it actually gets acknowledged by the Junos means a lot to us and we are very appreciative.”

Comprised of Andrew and Brad Barr, the band coalesced after the brothers relocated to Montreal after playing across North America in a rock improve group dubbed The Slip. After meeting harpist Sarah Page, who was living next door to Andrew, and multi-instrumentalist Andres Vial, the quartet immediately began touring and perfecting the songs that would comprise their debut album.

It’s a process that the band hopes to repeat.

“We put out this last album two years ago and those songs were written about three years ago,” recalls Andrew. “So there has been three years of travelling on the road and being inspired during that time and writing new songs, so there’s a lot to choose from.”

Although they resemble a mini ragtag symphony complete with a myriad of instruments including an organ, various percussion and even a full-sized harp, The Barr Brothers are a rootsy group given to eclectic flair and the occasional foray into prog-folk rock. Given their larger-than-life stage presence, the group typically shines live, where they exude a polite energy that tends to take a backseat on their recorded material.

It’s a live performance that the group puts a lot into, and as Andrew is quick to point out, arranging the musical infrastructure of the stage performance is something of a logistical nightmare.

“Nightmare is a good word to use,” he groans. “We go about it in a myriad of ways. The key factor is having the harp there at every gig. That usually comes from contacting individual harpists and asking if they are willing to let their $60,000 instrument go out the door to some rock club. And amazingly it’s a resounding yes most of the time. It’s a lot more work than just showing up at the club with a guitar but it’s just a cross that this band bares.”

However, with The Barr Brothers starting a three week recording session in Montreal, Andrew says that live sound will hopefully carry over to the next full-length LP.

“Sometimes it is hard to say exactly what an album is going to sound like before you get into the studio. But one thing for sure is that we are going to do a lot of the playing together in a big, wide open room,” says Andrew. “So I would suspect that there is going to be a pronounced live element to it. Which is one of the things you get to develop over the course of touring together as a band for two years.

“There is a relationship within the band that is really close and that is something that can be captured in our musical interaction when the tape is rolling.”