Brooklyn-based musician and producer Barrie makes music for movement. From the natural sway of her blissed-out dream pop to the group choreography she recently started incorporating into her live sets, Barrie latches on to a certain kinetic quality in her music — and her latest offering keeps that momentum going.
Written alongside last year's sophomore album Barbara, Barrie's new EP, 5K, is less of a spiritual successor to the record or collection of B-sides that ended up on the cutting room floor and more so an entirely new avenue of sonic exploration for the burgeoning artist. Where Barbara explored feelings of isolation under lockdown, the loss of a parent, the love of a new partner and figuring out one's own identity, 5K embraces a more lighthearted casual atmosphere.
An avid runner, Barrie designed the EP as a sonic companion for a good run, taking its name from the common foot race. “The music felt like a good arc for running," Barrie says. "I want this music to be good company; steady and light enough. It’s literal and it’s metaphorical; this EP is meant to be your running partner for whatever form of 5K you’re doing.”
The EP opens with the baroque music box twinkle of "Nocturne Interlude;" the track acts as a warm-up and segue from Barbara into 5K, with Barrie stacking her voice to create an ethereal Greek chorus of sorts that swells to a climax before hitting the pavement. "Races" sees the EP picking up the pace with upbeat keyboards and cheery guitar riffs, basking in the warm glow of flowering romance.
"I finished the music for 'Races' before the lyrics, and I was trying to figure out what to say," Barries says of the EP's lead single. "I got in a rabbit hole about how when you get songs stuck in your head, they’re like these weird little mantras that you didn’t choose to take on, and how crazy it is that musicians have the opportunity to have a direct line into people’s heads like that. I was thinking about what phrases I’d want to implant. And what would be a good use of that kind of privilege. Obviously, it doesn’t work exactly that way, but there was an element of experimenting with that in this song."
In keeping with the running metaphor, "Unholy Appetite" sees 5K hitting its stride and settling in a comfortable groove, offering her own take on Madchester, stripping the indie micro-genre of its masculine bravado in favor of a more tender, earnest sentiment, with muted shades of Sheryl Crow and Alanis Morissette thrown into the mix. "Ghost World" hits a second wind in the final stretch, a rush of endorphins flooding your system as you finally hit that runner's high before closer "Empty" rounds the arc, as a rain of glimmering sounds and pensive piano chords winds the energy down into a pleasantly exhausted afterglow.
While you obviously don't have to be a runner to enjoy 5K, the EP is more rewarding as a marathon rather than a sprint, one song folding into the next, gradually building up and then letting off steam in a natural progression. Revealing new details with each subsequent listen, 5K sees Barrie charging headfirst into new sonic territory, forging fresh roads to run down with each new track.
Ahead of the release of 5K, PAPER caught up with Barrie to talk about the new EP, what songs the artist like to listen to while running and what's next for the dream pop artist.
What was the inspiration behind 5K?
I started working on this collection of songs at the same time as the songs on Barbara, but I knew they would stand on their own, as a separate release. I love thinking about what activity someone listening to my music might be doing and, when I was talking about the demos of these songs with my wife, we discovered they’d be a great soundtrack to a short run. The songs on this EP were designed with that in mind.
What do you hope people take away from the EP?
Making music is a means of temporary escape from reality for me, so when I’m writing, I’m chasing that feeling. I hope 5K offers a moment of respite, whether it’s taking one’s mind off of something heavy, to get through a morning commute, or through a run.
What did you learn about yourself over the course of writing this EP?
Much like the tracks on Barbara, I wrote and produced 5K myself. These songs were part of learning what I am capable of musically. It helped build up my confidence as a writer and producer.
Was there any moment along the way that surprised you?
I rewrote the song “Empty” quite a few times before landing on the final lyrics and melody. I came close to giving up and scrapping it a few times, but my manager and label kept pushing me to finish it. Of all of the moving parts in songwriting, I tend to be the slowest at writing lyrics. I was surprised at how many lyrics I was able to come up with to try out within the song. I was also surprised I was able to finish it in time for the release!
What makes a good running partner for you?
I run as part of an alone-time routine, so I prefer to run without a partner.
That being said, running to Robyn is amazing.
What does the future look like for Barrie?
I love where the project is right now. I have a great touring group who I love spending time with, so touring and performing is fun. Feeling the project growing as I release more and more music has been great. I’ve enjoyed experimenting with different ideas for the live show.
Also, my wife and I are building a studio where we’ll invite other artists to work with us as a songwriting, recording and production team. I hope the future contains a lot of that!
Photography: Caroline Tompkins
Photography assistant: Pablo Perez
Photos courtesy of Winspear