Although the band has its roots in California, there is something far more east coast about We Barbarians’ post-punk revivalist sound. The grandiose hard-pop of their new EP, Headspace, sounds more at home darting between skyscrapers and roaming the 8 million person blob of New York, than basking in the laid-back fun in the sun of LA. It calls to my mind the city of a million extremes with hot days and cold nights, bright summers and dark winters, winners, losers, dancers, dreamers and everything in between.
Earlier this year, the band moved from Los Angeles to Brooklyn. “We got to a point as individuals and a band when we needed a shift,” guitarist/vocalist David Quon said. “When we toured through the East Coast market, something really clicked and we wanted to spend more time in those markets.”
We Barbarians formed in 2007 in Long Beach, CA. Quon, bassist Derek VanHeule and drummer Nathan Warkentin had played together in various formations within the city’s music scene. Early on they garnered a reputation as a raucous live act, earning praise from the Los Angeles Times and KEXP. In 2009, the band released their debut full-length There’s This There’s That.
Several years and tours later (with acts such as Cold War Kids, Local Natives, Passion Pit and Foster The People amongst others) We Barbarians find themselves in a new city and new inspiration pushing them “to continue this momentum of playing and writing,” Quon said.
The group only has three members, but they utilize more instruments than six hands can handle. In addition to echoing guitars and a thunderous rhythm section, the band employs keyboards and electronic effects to add rolling waves of ambient layers to their post-punk inflected pop. But due to this, the bandmembers ensure that every note is necessary, that what is laid on tape can carry a song through the countless permutations that may occur in a live atmosphere.
“When you go to the studio it’s very easy to get carried away with overdubbing and tracking whatever you want,” notes Quon. “I think that’s one of the things that has made our songwriting a little bit more challenging. The songs end up turning out a little more interesting because we do have limitations since we’re just guitar, bass and drums.
We Barbarians will be touring throughout New York, Boston and Chicago before the year ends. Be sure to check out Headspace, which is available now.