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Barrel House

Written by Toby Smith on June 25, 2009

Last night I staggered drunkenly out of my home with the intention of finding a seductive lady of the night to act as a receptacle for my manly spirit, but ended up walking into the path of a truck. I woke up in the back of Gus the Bus, the troop carrier for Barrel House. They had me strapped to one of the three double beds in the back of their bus, injecting me with something that made me feel fantastic. I thought I’d take the opportunity to ask them vital questions for the mag.

“Diblemaahh.. Ugh rah ther…?” I wittily suggested. Morphine is awesome. “Festy… Festy val. Valium. Hur hur hur…”

Dwayne, the guitarist and vocalist for the roots trio, somehow decrypts my slurred ramblings. “Um, yeah. Playing the Blues & Roots festival was amazing – it was a total dream come true for me. That was the festival that inspired me to pick up a guitar. I used to just play the piano and had no real interest in playing guitar, but then I went to the festival and something just clicked and I knew I wanted to play music like that. Definitely the pinnacle of my career so far.”

Strange as it may seem, I am not the first victim of the roads to be travelling in high rock n roll n road trip style to the hospital.

“After the last two shows we’ve ended up in hospitals because of car accidents – err, not our car accidents. Last weekend we finished a show and came across people who’d crashed so we called an ambulance and stayed with them. The time before that we were doing a show in Ballina and coming back there was a big tree across the road and one guy had driven his car straight off the cliff, so we had to drive him to the hospital. Ever since we’ve had Gus the Bus stuff like this has happened to us – it’s going to be an event-filled year I think.”

This morphine is fantastic. You could tell me my brother was dead right now and I’d just giggle, later we’d talk about it and laugh. It gets me to thinking what kind of illicit substances Dwayne, Jordan and Jarin use to keep the music flowing.

“We’re often high off adrenaline because we’re running late. So we usually skid in with about twenty minutes to go, get our stuff on stage and play the show. Cos we’re travelling a lot we’re not usually in the area that we’re playing and through a bunch of different circumstances we always find ourselves getting there just in the nick of time. We should start leaving a few hours early or something.”

Barrel House play into the cruisy folk idiom made internationally popular by Gomez et al. The guitar melodies are rambunctious but are kept in check by Dwayne’s soulful voice. They’ve achieved national radio play on Triple J after winning Unearthed, which enabled them to play at the Open Arms festival.

“Triple J were playing us every day after that. I’d listen to the radio every bloody day and it would inevitably be the five minutes I stepped out to go to the shops or whatever, that’s when they’d play the song. I still haven’t heard the song on the radio at all.”
Though Barrel House are a trio on the EP, a couple of guests provide some variation on the roots theme. “At the Blues & Roots Festival we had a percussionist and a trumpet player and also Lisa Hunt doing backup vocals. She was amazing, actually. She’s done vocals for Michael Franti and James Brown; she’s toured internationally with Pavarotti. We couldn’t believe she agreed to play with us and be on the EP.”

I ask another pertinent question. “EP… Recoruuuhh. Djav fun?” Luckily Dwayne is on the ball.

“Yeah, it was a great experience recording it. The first one we did was just a throw together, a muck around so we could get gigs. It was a pretty rough recording. We sent it to the Js for a laugh and they started playing all the songs off it and we thought ‘maybe we have a band here.’ The current EP was recorded in a few different locations, like in a garage. We built this vocal unit out of styrofoam and shit up against the hot water heater, which was not the best place to have a vocal unit because it was a block of flats – so any time someone turned on the hot tap we’d get these loud noises from the heater. Luckily we managed to avoid any interruptions in the recording. “

Luckily we arrived at the hospital in good time and medical professionals tended to my wounds. I bid a fond adieu as Barrel House are heading north for their next few gigs so if you’re in the area check out for their schedule.

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