The Barr Brothers have announced their new album Queens of the Beakers, due for release on October 13th via Secret City Records. Listeners to BBC 6 Music’s Radcliffe and Maconie show got their first taster of the new album when they premiered the band’s new song ‘You Would Have to Lose Your Mind’ earlier today. Listen below:
You Would Have to Lose Your Mind was written by Andrew Barr while holding the hand of a loved one in the hospital, where he heard two EKG machines beating slowly in and out of time with each other, occasionally aligning, but destined to dither. The album that follows represents a similar kind of human dynamic. It’s The Barr Brothers’ finest work yet, a collection of 11 hypnotically fluid songs that speak to the raw, elemental power of reflection, forgiveness, loss, and growing up. The record finds the band, featuring brothers Brad (guitar) and Andrew Barr (drums), and Sarah Page (Harp), further on their thrilling path of exploring the outer limits of folk, blues, rock and Americana made north of the American border.
The new album arrives after the longest-ever pause in Brad and Andrew Barr’s 20-year career in music. Both have become fathers since 2014’s ‘Sleeping Operator’ was released (read our live review interview here). In that time, Sarah found ways to completely redefine the harp, its sound, and its role in modern music. ‘Queens of the Breakers’ was born out of reflection of what home and family mean now, after the effects of life on the road. The title track references the brother’s teenage adventures in Rhode Island – which found them and a tight-knit pack of friends descending upon the city of Newport and the famous industrialist mansion known as The Breakers wearing their mothers’ clothing, provoking the tourists. It’s a look at evaporated friendships through the rearview mirror.
The Barr Brothers are at their most devastating in their balance of subtlety and grand gestures, immediate on the surface, the finer details lying deep in the arrangements. “Defibrillation (feat. Lucius)” is just that, an off-kilter rhythm with a mesmerizing folk song woven into it. One of the album’s many highlights is “You Would Have to Lose Your Mind,” a sinewy song that grows over 6 minutes of a brooding bass line, neo-soul melodies, woozy strings, and ping ponging harp that bends and sustains like a synthesizer. The thundering “It Came to Me” begins with a howl of electric guitar and a burst of propulsive drums. A guitar riff, harp and tambourine quickly lock together into an undulating wall of sound.
The Barr Brothers released their debut album, recorded in a boiler room in Montreal, in 2011. Since then they’ve performed on The Late Show and have shared stages with The National, The War On Drugs, Patrick Watson, My Morning Jacket, Emmylou Harris and countless others. They’ve headlined the Montreal Jazz Festival in front of 40,000 people and have sold out venues across the world. 2014’s ‘Sleeping Operator’ was a breakthrough record, with spins on over 50 Triple A radio stations in the US. All 3 singles were playlist at Radio and the band did 6 sessions across every BBC Radio station in the UK. ‘Sleeping Operator’ has now had over 60 million combined streams.
‘Queens of the Breakers’ was engineered by Ryan Freeland (Milk Carton Kids, Ray LaMontagne, Bonnie Raitt) and Marcus Paquin (Arcade Fire, The National). It was recorded in Montreal and St. Zenon, Quebec.