Uncut joins CB and her band on the European festival circuit
It’s a very Dutch scene at Lowlands in the Netherlands the following afternoon, with the ubiquitous backstage cabins situated next to drainage ditches. The CB3 somehow have two cabins, so they allow their next-door neighbour, Father John Misty, to use one of theirs to house some of his larger band and crew. “We’ve got our own beer,” laughs Mudie, when Uncut shows him the Barnett-branded lager in the fridge. “This is pretty amazing!”
While the irrepressible Bones and Dave joke around like the class clowns, clearly loving their trips around the world – Sloane claims he’d love to live in London just for its grey skies, but finds it too expensive – Barnett, at only 27, comes across as much wiser; she’s organised, ambitious, self-assured, and exhibits almost Zen-like calm.
“Well, that’s nice,” she laughs when Uncut mentions her tranquil demeanour. “I think I have my moments. Jen and I always joke that our cat seeks out my company because of my calm aura. But I don’t feel calm a lot of the time. I can be a bit frantic and obsessive and high-adrenaline, and then really low. I’m kind of up and down like that. It’s weird being interviewed or filmed, because there’s that part of me that’s like, ‘Oh my God, I’m so boring! Should I try and be more interesting?’ And then I’m like, ‘No, you don’t do that ’cos that’s not you.’ [Laughs] It’s a long personal struggle. I’m constantly taking photos of everyone and writing songs about people anyway, so who am I to talk?”
“This one’s for you,” says Sloane, as he copies out set lists for their Lowlands gig later in the afternoon, and writes down “Kim’s Caravan” as the third-to-last song; they’re playing it tonight partly at Uncut’s behest and partly because they have a longer set than usual. “Kim’s…” is perhaps Barnett’s most fascinating song to date, an expansive, seven-minute tone poem with little recognisable structure and a deliciously stream-of-consciousness lyric, which builds from a subtle hum to a maelstrom of fuzz guitars. However, the CB3 have played the song at so few festivals that they have to disappear into their cabin to practise it acoustically on Barnett’s Taylor Baby. Once outside again, Sloane reveals that “Kim” is his ex-girlfriend, and that the caravan, situated on Phillip Island near Melbourne, is actually “Kim’s mum’s caravan”.
After another journey in a people carrier to the stage ready for their 8pm start, Barnett (now garbed in a T-shirt from Melbourne band Batpiss) is given some origami cranes by two fans. She enjoys receiving hand-made gifts – “People being creative is always a nice thing” – but also appreciated a collection of Haruki Murakami short stories she was given earlier this year, or the mixtapes people make them for the tour bus. “It’s so nice that people even fucking think to do that,” she marvels.
Their performance tonight is even better than the day before, benefiting from a longer set, a bigger tent and even more people. The baggy “Debbie Downer” is added to the set, along with a louder “Canned Tomatoes” and, of course, “Kim’s Caravan”, which ends in a storm of feedback from Barnett’s white Fender Jaguar. “Depreston”, a tale of Barnett checking out a house in the north Melbourne suburb of Preston, only to find it’s “a deceased estate” and then wondering about the former inhabitant, even gets the crowd clapping along. “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go To The Party” – customarily called “Blah” on the set list – becomes a stomping glam racket of the kind that would suit Ty Segall, Barnett throwing rock shapes as she wrenches atonal squeals from her Telecaster near the edge of the stage.
The set is so frenzied and exciting that it incites some wanton destruction – not among the well-behaved Dutch, of course, but onstage. As the feedback dies away at the end of the closing “Pedestrian At Best”, Bones throws his Jaguar bass high above the stage, and lets it fall back to the boards, neatly detaching the head from the neck. Back in the people carrier, Sloane is beginning to wonder if it was the right thing to do – or indeed whether he should have waited another day, when their tour would be over. “It’s only a chunk of wood, Bones,” says Barnett.
Uncut leaves the CB3 as they prepare to head back to their hotel in Utrecht, ready for a flight to Cardiff the next morning for the Green Man festival, where tour manager Hook will have to hire a replacement bass for Bones. Then it’s a couple of months at home in Melbourne for Barnett before their European tour in November. “It’s hard not to enjoy playing music on a stage in front of a festival crowd,” Barnett muses, looking back over the summer. “It can be weird, but then you’re like, ‘Wow, I’m playing in front of a fuckload of people,’ and it’s a surreal feeling. I’ve said no to so much stuff that would be so amazing,” she adds, referring to their upcoming break, “but I want to be doing stuff forever, I don’t wanna crash and burn next year. That would be pretty boring.”
The November 2017 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – featuring The Beatles on the cover. Elsewhere in the issue, there are new interviews with Beck, Michael Head, The Jacksons, Neil Finn and we celebrate the legacy of Woody Guthrie and remember Walter Becker. We review David Bowie, The Smiths, Margo Price, Robert Plant and Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett. Our free CD features 15 tracks of the month’s best music, including Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile, Gregg Allman, Margo Price, The Weather Station and more.
Uncut: the past, present and future of great music.