Ali Barter has something. It’s something that leads from her eyes to her hips; it coils around 70s stadiums and backroom bars; and it clears it’s throat from the neck of her guitar. When people are fumbling to describe it, they use words like “presence” or “compelling”. It’s something that prevents people from turning away.
The former triple j unearthed winner has spent the last few years honing her sound, testing combinations and serving an almost old-fashioned musical apprenticeship in her home town of Melbourne. The journey has been about embracing the power chords and dancehalls that filled her teenage years, as much as the delicate harmonies she’s been drawn to lately. There is a high wire somewhere between He War and Like a Prayer, and Barter has been determined to find it and walk it. With sweatbands.
Like the best of them, Barter was literally a classically trained choir girl turned rambler and ‘rat bag’. The darker end of the street beckoned and women liked Hole and Juliana Hatfield called her in. Youth didn't really suit, now she had something to say.
It’s taken a long time to come from nowhere; Barter is not in a rush. Initially collaborating with friends and strangers, Ali found her musical soul mate in Oscar Dawson (Holy Holy) and the pair recorded and toured throughout 2013 and ‘14. Somehow, the combination resulted in Barter finding confidence in her direction; trusting her voice and songs, and discovering the will to carry it live. She gathered musicians who could flesh out the songs she was building. They played pub residencies, regional tours and supported the likes of The War On Drugs, Phosphorescent and Husky, tightening their sound and building a show, testing their metal for the studio and beyond.
In 2015, this has resulted in the six-track EP, entitled ‘AB/EP’. Lyrics describe the eternal nothing of a baking Melbourne summer day (Ode to Summer) or a farewell to innocence (If You Go). The guitars can be both lush and aggressive (Blood), building in layers and then stripped down to bare vocals, or pushed to the back to let that sound run free (Hypercolour). There is ambition here and and an increasingly clear vision. I Ask For So Little could almost have been picked straight from an 90s grunge playlist. That’s no-one’s idea of cool, but in Barter’s hands it is lifted into something “compelling”.
Melbourne has a musical soul that stretches deep into its bitumen. Every corner seems to spawn a stage and a microphone and a knowing crowd. It creates a high bar for recognition, but Ali Barter is finding her own space and is appreciated for it. She brings it all to the stage with the sound, the steel and that something else.
Melbourne songstress Ali Barter is one of the winners of our Laneway Festival competition. She'll be opening the River Stage of the Laneway Festival in Melbourne at 11:40am this Sunday 3rd February.
Tell us about your music - how did you develop your sound?
I started writing songs a few years back and have always been drawn to scenery and stories so I try to incorporate that into my songs. I listen to lots of movie soundtracks because I like the way the music enhances the visuals. I also just write as many songs as possible waiting for the good ones to come out. I write and play with other producers, songwriters and musicians too so I can learn how other people develop their craft.
You’re one of the winners of our Laneway competition and will be opening the festival in Melbourne - what can Laneway punters expect from the Ali Barter live show?
I am playing my set at Laneway with a couple of awesome boys. I will be playing my pink silvertone and they are providing the bass, guitar and MPC – which will be fun. It’ll be a slightly stripped back version of my EP. I am playing about 3 new songs too which will be good to air some new stuff.
Tell us about the bands, producers and people in the Melbourne music community that inspire you?
I play with a guy called Jumpin’ Jack William who is an incredible folk singer, guitarist and songwriter. Playing music with him is like having a conversation – I learn a lot from him. The man who produced my EP – Matik, is awesome. He really brought my songs to life. He works with hip hop artists, folk and country artists as well as pop musicians - he has an amazing scope for music. This makes him really special to work with as a producer. I worked with some amazing film-makers, photographers, artists and designers on a music video recently. They are an incredible community of people working together to make beautiful things. Melbourne producer and artist Thrupence is another clever man. He did the artwork on my EP and makes lush and beautiful beats.
What's the best advice you've been given and by who?
My friend Steve tells me to relax. It might not be the best advice but it's definitely the most frequent
Whatís coming up for you in 2013?
Recording an album, playing lots of shows, making a couple of videos, writing lots of songs.
Australian music isÖ?
…very very good.View Profile Hide Interview