BARR - Biography
Originally hailing from Berkeley, California, BARR is centrally musician/performance artist Brendan Fowler, who combines a direct form of spoken-word rhyming and one-sided, staccato monologues with an overriding hardcore sensibility. Having begun as a solo artist under the moniker BAR—the extra ‘R’ was later added in tribute to his friend Mick Barr—with heavy political and demonstrative overtones, his more evolved BARR has performed as a four piece indie band that frequents Los Angeles art-spaces such as the DIY punk venue, The Smell. Fowler created the act BAR in New York as an aggressive visual/performance art show in 2001, often engaging and challenging his underground audiences, before going about his lines of communication more subtly. He has said that his unabashed rhythmic-talking is the result of not being able to sing, and Fowler’s delivery is in the vein of Mike Doughty, yet with a humorous, often left-field take on the world like Mitch Hedberg. His 2007 full-length album Summary (5 Rue Christine) conveyed daring nuances, rants that were listenable by being interesting rather than according meter, rhyme and often melody. He calls what he does “public speaking about the human condition.”
Having moved to the East Coast when he was nine years old, Fowler shirked the popular hair-bands of the day in favor of more avant-garde and alternative acts. When he started BAR—an acronym of mysterious meaning—it was solely him and his iPod performing material he never fully expected people to listen to. The earliest version of BAR that he began in New York he has called “hostile,” as he provoked audience members and engaged them physically. By the time he’d returned to California in 2002—this time in the Los Angeles area—he mellowed and the idea he began to churn was to communicate more intricately with his audience via a brain-dump of lyrics. BARR became an artistic experience, a sort of Dadaism on open mic night. He released a couple of split 7” singles on Deathbomb and Oedipus Records, followed by What Would the Second BARR (2004) on his own Doggpony label, and he began touring with the likes of Hawnay Troof.
BARR’s official full-length debut, Beyond Reinforced Jewel Case (2006 5 Rue Christine) was a meta-lyrical spew of word collections about songwriting, intentions, the world around him, pop culture and his father, who died of a heroin overdose.
His second full-length, Summary, came out in 2007, and epitomized the chit-chatty monologues that have cultivated his following. Digressive incantations that were meant to stir a response and empathize dot the album behind scraps of jazzy piano, drums and bass, with the highlights being “Context Ender,” which he has said was about Pitchfork (whom he trusted would hate his new material). Summary caught his amalgamated performance art and songcraft in flight, and along with his full-time band Ethan Swan (piano), Kevin Shea (drums) and Corey Dieckman (bass), represented a change in direction from his solo persona. In his homage to art he talks about the concept of art, the meaning of life, perception and politics.
Fowler is active in the art community outside of music as well. He is the co-editor of the Southern California-based publication Artist Network Program (ANP) Quarterly, which prints progressive, often esoteric worldviews on art and culture, as well as interviews and photography. He curated a Los Angeles art show at the David Kordansky gallery and, aside from his BARR moniker, Fowler is a member of New York-based electro-pop outfit, Car Clutch, as well as New England Roses.
BARR has toured with Animal Collective, Xiu Xiu and Snowsuit, among others.