These New Puritans – Going Through The Emotions

As These New Puritans, brothers Jack and George Barnett have made their sound impossible to pin down since releasing their debut as teens. The urgency of pop, the structure of rock, and the fluidity of both classical and electronic music has appeared across their songwriting and the pair’s 2019 offering ‘Inside the Rose’ took this […]

These New Puritans – Going Through The Emotions

By Ellis Toner

As These New Puritans, brothers Jack and George Barnett have made their sound impossible to pin down since releasing their debut as teens. The urgency of pop, the structure of rock, and the fluidity of both classical and electronic music has appeared across their songwriting and the pair’s 2019 offering ‘Inside the Rose’ took this experimentation to new heights.

We caught up with Jack as the band prepare their upcoming show at London’s Barbican; a full theatrical stage production featuring a sixteen-piece band, film projection, and light installations alongside reinterpretations of their back catalogue and unheard new material.

What in your childhood contributed to your becoming a musician?

My parents were encouraging and didn’t put any pressure on us, about school and things like that. Then I had a few months of guitar lessons at school and that got me started. These are quite unremarkable, ordinary things but without them I couldn’t be doing this sort of thing. Oh and our older brother was into music and did the legwork for us music-discovery wise!

Do you think there is a split between art and life? 

Yes, art is a little utopia while you’re doing it.

Why do you think people are so curious about the working methods of artists? Do you think it is a preference for gossip over content? Does this add pressure to your thought process when you are thinking up answers?

Everything seems to need a story now – the thing itself isn’t enough!

I suppose social media is to blame. If you can construct the right reason why you’re persecuted, you’re golden!

Which album would you rescue in a fire before even your own life?

‘Rock Bottom’ by Robert Wyatt.

I’m a sucker for eating tinned spaghetti when I’m run down. Do you have any particular scoff that elevates your soul?

Stilton – the excrement of the gods (as the Aztecs called gold.)

Have you watched or read anything of late that you are certain is a modern classic that will make you feel great every time – without fail – you experience it?

I have re-listened to all of ‘Athletico Mince’ recently, the podcast by Bob Mortimer and Andy Dawson. I reckon it’s the best bit of culture from the last few years, and I don’t know how I’d have got through certain parts of the recording process of our last album without it! A whole joyously hysterical,  parallel world.

Adversely, I have only ever seen the film ‘The Master’ once at the flicks. I haven’t been able to watch it again as I don’t ever want to mar that stunning first viewing sensation. Do you get that as well? If so, can you describe that special felling?

No, I tend to obsessively re-watch and re-listen. I still get the same feeling from music I loved when I was 10 or 11 – Captain Beefheart, Soundgarden, etc. Some of it is music I wouldn’t like if I heard it for the first time now, but I still get that nervous system amplification, that feeling that everything could change, total naivety. Relatedly, I have a funny thing where I can still remember songs I wrote when I was eight or nine – and still play them very occasionally. It gives me this weird access to my eight year-old self and how I felt.

You are programmed to play a one-off event at the Barbican on 23 February. What is it with the one-off spectacles that appeals to your head-state?

Me and George are both told we’re perfectionists, which I think isn’t a particularly good trait in general (not seeing the wood for the trees, etc) but it helps for these kind of shows! Although it looks like a big spectacle, it’s quite DIY – from the brass arrangements to the scaffolding.

I seem to remember seeing a documentary once with Francis Rossi of Status Quo doing yoga and/or peddling an exercise bike before a gig in a travel lodge and the memory is a funny one – not that there’s anything wrong with yoga, exercise bags or Rossi. Do you practice any form of exercise or meditation?

Swimming is great. I do it once or twice a week, but I used to do it more often. It’s a great source of momentum and clears your head. Stopping is very underrated but the best ideas come when you stop.

It’s just comforting to think that you’ve worked every moment possible, to treat yourself like a machine, but it’s a false economy.

What advice would you give your 15 year old self and five year old self?

I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about this, and can’t think of anything remotely useful! Life can only be understood backwards but must be lived forwards, as a wise person once said.

These New Puritans bring their one-off stage show ‘The Blue Door’ to London’s Barbican on 23 February 2020. Tickets are available now.

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