July/August 2011

Julianna Barwick

[Musician]

microinterviewed by David Givens

This issue features a microinterview with Julianna Barwick, conducted by David Givens. Barwick is a musician based in Brooklyn, whose music has been described as “transfixing to the point of debilitation” by the New York Times. Using her voice as raw material, she loops her own singing to create immersive sound environments that evoke everything from Gregorian chants to Christian Fennesz. Her discography includes a self-released debut, Sanguine, from 2007, and the EP Florine, which was given an honorable mention in Pitchfork’s 2009 Album of the Year list. Her most recent release is the critically acclaimed full-length recording The Magic Place.

THE BELIEVER: You did Sanguine, your first record, then Florine. Did your working method change between the two?

JULIANNA BARWICK: Yep. It was really different. The first record I made with the guitar pedal. I would have to hold it down, and the loop would only last as long as I was holding it.

BLVR: You didn’t use a loop station for the first record?

JB: No, no. I sang with a crappy mic, into a crappy guitar delay-pedal, into another guitar pedal that looped. Then I put that into my Fostex 4-track cassette machine, and that’s how I made the first record. Those little bits of guitar that you can hear on some of the songs were played directly into the 4-track. When I brought it in to Paul Gold to get mastered, he kinda gave me a quizzical look. I was like, Uh, has anybody ever brought you a 4-track tape machine before? He was, like, Um, well, no, but there’s a first time for everything…. And I just thought, OK, I’m learning.

BLVR: When you bought the loop station, was it because somebody said, You know, Julianna, there are easier ways to do this…?

JB:Actually, I had a Mac that I bought from a friend, and it had a copy of Logic [professional music-production software] on it. It made my head spin all the way around my body just trying to figure it out. I was like,Screw this, man! If I can punch a button and it records, that’ll work! So I bought a loop station. What you create is stored on the machine, so when I made Florine, I just hooked it up to my computer, dragged over the .wav files, and put them into GarageBand.

BLVR: So all of this was happening at your house? In your bedroom?

JB: Exactly. On my bed.

BLVR: That’s remarkable! I could certainly imagine it was made in a more formal setting.

JB: No, it was all in my bedroom.

BLVR: With your most recent record, you moved into the studio. Do you think you’ll return to the bedroom?

JB: To practice, but not to record. I had to spend so much time taking out the bad stuff—helicopters going over, people walking upstairs—it got annoying. Soundproofed is way better.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

David Givens lives in Chicago. He has, for nearly three years, been attempting to write an essay for this magazine about a medieval painting that moved him. He apologizes for the delay.

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