On February 8, singer/songwriter Laura Barrett will join forces with Indie Pop group, The Magnetic Fields, at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. In 2005, the classically trained pianist bought an african thumb piano--also known as a kalimba--on a whim and has subsequently made a striking imprint on Toronto Indie music.
Since then, she has released a full length album, "Victory Garden", and numerous EP’s, not to mention her contributions to Henri Faberge and the Adorables, Hidden Cameras and Woodhands.
Amidst all the bustle, I was lucky enough to interject myself into her schedule for a pleasant chat over the phone.
Describing her music as “neurotic sci folk, for neurotic sci folk,” Barrett combines the deceptively simple sounds of the kalimba with playful lyrics about robot ponies to the difficulties of writing a genuine love song.
“Neurotic sci folk has a nice ring to it,” she says. “It’s more Psychology than Biology though.” Understanding the innate algorithms in speech, like alliteration and rhythmic patterns, is all a part of her musical endeavor.
Feeling inspired by her ability to transform broad topics like speech pathology into a thoroughly unique art, I felt as though I might have misjudged the sciences in my former years. “Get into math,” she laughs. And we continue.
Demonstrating how even writing something like a love song, full of volition and emotional selectivity, can be a cognitive science too, Barrett reworks love in her song “Ferryland.” Rather than trying to articulate the soaring heights of a passionate lover, or the doleful digression of a heart spilt in two, she analyzes the process of articulating these feelings honestly.
But what I enjoyed most about our discussions of science and lyrical identities was her overall down-to-earth demeanor. She describes her other musical expeditions with Henri Faberge and the Adorables and Hidden Cameras as more of a “musical posse,” than a band.
Barrett's commitment to other groups comes with ease. She enjoys taking on different stage personas--something I think she finds key in the whole creative process. When describing some of her major influences, like Kate Bush, she notes that it's the bizarre personas that seep through her melodies, which inspire her.
Enticed by the whole idea of theatrics and on-stage characters, it's no wonder that Barrett chose to cover a Weird Al Yankovic song on her debut with kalimba. Her version of “Smells like Nirvana” definitely reflects Yankovic's ability to be ironic without being a total drag.
“He kind of initiated the age of irony, but he made it happy.” There’s a difference between the jagged irony Pop has come to personify, and Weird Al’s fun character interplay is something Laura Barrett has harnessed as well.
And despite the interjection of her work with The Magnetic Fields, we can hope to see a new album in stores this fall.