Saturday, September 3, 2011

We Barbarians bringing raucously beautiful sound to Chicago's Empty Bottle

Photo by Marleigh Dunlap

We Barbarians has already garnered a reputation for delivering raucous live shows in opening for such bands as Cold War Kids and Passion Pit.

Now the band,, is headlining a tour in support of its new EP, "Headspace," produced by Dann Gallucci, of Modest Mouse and Murder City Devils fame.

We Barbarians will perform Sept. 7 at the Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western Ave., Chicago. ANR and Bigcolour also are on the bill. 

The show starts at 9:30 p.m., and tickets are $8, available at

The trio consists of frontman David Quon, bassist Derek VanHeule and drummer Nathan Warkentin. I had the chance to talk to Warkentin about the band and its latest activities.

Q - You guys are on a pretty grueling tour in September. Do you find it hard keeping the energy up night after night?

We are a band that actually really enjoys touring, despite the busy schedule and circumstances. We often joke about being institutionalized by our van. 

Even if we had the freedom to be somewhere else, we would probably just return to the tight quarters of the van as it feels like home in a really weird way.

Q - The band has toured with plenty of other bands like Passion Pit and Foster The People. Do you put more pressure on yourselves now that you guys are on a headlining tour? What have you learned from touring with those bands and others?

It's definitely a reality check to step out on our own, but ultimately a positive move.

We have been very fortunate to support some great bands in the last couple years, and have made some really great friends in the process.

I think spending time touring with other bands and seeing an inside view has really helped us gain a clear vision of the path that we want to take.

Q - The band has received rave reviews for its live shows. Do you try to put that raucous energy in your albums?

Capturing live energy in a studio environment is always our goal. However, it always ends of being a lot more challenging than we initially think. 

There is something indescribable that happens during a live show that is very hard to put your finger on.

Q - Of course, the band is touring in support of its new EP, "Headspace." What goals did you have for the album? How did you hook up with Dann Gallucci and what do you think he brings to the table?

This EP really represents a new chapter and transition for us as a band and serves as a bridge from our first album to what is coming next. We met Dann through our friends in Cold War Kids. 

He was a member of Murder City Devils and Modest Mouse and someone who we really respect as an artist.

Dann has the unique ability to create a very peaceful and creative environment. He really brought some new life and a different perspective to the songs.

Q - I understand the band worked on the album while preparing to move to Brooklyn. What made the band want to move to New York? How is the band adjusting to its new surroundings? How do you think the music scene in New York is different than that in California?

All three of us grew up in California and have spent our whole lives there. We have always romanticized the idea of living on the opposite coast and have spent a decent amount of time touring in New York and the surrounding cities, which always seemed to draw us in. 

It just felt like the right time to make a major move and there is no time like now. Everything in New York just feels like it moves faster and people are forced to work harder. We knew it would be a good kickstart as we take the next steps as a band.

Q - Do you think the band's name is representative of its music?

It's hard to separate the name from the music now, but I think it does. Almost brutish simplicity is somewhat of a foundation to our music, which definitely comes across in the name.

Q - Should people expect a new full-length album soon? What direction will the new album take?

We have been writing for a full-length record since the move to Brooklyn and plan to continue to fine tune new songs that we are currently taking on the road. I think the new album will be a more realized extension of the EP with a few more highs and lows. 

We hope to have a new record out in the first half of next year.