An Interview with CrashCarBurn’s Garth Barnes

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It’s been years since fans last saw an official body of work released by CrashCarBurn, and
on the 6th of April 2018, the day finally arrived for the band to release their 4th studio album entitled Headlights.

CrashCarBurn An Interview with CrashCarBurn's Garth Barnes
Photo by Andre Badenhorst

Over the course of the last 6 years, CrashCarBurn never stopped writing new music and when the time came for a new album, they sifted through hundreds of demos for 12 diamonds ready for polishing. The band recorded the album with Jacques du Plessis and Adrian Erasmus as High Seas Studios in Johannesburg, after which it was mixed by Chris Brink in the UK.

The band describes the album as much more calmer than what they have put out previously, with a positive vibe throughout. Whilst experimenting with synths, falsetto and electric drums and taking into account that they are no longer emo teens, the tracks stil feature very anthemic, strong melodies, catchy chorusses and plenty of earworms which has always been their thing. They decided to make Headlights the title track off the album because even though it is the most un-CrashCarBurn song fans will experience on the album, it is a track they all really love.

It also ties in with the burning car featured on the album cover – and yes, for the album they did buy a car, drag it into the night and blew it up in order to take some photos and make a video.

CrashCarBurn decided to make another record in order to release a more rounded product. The approach of writing and releasing singles as per the industry norm at the moment, results in artists always trying to write something which might make it onto radio. When you write an album, not every song has to have popular appeal and you put out songs that you love even though they might not do well commercially.

I recently had a chat to Garth Barnes from CrashCarBurn about their new album and a few other things. This is what he had to say…

First of all, why did it taken  so long for you to make a new studio album?

For a while now, there’s been a bit of an industry trend of releasing singles in stead of full length albums. We did that for a while and, even though we haven’t released a full album since 2012 (yikes!!), we’ve released a good number of singles during that time. The problem with putting out singles though, is that you’re always writing something that might have a chance on radio, so you miss out on those little gems that might not necessarily be picked up by radio, but are nonetheless great tracks! So eventually we we’re like ‘ok the singles journey was fun, but it’s time now for an album!’

Last year you released a single called “Romeo and Juliet” the response of that song was great, can the fans expect something similar?

Erm, not really, hahahaha! I mean of course we think the songs are still great, but it’s a very different vibe to what people might have come to expect for us. The first single ‘Summer Forever’ is about as close as the new album gets to ‘Old CCB’, it’s a good stepping stone towards the new sound, that’s why we picked it as the first single.

You guys stated that this is a new sound for Crash Car Burn, are you a bit concerned about the fans response or support of it?

I guess you always gotto wonder how fans are going to react, but I think at the end of the day, if we left a six year gap and then put out an album just like the old ones, people would be disappointed more than anything. It’s not like we’ve done a full 180 and are now an electro funk act, it’s still CCB…but I think people will definitely be surprised. Hopefully in a good way!

With the new sound are you looking to get a new platform and a new fan base? 

No definitely not, it’s not like we’ve aimed for a genre or sound that is particularly popular or current right now. I think its more a case of ‘a lot can happen in six years’, lets throw out the old CCB song writing manual and try a different approach given the tools at our disposal.’ We’re pretty chuffed at the way it all turned out in the end.

How was the recording process for you guys after so long? 

Recording is always such a gratifying experience, I can’t tell you how amazing it is to take a song from a rusty old demo, sand it down polish and then paint it until it’s something that shines! Sure it’s a lot of work, a lot of late nights and a lot of healthy band debating. But in the end it’s one of our favourite parts of the job for sure!

I see Chris Brink from the UK mixed the album, if I am right he was a member of the band Tweak? How was it working with him , and what was his opinion on the new album?

Yeah that’s right! Chris and I go all the way back to primary shcool. He’s an infinitely nice guys and an incredibly talented mix engineer. Literally every time we do a new album or single, we get a handful of engineers to do test mixes and Chris always comes out on top. I’m gonna go ahead and say Chris loves the new album otherwise he wouldn’t have taken on the project hahahaha! Plus, even if he thinks it’s a complete disaster, he’s way to much of a gent to ever admit it!

CrashCarBurn2 An Interview with CrashCarBurn's Garth Barnes
Photo by Andre Badenhorst

With all the great local bands in South Africa at the moment, is there like a type of an“inside battle of the bands“ between all the bands  in South Africa, and where do you see yourself and the new album?

Shoh, if there is a ‘Battle of the bands’, we definitely don’t know about it! We’ve been doing this way to long to concern ourselves with any kind of politics. If there is a battle, then we’re all on the same side trying to keep rock music alive in a time when it’s all about dance and hip hop. I don’t think there has ever been a more difficult time to be in a band, particularly in SA. Support from radio is almost non existent, there are desperately few live venues…it’s tough out there. But we’re long part the stage of looking for massive commercial success. We’re just making music, not too worried where that takes us as long as we’re playing!

How many new songs can fans expect in your set list for the upcoming shows?

Listen we’re old now hey so anything more than an hour becomes a struggle for us! Lol. Jokes aside, we’re never been a band that puts together a 2 hour set list and then trudges through those songs come hell or high water. Not that we don’t have enough songs, after over a decade of CrashCarBurn, we have plenty to choose from.

For us an hour seems to be the sweet spot, then if there is a genuine call for an encore, we’ll squeeze in a few extra tunes (emphasis on the ‘Genuine’, nothing irks me more than going to watch a band where people are praying for them to end, then one of the band members mates shouts out halfheartedly ‘we want more’ and the band returns to the stage for another hour. It’s going to take us a while to see how these songs go down live so there will be some experimentation to see what fits where. What we definitely won’t do is ignore our old material. That’s what got us to where we are so it’s still going to play a big part in our sets.

Where can fans get hold of your new album, and where can they see you guys live?

New album is available on Itunes and all other streaming services from 6 April. Of course you can buy the physical CD at one of our shows, the first of which is our album launch in JHB at Stanley Beer yard on Friday 6 April. We’re supporting American Band ‘Secrets’ at Arcade Empire on 13 April and then it’s Stellenbosch and CT on the 4th and 5th of May.

And then a last fun question, who in the band is the most excited to see Katty Perry live in South Africa?

Hahahahaha! Wow, that’s hard to say….I think it might be me! What I can tell you is that we all have tickets! Ever since we met her in her pyjamas in the queue at passport control when we were touring together in America, we have been fans. So yeah, we’re amped for the show…even though we didn’t crack the support slot!

I’d like to thank Garth Barnes and CrashCarBurn for this interview and I wish them all of the best with their future musical endeavors. Check out the video for “Summer Forever” below:

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