Melbourne based singer-songwriter Ali Barter is not one to do things half-heartedly.
Having a self-described “love/hate” relationship with music, the classical trained soprano didn’t always see the allure in pursuing it in a professional capacity. Having been exposed to an array of musical genius’ growing up – Frank Sinatra, Cole Porter, George Gershwin and Patsy Cline to name a few – Barter actually credits the brilliant and notoriously tortured Cat Power with providing the spark that re-ignited her passion for music.
Raised by a Buddhist mother and a Catholic father in a Jewish neighbourhood (all whilst attending a Methodist school), she found herself craving a ‘sense of community’ amongst her eclectic surroundings, and songwriting became a utility for exploration.
On the back of her debut EP in 2013, Barter toured as the support for many popular bands in Australia, including the likes of The War on Drugs, Husky, The Rubens and Cloud Control.
Now she is gearing up for the release of another EP, and with her joint single launch of ‘Hypercolour’ around the corner, I caught up with Ali Barter to discuss the importance of music in her life, then and now…
I believe you’re classically trained and were in a choir when you were young. What was your relationship with music like growing up?
I loved it and then I hated it. I was in the Australian Girl Choir for 8 years, sang in Opera Australia and studied classical singing, and when I hit 14-16 years of age and it was too restrictive and I ended up resenting it. I wanted to smoke and get drunk and hang out at McDonalds with boys like all my friends. It wasn’t till I was in my early 20’s that music came creeping back in. It was something I couldn’t control. One day I woke up and had this feeling that I HAD to do this thing, write songs, sing – like I didn’t have a choice. It still feels like that. It’s still love/hate. It’s the hardest and best thing in my life.
You “quit” music as a teenager. What made you seek it out again in your twenties?
Like the above answer. My dad died suddenly when I was 24 and I had my first taste of mortality. It was a sobering realisation that if I didn’t do something then then I’d waste my life. So I started playing open mic mights and writing songs everyday.
Your parents were both religious. Does that impact or influence your music and songwriting?
Well, they were sort of religious. My mum calls herself a loose Buddhist – cos she drinks and does other things Buddhists aren’t meant to. My mum is more spiritual than religious. She travels to India a lot and I have gone with her and that has definitely influenced me. I love India. I want to live there one day. I listen to a lot of Indian music and would love to incorporate that into my songs somehow. She introduced me to George Harrison too so that has played a part in what I do.
My dad was an Irish Catholic, angry, cheeky, full of humour and guilt. He was divorced with a son at the age of 22 then had me at 38 – this shaped the way he felt the church felt about him, like he was a bad Catholic or something. We went to church sometimes, I was baptised and made my first communion and confession but that was it. I love Catholic churches. I love the gold and white cloth and the blood and body of Christ and the bells that the alter boys would ring, the symbolism and all that stuff. Holy places inspire me.
Back in 2013 you also earned a spot at Melbourne’s Laneway Festival. Have you played any festivals since? If not, do you want to?
I played Boogie festival this year which was fun. Definitely looking forward to playing more.
If you could perform anywhere you wanted – with anyone you wanted – where and who would it be and why?
Obviously I’d love to go play some of those crazy big festivals overseas like Glastonbury and Coachella, but I’d also really like to check out some of the festivals in India and Japan – somewhere a bit different where theres a real mix of locals and international artists. I think it would be fun to tour in Asia. Theres a festival I follow on Instagram called Magnetic Fields held in Rajasthan, India in a beautiful old palace. It would be fun to play and run around in a such an auspicious and spiritual place.
You’ve supported the likes of Waxahatchee, The War on Drugs, Phosphorescent and Husky. What did you get out experiences and performances like that?
It was great to play with these guys. They are all such awesome musicians and really nice people. I have been lucky with my tours, most of the bands I’ve toured with have been really friendly and taken the time to get to know me. Touring with such respected band has made me lift my game and practise more, I guess. The bar gets lifted all the time and I wanna keep up!
Your newest single is called ‘Hypercolour’. Tells us a bit about the track?
It’s my indie pop power anthem. It’s about being awesome and letting go of negative shit (like fear, bad relationships, bad habits) and creating your own hyper-coloured reality. I wrote it during some traumatic and exciting times, growth times.
You seem to have found your musical match in Oscar Dawson. How’d you two meet and what has he brought to your music?
We met around the Melbourne music scene and he played on my first EP, Trip. Oscar is such an incredible musician, he can just play along with something and lift it to the next stratosphere. He makes my simple little pop songs into epic randy rock anthems.
You’re playing shows in Melbourne and Sydney this week, co-headlining with Gordi. How’d the idea of a double single launch come about?
My manager put it to me and I thought it was a great idea. Gordi is awesome and she’s a Sydney sider and I’m a Melbourne girl so it’s fun to share the love and introduce our audiences to each other.
The new album AB-EP is due for release in September. Can you give us a taste of what to expect – describe it 5 words?
Grungy, pretty, angry, epic, randy.
ALI BARTER + GORDI TOUR DATES:
Thursday 16th July
The Workers Club Melbourne VIC
With Special Guest 51
Saturday 18th July
Hibernian House Sydney NSW
With White Gums
Tickets on sale now from oztix.com.au