Barrows is one of California’s hidden gems, among many I’m sure. This two-man project draws upon the cosmos once again for inspiration for their second full-length album, Obsidion.
While both Obsidion and their previous album, Red Giant, are space-themed, they are both very different albums. Red Giant feels like you’re floating in space, witnessing a monumental event and it’s a beast of an album. Obsidion feels like a journey. You’re constantly moving through space, moving at incredible speeds even though the landscape moves ever so slowly. Whenever I would tell someone about this album, I always described it as the soundtrack to The Silver Surfer, during the quiet moments between planets as he surfs on the nothingness.
It may sound crazy, but there is a tangible surf rock element to the album, mainly during the second track, “Entrada.” Surf rock might be just about one of the monotonous genres out there, but Barrows takes that and turns it into something relevant and fresh all over again. Who would’ve thought that psych, post-rock, and surf rock would all go so well together?
There are a few moments where the album can be so spacey that your mind wanders to the point that you’re not even really listening anymore, but one could easily argue that to be one of the album’s purposes. I’m sure even The Silver Surfer would nod off every once in a while if he were human.
I was lucky enough to see Barrows live during their tour in support of Obsidion and had a chat in the green room with Guitarist Jim Leonard and Drummer/Bassist Richy Epolito after their performance.
AD: So what was the story that Obsidion comes from?
Rich: It started as a fictional story about an alien abduction and began to accumulate more and more layers as we got deeper into the story.
Jim: This time around we purposefully tried to make the song titles a bit more vague. The last [album] the songs were so descriptive as to what was happening. The Obsidion song titles clue you in as to what is happening but leave the story open to interpretation.
AD: Yeah, because when I first listened to the whole thing, all I could imagine was The Silver Surfer, going through space.
Rich: During “Entrada”?
AD: Especially “Entrada.” It has a surf element to it, with the drums and bass making that cruising beat.
Rich: We’ve heard that from a couple of people, and we’d never even thought about it, but that’s cool that people are hearing something different. To me that groove is influenced by 70’s krautrock music.
AD: So, what inspired you to create yet another concept album about space? I mean, you had Red Giant…
Rich: I think part of it is we felt like maybe we didn’t go as far as we could’ve with Red Giant like he was saying, the titles are very straightforward, it’s like there’s no mistaking what it’s about, really, it’s not open to interpretation.
Jim: Although both stories could be considered about space, the subject matter and storyline are very different. Red Giant is about the life of a star and Obsidion is about the transformation of a human being.
AD: Did you guys have vinyl in mind when you made Obsidion?
Jim: For sure. I feel that when we made Red Giant, we knew it was going to be on vinyl, but when we were making the music, we weren’t exactly planning on how it would fall onto the two sides. But when we made this one, we had planned on four sides.
Rich: Like ‘Cocoon’ maxes out side B…
Jim: Yeah, originally it was going to be longer, but we had to make sure it was under 20 minutes to fit on one side of vinyl.
AD: Was the writing process different between Red Giant and Obsidion?
Rich: It definitely changed.
Jim: On the first two albums I would write one of the guitars and bass and Rich would write one of the guitars and the drums, but on Obsidion Rich wrote the bass and drums and I wrote the guitars.
AD: What sort of music did you listen to when writing Obsidion?
Jim: We listened to a lot of different kinds of music, but definitely a lot of late 60’s and 70’s rock.
Rich: But not really listening with the intent like “I want this to rub off on me”, y’know? We were just coincidentally listening to this sort of stuff, it just kinda showed up in our style. I listen to all sorts of music that isn’t even rock. I’d say that this genre and this time period was just also kinda inspired by the recording style, too. The actual style of recording was in a more old-school vein like the 70’s.
AD: Did you record Obsidion in an old-school fashion?
Jim: We tried to utilize some recording techniques that were indicative of that time period and keep the reverb on the drums to a minimum.
Rich: We basically used two overheads to capture most of the drum sound and then we would leak in a little bit of direct mic to boost the kick or the snare. The idea was to have the drums sit in with the rest of the mix so they didn’t feel separated from the rest of the band.
AD: Where are you guys thinking about going with the next album?
Jim: We have some ideas, but nothing’s solidified yet. We just know that it’s not space.
Rich: It could go anywhere.