interview by DJ Shannon
photos by Chad Syme
These New Puritans take a break from their European tour to play showcases (including performing live on KEXP) at this year’s SXSW. Their debut release Beat Pyramid (out now in the UK and here this Spring on Domino Records) is one of the most anticipated albums of the year so far, and that the band is expected to break out big this year is pretty amazing, particularly since they can’t legally drink in the U.S! Hailing from the SE London resort town of Southend-on-Sea, These New Puritans consist of Jack Barnett (vox, guitar, computer), twin brother George Barnett (drums, percussion), Thomas Hein (bass, sampler, back up vocals, percussion), and Sophie Sleigh-Johnson (synthesizer). Their particular brand of brash, repetitive synth post-punk attracted the likes of Tunesian-French fashion designer Hedi Slimone, who commissioned TNP to compose music for the 2007 Dior Homme show, which resulted in the 15-plus minute single “Navigate Navigate.” The full-length Beat Pyramid was produced by Gareth Jones (Depeche Mode, Erasure, Interpol) and contains the band’s first single “Elvis,” in which lead singer Jack Barnett exclaims: “We’re being watched by experts.” Indeed they are.
DJ Shannon was watching them too and chatted with the band after their set:
Shannon: So we’ve been playing [and podcasting] your song “Navigate, Navigate.”
George: Yeah, me and Jack wrote that while we were in Paris.
Shannon: And was that for a designer who approached you?
George: We did it for Hedi Slimane. [It appeared on the Paris catwalk for his Autumn 2007 collection for Dior Homme.]
Shannon: And how did that come about?
Jack: Just a chance meeting on a flight to Paris. We recorded the whole thing in five days. Like wrote, recorded and produced in a band.
George: Yeah, kind of tested us in a way.
Shannon: So, he knew you were in a band?
George: Kind of, yeah. It was coincidence, chance.
Shannon: So, how did you start working with Saam, the director of your new video for “Elvis”?
George: It’s an amazing story, to be honest. We just met up with him and had ideas together. Video ideas. He was really good friends with the record label we were on. He’s got like an encyclopedic memory.
Shannon: When you do a video search for “Elvis” on YouTube, you also come up with the original version?
George: Yeah, by James Cort, who produced the Arctic Monkeys. The video was made by someone called Oliver Goodwill. He’s a video person from our town.
Jack: We did it in a warehouse.
Shannon: Low budget?
George: It was actually at a party where it was filmed. We made into a video.
Shannon: So, where do you call home?
George: At the moment, Texas.
George: Tom, your dad was actually born in Texas? Born and raised. No he wasn’t, he like lived here.
Jack: Grew up here.
Shannon: [laughs] Anything else? How has the reception been here in Austin?
George: Really positive. I was really surprised at what a good reaction we had here. It’s weird, you know, your music travels so far without you actually playing it. It’s completely different. The internet’s completely changed everything.
Shannon: So, are you writing new songs while you are on the road? Or are you just going to concentrate on…
George: Yeah, Jack’s always writing new material. Got the whole second album ready already.
Jack: Going to be long songs, like “Navigate.”
George: He writes the long songs, I don’t.
Jack: I think it will be great.
Shannon: I love the whole “producer”, “director” references. It’s funny.
George: That came around by someone saying it to us. Something like, “you’re the producer.” Yeah, it’s quite of funny. Someone said it to us, basically. And it’s quite true.
Shannon: And since you guys are brothers, how does that work? Do you have a lot more fights?
George: There’s lots of fights. Recently, it’s been quite good. But usually there’s lots of fights which Tom breaks up. There was a fight in Japan recently that was quite funny.
Shannon: What do you usually fight about?
George: I don’t know.
Jack: The music, I suppose… creative differences.
George: It’s pretty weird coming here, though. There are so many bands that are crap. It makes it quite easy to come to Austin and play a couple of good shows.
Jack: Not bands from Austin, though.
George: Not bands from Austin, just in general. There is a lot of bad music. Speaking of bands, do you know. Telepathy?
George: They’re really good, you should check them out. Telepathy, the band.
Shannon: Great. I’ll check them out. Thanks for your time!