The Apogee Studio, a private recording studio of legendary producer/mixer, Bob Clearmountain, is nestled in an East Santa Monica residential and business area, and provides a select few music fans an up-close experience with some of the best artists today. On a Wednesday night, Courtney Barnett shared an interview and performance with a packed, intimate audience in support of her upcoming album, Tell Me How You Really Feel.
The crowd skewed on the mature side, as they chatted and enjoyed complimentary snacks and drinks when the studio opened its doors at 7:30 p.m. At 8:00 p.m. KCRW DJ Gary Calamar introduced Barnett by sharing his appreciation for the song “Avant Gardner” before inviting his daughter, Zoe Calamar to the stage to assist him in conducting an interview with Barnett herself. Zoe shared that Courtney Barnett’s music was one of the few special bonds she and her family shared.
Barnett took a seat on the stage and responded to inquiries about the rock ‘n’ roll life, growing up in Sydney, her songwriting process and more. Zoe took the lead, asking open-ended questions like “so tell us how you really feel,” and “how’s the rock ‘n’ roll life treating you?” Her father jumped in at times, offering more pointed questions for Barnett to answer, and she shared her childhood music appreciation of Nirvana, Metallica, No Doubt and the Batman Forever Soundtrack. On writer’s block, Barnett shared that “it’s a constant challenge, writing. But it makes finally finishing a song so satisfying.” She shared a bit about her writing process on Tell Me How You Really Feel, noting that she took a different approach this time and forced herself to sit at a desk and write for a set amount of hours each day, whereas before she’d write in notebooks over a period of time—although some of her lyrics are taken and made her own, such as “I could eat a bowl of alphabet soup and spit out better words than you,” taken from an online hater of Barnett’s.
Additionally, Barnett shared about being a “cat mom” to Bubbles, her cat, with her partner Jen Cloher, to running Milk Records, her independent record label based in Melbourne with her partner, and to collaborating with Kim and Kelley Deal of The Breeders in interviews and backup vocals for a song on their latest album.
The band joined Barnett on stage for a set consisting of mostly new songs off her upcoming album. The new songs featured slightly more melodic lines in the vocals, but her classic “talk-singing” style still made an appearance. “City Looks Pretty” started the set on an upbeat note, and the crowd nodded along, watching intently. “Anyone have asthma? This song is for you,” Barnett shared, causing some laughter in the crowd before diving into “Avant Gardener.” “Nameless Faceless” took a bit of a darker turn, adding more distortion and crashing drums to the set. “I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch” was the most “rocking” so far, featuring growls from Barnett and a faster tempo and a guitar solo in which she rolled her head around and really got into.
The crowd cheered as older favorites like “Pedestrian At Best” and “Elevator Operator” started up. “Thanks for having us. You’re all so attentive. This is fun!” Barnett shared charmingly before starting the soft “Depreston” with just her and her guitar. Her vocals really cut through the crowd on this one, and the performance was just hair-raising as some mouthed along to the chorus “If you’ve got a / Spare half a million / You could knock it down / And start rebuilding.” “This is a song I started writing when I was 13 years old,” Barnett shared before going into another new, slower paced song, “Sunday Roast.” She closed the set with a final new song “Need a Little Time,” which rolled out into a screeching guitar solo.
DJ Gary Calamar took the stage again, pleading for the band to come back for an encore. They returned to the stage for a final song, “History Eraser” off her Double EP. The band exited the stage one final time, and Calamar shared that the Broadcast of the performance would stream on KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic on Friday, May 18. Be sure to tune in and also catch Barnett tonight at Pico-Union Project in Los Angeles with supporting act Jay Som.
- City Looks Pretty *
- Avant Gardener
- Nameless Faceless *
- I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch *
- Pedestrian At Best
- Charity *
- Elevator Operator
- Sunday Roast *
- Need a Little Time *
- History Eraser
*Off the new album Tell Me How You Really Feel