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Julianna Barwick

21 July 2011

Julianna Barwick is able to create some of the most gorgeous sounding music in the world today. It often lacks a more defined classic song structure, creating layers of vocals that the listener can get happily lost in. This Big Takeover reviewer/photographer caught up with her after the profound live performance she gave at Pitchfork Music Festival in which the awe struck crowd was treated to her looping and grew amazed with her haunting vocals.

I really love what you do with layering you do with your vocals when I listen to your albums, especially with The Highest Choose and Keep up the Good Work. I’m wondering if it’s a conscious decision to have ethereal layers of texture in your vocals vs. to have a specific message you’d like to get across?

It’s not really a conscious decision. It just kind of happened naturally when I started looping..I would just sing. It’s really emotional and visceral and it just comes out of me however I’m feeling and whatever is going on…it just flows out. I think there’s a great deal of feeling in the music that I’s basically straight feeling into voice.

I’m wondering if you hear certain sounds as part of life or as part of what could be a possible field recording as musical. ( I’m speaking of sounds that wouldn’t innately be considered as musical or fitting into the structure of a classic song structure.)

When I think of rhythm, I think of trains going over tracks and things like that. I also like the sounds in forests-whispering kinds of sounds and birds singing. I also like water sounds when it’s either dripping or rushing..that can be musical.

You recently did a FRKWYS collaboration album with Ikue Mori. I noticed while watching the video of the creation process how different your music is in terms of you having more of an organic vs, glitchy sound and I was wondering if it was more difficult to collaborate with someone or construct music on your own?

It’s definitely easier for me to make music on my own but I think collaborations can be easy in an instance of working with Ikue Mori when I didn’t have really any parameters and I was able to do anything I wanted to do. I don’t really function well with orders: “Sing this, do that.” With Ikue, I could do whatever I wanted to do because it was all improv.

Are you aware at all of Rob Lowe’s work in Lichens and have you ever thought about doing a collaboration with him?

I haven’t been able to see him live. I’ve seen videos and his loops and layers, though.

Has being a musician grown on you over time or have you always felt that this is who you are?

I’ve always been singing all of the time. It wasn’t a goal to become a musician. It just sort of happened but I was really musical growing up in choirs and singing in talent shows and with friends. I was always singing in some way or another so this is just an interesting way that things ended up happening.

I really love the emotional tone that is very inspiring and reassuring on _Florine and The Magic Place. I’m wondering if there’s something you do that helps prepare you to get into the emotional state that helps you make this kind of music or if you are naturally in that kind of state._

It’s not every day that I feel like plugging everything in and trying stuff and I think that the times I feel like bringing it all out also gives me a little time to work with in a way. I really just plug everything in and start singing something and it all just happens on the spot. I keep everything I record with my loop station. I just like to sing and the loop station is conducive to easy creation.

I’m curious if it is difficult for you to share music that is more personal or more intimate with fans in a larger setting where there are so many people that you don’t know. Is that a harrowing experience or a great experience?

It’s not harrowing at all. I enjoy it. I think the most emotional time is when I’m recording it at the very beginning but then it becomes a song and it’s not as intense as when I first recorded it.