Jack Barnett, the mastermind behind These New Puritans is a man who knows his stuff. We caught up with him before his band’s UK tour to chat about critical expectation, bass singers and new found lyrics.
These New Puritans have garnered vast critical acclaim and five star reviews for each of their previous albums, the pressure doesn’t seem to faze Jack, “I was expecting some kind of backlash to this album, so mentally that allows you to not think about it too much. We don’t tend to think about critics or anything but when someone comes up to you and says ‘Oh I love this album’ it really does mean a lot – that’s what we do it for”.
Hidden, the band’s second release, was awarded the NME Album of the Year award in 2010 (an award which can become a poison chalice when you consider The Klaxons and MGMT picked up the honour in 2007 and 2008 respectively). Jack seemed cautiously aware of the consequences, “obviously it’s nice but we don’t pay too much attention… I suppose we make the kind of music that means this kind of thing can make a difference – to reach a larger audience than we normally could have on our own”.
Field of Reeds certainly didn’t let critics down, with a more mature and natural sound than Hidden – it seemed to be a natural progression for the band. Jack explains that in such a digital era, playing instruments is “a bit of a forgotten art” and their ability to affect us is often understated. “With live instruments you get more contrast – how loud a sound is, that is the overriding and most powerful part of human perception of sound. Most recordings are loud all the time, so you’re massively getting rid of most impact straight away”. This translates well into a live setting with the band being expanded to a seven person operation for their upcoming UK tour which Jack feels is the best that TNP have had so far, “the contrasts between the old and new stuff lets us build a good set with all the contrasts… we used to have a bit of a conflict between playing an uptempo and crowd pleasing set, which isn’t our natural mode, or do we set an atmosphere and let people get immersed in it, but now with the new band set-up, no question, we set an atmosphere.”
Jack feels that the challenging nature of the music has led listeners to miss out on the warmth of the emotion in the lyrics – “some people think it sounds like cold or harsh music, but I think that’s mostly people’s preconceived notions about TNP, for me, just because it hasn’t got a fingerpicking guitar and a bluesy singer doesn’t mean its not emotional music”.
Always well crafted and rewarding in a live environment or on record, These New Puritans are a band whose cult status is richly deserved. Mainstream radio play may elude them but their music is essential listening and their live performances are unmissable.By Joni Roome