Montreal-based group The Barr Brothers essentially wrapped up touring behind 2017’s Queens of the Breakers late last year. Yet it’s not stopping them from a string of special one-off, three-night residencies in Toronto and Montreal called An Album Nightly. The band, whose core consists of drummer Andrew Barr and brother, guitarist/singer Brad Barr, will play a different studio album each night start to finish.
“There’s a lot of music on those records that we don’t play,” Brad Barr says. “We thought if we don’t do something like this we may never get to reflect on those older songs that get pushed to the wayside for one reason or another.”
The shows, set for Toronto’s Mod Club Feb. 28 to March 2, see their self-titled effort, Sleeping Operator and Queens of the Breakers performed. It’s something Barr says he’s looking forward to despite having to dust off some deep cuts rarely played live.
“I’m pretty sure the arrangements will work themselves out,” he says. “We tend to write music that’s fairly intuitive and not too complex I think. Ones that I’m looking forward to playing, they’re the ones that we haven’t really touched on in years like ‘Bring Me Your Love’ from Sleeping Operator. I’m excited to test that one out. As far as listenability I really like ‘Let There Be Horses’ off the first record and ‘The Bear At The Window’ off Sleeping Operator.”
Barr said it was a good possibility the shows would be recorded but whether it was just audio or for a future live release culled from the shows remained to be seen. The singer also said it was likely the band would play each album in the order they appeared on the album, not sprinkling them throughout each evening.
It should be an easier hurdle than what the band faced early last year. Harpist Sarah Page suddenly and amicably left the band in January 2018 with the group heading back on the road. Brad Barr says the “show must go on” mindset was eased by some quick decisions and talented replacements.
“At times it felt like patching up a ship and keeping it going,” he says. “She left more or less mid-tour. We got home from a European tour opening for the War On Drugs and this was last December (2017) and we went home and got right back on the road. I think we had a day.
“Lisa Moore who is the wife of Morgan Moore our bass player jumped on to play a lot of Sarah’s parts on keyboards and kalimba, autoharp, Wurlitzer and all that stuff. She came in and saved the day. When you’re under the gun like that you don’t have the option to question it. So we didn’t and she was great. Eveline (Gregoire-Rousseau) who is our new harp player swooped in and took it all on with total confidence and professionalism.”
As for the future, Barr says the band will get down to working on a new studio album but the sound and approach is still up in the air. The guitarist says the approach ideally to the next album will be “inspiring” rather than the standard songwriting then recording method. Sonically the band is also open to new ideas but nothing is written in stone.
“We have our studio here and it’s definitely quirky but it’s got a lot of potential for an isolated experiment,” he says. “We’re at a point right now where Andrew and I feel very free and liberated to do whatever we want to do. When Sarah left the band it sort of begged the question does the band have to go on with a harp? How necessary is the harp?”
Perhaps the biggest surprise for Barr was finding out during the interview the band had a fan in One Direction member Niall Horan. Horan referenced the band and their song “Never Been A Captain” in a George Ezra podcast in late 2018.
“Really? You’re the first one to tell me!” Barr says despite appearing on the band’s twitter account. “That’s hilarious! I’m not a tweeter. I have Twitter on my phone but Meghan responds to a lot of that stuff, our manager and Andrew’s wife. That’s one of my favourites, we never really play it!”
And finally, if Barr had his own An Album Nightly series to watch from any band from any era he narrows it down to two.
“It’s a tossup. The Rolling Stones’ Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed and Sticky Fingers. Or John McLaughlin Shakti’s and those three albums, Shakti with John McLaughlin, A Handful Of Beauty and Natural Elements. I hesitated because I know that the performances of those tunes, they’re always kind of sloppier than the album versions but I love those albums so much. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen to our shows!”