Published Feb 20, 2008In a way, it feels like Laura Barrett is cheating you could play Gary Glitter on the kalimba and it would sound winsome and pretty. Barrett has been a Toronto favourite since she began performing solo, at a Weird Al tribute night in late 2005. After two independent pressings (the first of which, hastily prepared for Barretts first "real gig, involved a friend on production duties and a laptop disc drive) and roughly 600 copies sold, Earth Sciences is seeing its third, and proper, release care of Paper Bag. Since Earth Wind & Fire were the first act to popularise the kalimba in the West, Barrett has plenty of creative space in which to show off her abilities. Though she has ensemble experience (she plays keyboards in the Hidden Cameras and clarinet/keyboards in Henri Faberge and the Adorables), she shines as a soloist, and her lovely, unique tunes translate nicely to record. Although the sound is akin to that of a music box, nobody would file Earth Sciences under "sound effects. It requires a kind of surrender on the part of the listener to really enjoy a sound as delicate as this, though a very Björk-ish remix of "Stop Giving Your Children Standardized Tests by Joshua Van Tassel (Stop Die Resuscitate) proves that Barretts work stands up to manipulation and layering. With a full-length due this summer (produced by Paul Aucoin of the Hylozoists) and a stateside release in the works, this is just the beginning.
How were things finalised with Paper Bag?
I was talking with [them] for many months, figuring out how everything would work, and getting used to the idea that something so internal would finally get a largeness to it. Wandering around the world, or the country, and singing songs to people still feels like a really strange concept to me. To actually consider, "Oh, Im a musician. Oh, Im a songwriter! [Laughs.]
But youre a classically trained pianist!
Music is integral to my life and yet I didnt really see myself performing my own songs in front of people. Its still a bit of a weird mind trip. When youre a classical musician, youre playing music thats at least 200 years old, and its removed from your own experience. Its different when youre playing your own music, [to] consider your own messages worthy of attention. Even selling an EP and saying, "this is something that is worth, maybe, some money! Im still reconciling myself with that. But I think its important that people be able to survive and that people show their appreciation through some kind of, uh, capitalist relation.
And you used to do Rocky Horror stagings at the Bloor Cinema.
I played the Crim[inologist], I got to play Columbia once, and Eddie. Thats sheer joy. Im not any good at drama, but its great that people can just get up on stage and have fun, all dressed up. Its just a party. (Paper Bag)