Experimental drinking music

Julianna Barwick made an EP out of beer sounds

A week before she’s scheduled to play two shows in Calgary for Sled Island ambient songstress Julianna Barwick has no passport. She is trying to convince the Bureau of Consular Affairs to replace her stolen one but two trips in she’s still unable to leave the U.S. It’s a good thing she has a healthy supply of her very own beer.

“Maybe I will have one” she says. “I’m feeling that’s very necessary right now.”

Barwick’s music is hardly the stuff that inspires beer consumption but Dogfish Head Brewery felt it was the stuff to inspire beer crafting. “I just love Julianna’s sonic palette” Dogfish founder Sam Calagione said in a press release. “Her layered style reminds me of the art of brewing. Her songs are beautiful but completely unconventional just as our beer recipes are completely non-traditional. But in the end they are both distinct and find an adventurous community of enthusiasts.”

Joining the ranks of thrash dudes Municipal Waste Welsh psych-pop weirdos Super Furry Animals and grunge survivors Pearl Jam — all of whom have their own Dogfish beer — Barwick definitely sticks out but no one was more surprised than her.

“I’m still kind of surprised. It’s really hard to believe” she says. “I’m obviously lucky that this opportunity came along.”

The beer is an Imperial Pale Ale brewed with wasabi and named Rosabi which is also the name of the four-song EP Barwick created as an accompaniment to downing some Dogheads.

“Sam was a fan of my music and he’s done some music-inspired brews in the past” Barwick explains. “He asked me if I’d like to create a beer together but also record original music as well. We started talking about ideas and then it finally happened for real.”

Barwick says the music was all original and inspired by the beer-making process — it also includes sounds from the brewery itself.

“Sam wanted me to incorporate sounds from the beer-making process. So he sent me some sound bites — from brewing through fermentation filtration and bottling — and I used them” she says.

“I started with vocal loops and added layering then came up with synth-y stuff drones and guitar for melodies. Then I went through and thought about which processed sounds would go with which songs. The sounds were inspiring which I think is why the EP is more rhythmically clattering than what I’m usually known for.”

The EP is another sign of progression for Barwick whose critically acclaimed second full-length Nepenthe found her in Iceland expanding her minimalist ambient music by inviting outside help. Rosabi will tide fans over until she records her followup something not currently on her mind.

“I actually don’t have any idea of what the next record is going to sound like and where I’m going to record it” she says. “I’ve been too enthralled in the world of touring to start thinking about that. I’m sure in the future my process will be different though.”

After touring for a good part of the last year Barwick looks forward to heading back to Calgary for Sled Island where she previously played back in 2011. Just don’t expect her to break out the pyro or rehearsed dance moves.

“I don’t really intentionally try to engage an audience” she admits. “I kind of get lost and close my eyes for the whole thing. I don’t even know what’s happening around me. I don’t think I’d be aware enough to try and do something that’s entertaining on top of making the loops and music. People have told me they also get lost in the music but it’s not really anything I’m doing intentionally.”

Julianna Barwick performs on June 21 at the Ironwood and June 22 at Republik as part of Sled Island.