Courtney Barnett brings her DIY approach to music to Japan

The Australian singer-songwriter has found success by putting out music herself

Courtney Barnett

Courtney Barnett

TOKYO (TR) – Australia’s Courtney Barnett is making a name for herself around the world with sharp lyrics and a raw, punk sound. She has also found a way to get music to her fans without having to pander to record industry executives.

Her DIY approach to the industry has so far worked. Having just finished a U.S. tour, the 27-year-old next heads to Japan for dates in Osaka and Tokyo later this month.

The Tokyo Reporter recently caught up with Barnett to talk about her approach to music, the industry and the Internet.

Have you performed in Japan before?

It’s our first time to tour Japan and we’re very excited. I’ve never been there.

How has your music been received here?

I’m not sure, I haven’t looked at the stats. All you can do is look at the weird Facebook figures and all that kind of stuff. So it’s hard to tell who is going to come to the shows.

You are closer to DIY than commercial. That seems new?

It’s becoming more common and easy to do because of the technology we have now, things are more accessible. People are keen to be able to do stuff for themselves, which is what I did, I gues, nothing too crazy.

You put your album up on YouTube for free.

We did that because when we released the first two EPs we noticed that other people just do it anyway. It’s frustrating but also kind of nice because it means they like the music if they put it there. But then it means it’s available for free. We just put it there so at least we have our own channel and people can look at my other videos. And it’s YouTube so it sounds like shit anyway. People might later buy the high-quality CDs or records.

Have sales been good so far?

It’s been great to travel around the world and connect with so many people. It’s a new thing for me still.

Have you broken America?

It’s hard to say because the U.S. is such a huge place, well, the world is such a huge place. But I think we made a dent. I’ll be touring for a lot longer and making a lot more records, so hopefully I can keep going back to new places and discovering more. I’m not that interested in doing it all at once and then crashing and burning.

On Pitchfork they talked about tall poppy syndrome?

I think my friend was talking about it. It’s part of our culture. It’s this weird thing that everybody does. I try my best to be supportive of my peers in the music community but it can be pretty rampant. A lot of it is, I guess with the ease of communication, there’s trolling and all that shit, people being negative to try and make themselves feel better.

Do you get a lot of trolls?

Sometimes I guess, but I try not to talk about it as it will just happen more.

You are quite prolific. Is there new music on the way?

We only just released this album even though we recorded it about a year ago. But I’ve been writing a lot. I’ve got a big pile of songs. It’s an ongoing thing. But at the moment, I’m just enjoying a bit of time off, looking through all my old notebooks and listening to old voice memos, and piecing together all these bits of songs I’ve gathered over time. But at the moment there’s no mega plan, I’m just kind of sifting through.

Do you think the DIY movement is part of a larger backlash against the sort of government and corporate governance we are under today?

I think it’s hard to tell. Over time, there’s always so many different ways of doing things. The DIY scene seems to reflect that you don’t need to rely on other people as much as you think you do. You don’t really need to rely on corporations or the government, you have the capability to share your ideas and make art or do whatever you do in your own way. People come at it from different angles and backgrounds and that’s what makes it interesting. In Melbourne, that’s where I am, there’s a really strong community and everyone helps each other out.

Note: Courtney Barnett plays at Umeda Club Quattro in Osaka on October 29 and Liquidroom in Tokyo on October 30.

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