"I turned the songwriting process into my diary at a time I was trying to develop the ability to forgive myself." (An Interview With Barroo)
As we run towards the most restless part of summer, the Half Mystic team finds ourselves turning towards music that can accommodate that soaring unquiet. Barroo and their musical project Kendall :3 achieve just this, giving us permission to bring forth our most atmospheric selves. Please welcome Barroo to the HM blog!
HM: Your first album, hey, was released in mid-2018 and toys generously with genre and theme. What was your intention in creating the album? What narrative and emotional arcs were you building through?
B: The album very much evolved as I was working on it. My only goals at the beginning were around paring down my production (which didn’t pan out) and focusing more on lyrical content (which I think mostly worked out). I turned the songwriting process into my diary at a time I was trying to develop the ability to forgive myself, which innately pushed the style to something more lush and tender. It’s mostly about the relationship between being hurt and learning, which is such a dense, complicated dynamic toward which I think everyone has their unique attitudes.
What is the ideal situation in which you imagined people would listen to your album?
Shaking like a leaf from early-twenties despair? I'm not sure!
I once heard someone describe it as a “dissociation soundtrack”, and I actually quite like that. I remember blasting music through my over-ear headphones as I went from class to class in college, dissociated out of my brain, making mean faces at everyone I walked by, which is a version of myself I've had to develop a lot of compassion for. I want people to listen to this album as a way to stop waterboarding their past selves in their head for every minor pittance—that's really the ideal situation. It’s incredibly inward-focusing, so I think it naturally has a lot of overlap with the struggles of people who are working on living with themselves.
I still blast the Monoprices everywhere I walk, but I like to think I have a mildly friendlier facial expression now.
What intersections do you see between creating indie synth pop and holding a marginalized identity? How does identity play into crafting songs within a generally mainstream genre?
I like pop music because I’m gay. That’s all.
Your song “knife” contains several conflicting themes. How do you use music to depict indescribable emotions? Does creating music help you process these responses?
I think creating music does those things, depicts those emotions, processes those responses, because it has to. “knife” came out of a period of a lot of intense feelings in my life, and the song definitely reflects that. That one in particular, but also a lot of my other songs, carry a general structure of starting from the sensory as a way to center myself in my perspective, and from that point of having my bearings, moving into naming my feelings and addressing them.
I know that sounds like I’m just describing the process of perceiving. In both the short and the long term I’ve had to build up my confidence before I can begin to parse out the things I’m feeling. I think a lot of people struggle with that, and music helps with the process of understanding. I mean, it’s not therapy, but it’s something!
Tell us about the persona you created for this musical project.
The premise is essentially that she’s a Miku-esque virtual idol AI construct being booted up for the first time at the beginning of the album. I felt like the narrative of the work I was doing reflected the development of personhood and adulthood, and I wanted something to unify the songs under that theme and create a kind of character arc. She’s the one on the cover of the album, actually! I wanted to impart a feeling of this persona as someone uncertain about the bounds of reality, having to discovering communication from absolute zero, being completely overloaded by the sheer process of existing, and turning the music into a way of figuring that out. She’s me, but she’s also abstracted in a way from my experiences to create a hyperspecific vignette. I think embodying that fully into a character helps a lot with my ADHD brain.
Aside from making music, you are involved in a video essay and film critique project called Film Critters. What lessons have you learned from film that impact your music?
I like how film as a medium forces us to confront subjectivity—not in the way of trying to separate the subjective from the objective, but in the way of carrying a knowledge that art is a product of perspective. I think many people start creating art because they want to help others feel more intellectually and emotionally fulfilled—but they fail to interrogate whether they have an adequate grasp on their experiences to truly reach their audience. That’s why all of my favorite movies tend to focus inward, on the struggles of communication from the angle of the creator. I don’t like it when people make films solely to lash out at society. That goal isn’t inherently bad (and I think society certainly deserves it), but I prefer a methodology of tearing yourself apart to arrive at conclusions that can help you exist in the same time and space as others. You can hear that in my music, too.
You’ve shared elsewhere that hey has been in the works for the last half decade. What changes have you seen in your artistic process during that time?
I keep underestimating how much work and time music takes. This album is probably one of the most difficult things I’ve worked on, and there’s so much about it that I’m still not satisfied with. I have a bad workflow and a bad attention to detail, and this album stretched my band-aid solutions to their absolute limit. It’s the simplest songs that are the hardest for me, the ones consisting essentially of my voice over one other track. Those are scary—they can feel so naked! Any mistake sticks out, so you have to just go out there and be talented for a second, which is the hardest and worst part of making anything. That said, I think sticking with the songs through that long period really familiarized me with them. It made me more comfortable with my own art, which is a huge uphill battle for any artist.
Name some of the musicians have influenced your life and art.
All of my favorite stuff is made by my friends, and I think the mainstream influences of my work are worn on my sleeve, so I’m not very interested in diving into that. I am definitely influenced by Cate Wurtz. And I love the music of Clover & Sealife, June Lalonde, and rabbit music (formerly klslwsk).
What role does nostalgia and memory play in your music?
I think of my work as being temporal by nature. The full brunt of everything I put into this album can be summed up as “nostalgia and memory”—it feels a bit like a photo album to me. My relationship to the songs has gotten more complicated as some of the experiences I’ve sung about have changed, and that also has to do with the way I remember them. I’m not interested in idealizing my past, but I think there’s an important synthesis with the present there.
hey was released in August of 2018. What other projects have you been working on since then? What projects are you working on now?
I’m doing a cover of an anime theme song that I want to put out soon, but I don’t want to reveal too much or which song it is yet, because who knows if or when it’ll see the light of day? I also have a lot of concept work down for Album 2, and even a couple demos. It’s been a lot of fun co-running Film Critters with Jae; as of this interview, we’re hard at work on our next episode. And finally, I also want to get back into creating comics, but I’m slowly realizing I might not have the brain for that. Even so, there’s so much ahead that I’m excited to see and create.