It takes a lot to walk away from a band whose reputation and fan base is on the rise. But that’s just what Arturo Barrios and his band mates from Audio Karate did in 2004. Years on the road – playing with bands like The Vandals and Say Anything – had taken their toll, and the joy was clearly gone.
Years back at home and back-to-back car accidents, however, convinced Barrios that he might still have something to offer the music world, so he rang up several of his ex-band mates (Anthony Leach, Justo Gonzalez and Gabriel Camacho), added Eric Wood on piano and christened the group Indian School.
The group has just put out the wildly addictive EP The Cruelest Kind (Animal Style Records) and may even get back on the road.
Barrios spoke recently about those fortuitous car wrecks, the healing powers of My Morning Jacket and the meaning of their name (at the risk of disappointing you, he didn’t shed much light on that last one).
Innocent Words: I guess the first obvious question is, why you didn’t just keep the name Audio Karate?
Arturo Barrios: Well there are a few reasons, but ultimately it came down to feeling it was the right thing to move on from that part of our lives. In retrospect, Audio Karate was over the moment we were on tour in San Antonio, and we all realized it wasn’t fun anymore. We wanted this band to be a new start, and most importantly we wanted it to be fun again.
IW: So what happened with Audio Karate? Did you guys just burn out from touring? Did you all still stay in touch?
Indian School: The Good Fortunes of Car AccidentsBarrios: The short answer is yes, we burned out. I don’t think we knew what was in store for us. In 2004, after our second record, I think we were home like 35 days of the 365 days in the year. It’s easy to see now that we should have paced ourselves. A tough road life combined with missing our girlfriends, families and home-cooked Mexican food, it just became too heavy of a hand to carry. Ironically, now older, wiser, and knowing what to prepare for, I would be willing and ready to tour like crazy. Jason [Camacho], our old Audio Karate guitarist has actually been really supportive of the new band.
IW: Can you elaborate a bit about the accidents and how they ultimately led to starting this band?
Barrios: So I had pretty much walked away from music. I hadn’t written a song in maybe two or three years. I had a career, house, a shitty girlfriend… you know, everything a guy could ask for. Then I get rear-ended by this huge truck on a freeway, and looking back it kind of woke me up. I almost got fired because I couldn’t work, and two weeks later me and my then girlfriend were done.
Almost losing everything, I knew something was missing, and I knew what it was, but making music again just didn’t seem plausible yet. So I sucked it up and went back to work, and nine months later, boom, another car accident! Luckily, it wasn’t as bad as the first collision, but because I had permanent injuries from the first wreck, it exasperated those injuries. At that point I said, “Screw work, they can fire my ass,” and a few weeks later, restless and limited to walking just inside my house, I decided to pick up the guitar.
IW: The addition of Eric on piano is brilliant. Did you think twice about adding in a piano player? It’s a little different from some of your earlier stuff.
Barrios: No, I knew with this band we needed a multi-instrumentalist type, someone to force us to think out of the box in terms of what could be achieved musically. While I was in bed after the accident I watched My Morning Jacket’s live DVD “Okonokos” over and over. They implement their piano player so well, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.
IW: In writing/recording this record, did you give a thought to whether or not it would appeal to fans of your previous band?
Barrios: To be honest, my thinking when I first started writing was not to have a band at all; it was to record songs and license them. After some thought I realized doing the band thing would be more fun. So no, I didn’t give any thought to what Audio Karate fans would think because I didn’t think they’d hear it, or for that matter, know who was behind the songs if they had.
IW: How did you connect with Matt at Animal Style?
Barrios: Matt actually came to see us play in Hollywood, and he knew about Audio Karate, and he’s clearly doing what he does for the right reasons.
IW: So do you want to talk about the band’s name? I’m dying to know what it’s a reference to.
Barrios: (Laughs) I’m sworn to secrecy… for now.
IW: Have you started thinking about a full-length yet?
Barrios: We’ve thought about it, but we’re not sure yet. I mean, making an album used to mean a lot more years ago. It seems like you can get just as much out of an EP as a full-length. We’re gonna write some more songs, and we’ll see where we are then. If the collection of songs we have feels like an LP, then so it shall be.
IW: What’s next for the band?
Barrios: Touring seems to be the logical step, and we’re looking to head out by the end of the year. We’ll probably start demoing or even recording by that time too.