UK-based singer Kris Barratt didn’t intentionally plan on setting down stakes in Athens, Ga. But when his former label imploded, followed shortly after by his band, Barratt decided to take advantage of the Southern hospitality and have his mail forwarded.
With the rest of the members of his former band The Capes heading back home to London, Barratt put together his new group – Spring Tigers – and quickly got to work on writing songs. The band had barely been together a month when they held a showcase at the influential South by Southwest Festival.
Barratt recently spoke about ending up in Georgia, starting a new band and turning metal heads into indie fans.
Innocent Words: Kris, how in the hell did you end up in Athens of all places?
Kris Barratt: It’s a long story, but I was basically Shanghaied by an indie label (Hard Coul Records) a couple of years ago.
I came over to the States for a tour with a band I was in at the time, and my then-label claimed it was a one-month tour. However, when I got to LA (where they were based), they told me that my flight back wasn’t booked for another three to four months. So, I was sort of an indentured servant for a bit. I ended up touring for about seven months, culminating at SXSW where the label ran out of money (the owner had a breakdown and ran off to Mexico, and I’ve never seen him again), and the band promptly broke up. In the meantime, Team Clermont, our radio company (which is based in Athens), had become good friends, and we’d in turn made friends through them, so we’d been semi-based in Athens and had been spending a lot of time there while over here. So, when the label went kaput, we headed back to Athens and stayed in an abandoned house for a few weeks. Well, the guys did (laughs). I stayed at my girlfriend’s. Anyway, after a few weeks, they all went back to the UK, and I stayed.
IW: With such a diverse musical background from the different band members – punk, hardcore – did it take a while to find your sound?
Barratt: Not so much really, as I’d been working on the stuff before anyone joined. Stephen (James, keyboards) and Shane (Davis, guitar) were definitely in tune with what I was doing straight away. What was interesting though was when Chase (Prince, drums) and Eli (Barnard, bass) joined, because (as you said) they were from metal and math rock backgrounds. So, the band definitely got the rockier backbone that I’d always wanted. It got a bit more techy, I guess, too. We had to take Chase’s double bass drum pedals away though.
IW: You can hear influence from bands as diverse as XTC and even some old British punk bands on your record. What music influences do you all have in common?
Barratt: Well, you know, it’s weird. People have always said my songs sound like XTC and The Buzzcocks since before I’d ever owned records by them. I’ve been trying to change the way I write songs to escape that to be honest! (Laughs). I’m definitely super into Wire, Adam & The Ants, Television, The Buzzcocks, The Ramones, etc., as far as that old punk stuff goes, and so are the other guys, but I don’t think any of us would say it’s our main influence. I mean I pretty much buy at least three records a week, definitely the same with Eli. I guess we all really like Indie Rock, Glam – Bowie, T-Rex – stuff and a bunch of electronica. I’ve actually always been really into the DIY home recording stuff like Guided By Voices, Pavement, etc., so I’ve been listening to Jay Retard, Neon Indian, and Times New Viking recently.
IW: You guys were playing SXSW after just being a band for weeks. How nerve wracking was that?
Barratt: I think it worked out to our advantage. We were all super excited to be playing that stuff so quickly. Plus, none of us had been in a band in 12 months or so, and we were itching to get going. It was nerve wracking when I noticed people from labels filming us and managers came up to talk to us after shows, but thankfully it worked out.
IW: How long had you been working on the songs that made it on the EP?
Barratt: Only about 12 months. We actually had more than enough to do an album and EP, but it was decided to do an EP first.
IW: The music scene in Athens got a lot of attention in the late ’80s. Is it still a pretty solid music scene there?
Barratt: Yeah, it’s pretty good. It’s funny though; it’s very compartmentalized. There are bunch of mini scenes within the scene. The twee bands, the math rock bands, the noise bands, the pop bands… You know? So, you figure out who you’ve got stuff in common with and share shows with them. The weird thing is that the college kids aren’t too involved it seems. They’re scared of our side of town. They call it “the Dark Side.”