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March 13, 2023
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Barbicop: the freshest experimental sounds between Switzerland and Berlin

We met with up-and-coming Swiss musician Barbicop and had a lovely talk about the Berlin music scene, love stories, and starting fresh.

Naïma Stark: You came out with your Debut single Morpheus’ Mercy at the end of last year; How did that all come about?

Barbicop: So Morpheus' Mercy, I wrote like, a year ago. I think it was a few months after I moved to Berlin, and I found myself feeling unable to create music alone. I was only used to making music in the context of my band, Dream Parade. We would always write songs together, and everyone would add their licks or little melodies that would make the songs what they were. So, I had never constructed a song entirely by myself. I thought that it would be really as if I was starting from zero. But then I began making demos on GarageBand. And at first, they kind of started off as a little joke and something I just did for fun. But then I actually developed them and really enjoyed them. And Simon, who's the guitarist of Dream Parade, helped me record them in the summer. And yeah, I found myself with songs that didn't sound exactly like Dream Parade, so I didn't want to bring them to the band. I had been wanting to start a solo project so that I could have more independence making music without relying on other people. Morpheus' Mercy was the first song of this project that came out. I guess the sound is a bit darker than Dream Parade. The songs that I'm going to bring out in the spring, they're a lot more electronic and a bit different. But Morpheus' Mercy was kind of based off of the indie dream pop that I knew well with Dream Parade, and even if I knew that the style was going to be different in the months to come I like the song a lot and really wanted to release it.

NS: How did you come to explore very different genres in one and the same EP?

BC: I think the songs of the upcoming EP are all kind of revolving around this similar style of, like, bedroom indie pop, basically. But it's true they have their differences, like, Morpheus' Mercy is a lot darker than Shatter in Bloom, and there's another very singer-songwriter song that's with acoustic guitar. But then after the EP there is a single coming out that is a lot more electronic/Auto-Tune, even, like, Hyperpop influenced, I guess. They still make sense all together somehow though. I know I could have waited until I wrote more to start releasing stuff so that the project would have had a more narrowed-down style. But every song that I wrote and I enjoyed, I wanted to release. I know that doing different genres is a bit of a risk, especially nowadays with the way the algorithm works and trying to build up like audiences online and shit like that. You kind of have to have your one vibe, for it to draw people in. But I feel like being honest about the experimentation and the process to get to "your sound" is also nice to see, and I want that to be a part of the Barbicop world. As a musician looking up to other artists that inspire you, it is hard sometimes not to get intimidated and think "How did they learn to do that? How did they even get there?" and it can be demotivating to think you'll never reach that stage. That's why I wanted to show the process too. To be honest, I also just wanted to get things moving, and releasing is the best way to do that.

NS: Why Barbicop? How did that come up?

BC: Well, the name Barbicop came from where I worked in Berlin at this underground music venue called Loophole. And it's kind of grimy in the sense that, like, it's a punk bar in a residential building, and we'd get the police there every week. It was all great, great fun. But yeah, we got a couple big police raids. For example, once there were 42 cops that came at once, that raid shut us down for a couple of weeks and a lot of people thought we were done for. Anyways, it was pretty intense sometimes. But a friend of mine who works there was once describing one of the police visits that we had. And she used the term "Barbie cop" to describe one of the policewoman that came in. As soon as she said that I turned around to my friend, I was like: "Barbie cop, That's so fucking good." I just thought it sounded amazing. And then I asked her if I could use the name. And yeah, that's where I got it.

About the persona of Barbicop, I always thought that bands or artists that have strong visual identities to go with their project were more enticing, and gave you a world to jump into as opposed to just a few singles on Spotify or whatever. So that is definitely a goal for me, and that's why Barbicop is more of a character I'm working on rather than myself. I like to make coherent and nice visuals for Barbicop, but because I'm not a graphic designer it can be difficult, but I am working on developing tools to get more comfortable doing stuff like that. I don't really have the money anyways to pay someone to do the designs of Barbicop. Apart from a photoshoot with my friend Joel from time to time.

NS: And how did it feel to like, do it all alone? Without your band and performing alone in Berlin, the whole process of it?

BC: Um, so at first, writing the music alone was really scary. I knew I wanted to do it but always felt frustrated that I didn't have any tools or know how to use Ableton, for example. And I actually still am learning how to use it, but I didn't know how to use any plugins or electronic instruments and had no idea how to mix a song. I didn't know how to use samplers, or how to play bass or drums. So I felt kind of blocked by that. It was when I started using GarageBand that changed, having a tool like that on your phone with such an easy way for you to access more instruments and sounds is so great. It did take me a long time to write stuff I liked. And so it took a long time to get to a point where I had a few songs. And then just playing live, was actually quite liberating. I did have my brother Sam, who was the drummer, and one of my great friends Joel playing bass, and they were being super supportive through the whole thing. But it was almost a relief to know that I was the one who had to do all the work, like in the backing tracks and in organizing the practices and in making it sound good in the concert venue, etc. And that made me not stress out about depending on other people's availability and stuff. I knew that I just had to get up and do it. So that was actually quite nice. And then having the support of Sam and Joel, they were really, really incredible and I don't think I would have managed without them, so. (laughs)

NS: Now, coming back from Berlin, and moving away from the scene there and coming back to Switzerland. Do you see things differently for Barbicop?

BC: Yeah, I think it changes a lot, actually. But it's hard to tell for now because I'm still getting settled and I just came back like a few weeks ago. I took a bit of a break over the holidays. I think a tough difference between Berlin and Switzerland is that; Berlin, the scene, is actually very accessible because there are shows everywhere all the time, there are concert venues that are open every day of the week that are all in the same neighbourhood. That comes with big city life I guess. And it also means there are more artists, or labels, or bookers that live there and just hang out around the scene. I got to meet so many musicians I listen to all the time and look up to a lot which is super inspiring. But I think in Switzerland, it is more difficult; you have to work really, really, hard before even getting to a stage where people would consider booking you for a show, and apart from other musicians or cultural workers and potentially your friends and family, not many people are interested in the local scene. And so, it feels a lot more difficult to access. But I think that's just because there are fewer concert venues too. So yeah, it's hard to stay motivated all the time when there are less opportunities. But there is a quality in the Swiss music scene that is so good, almost too good. (laughs)

NS: What can you tell us about Shatter in Bloom, your newest single?

BC: So the song has a bit more of a happy chill vibe. I guess that doesn't fit with the lyrics so much because they're about a relationship that the narrator isn't so invested in because they're still in love with someone else. It's like stupid pop lyrics, I guess. But it's like one of those songs I wrote and I enjoy playing because it's just very agreeable for me to play it. Yeah, it's pretty, It's creamy, it's indie, It's like dreamy.

NS: Is there a visual that goes with it?

BC: No, there's not a clip for this one, because, part of the reasons why I haven't really done clips yet is because they're a lot of work and a lot of money. Even if it's like a friend who's doing it, I think you want to pay them. And it's so many hours of work that don't always pay off. For example, I did the simple visualizer for Morpheus' Mercy, but it took me like three days and in the end wasn't super successful. It was nice to have a visual identity for the song, and that I think is very important, but you can have a visual identity to your song, like micro-content and stuff like that without having a full clip. That would take you a long time to do or take someone else a long time to do, and a lot of money. Also because if I do a clip I want to do a really good one. So I'm kind of saving. If I do a clip, it will be for the single that I'm going to release in March or April. With the limited budget of a completely independent DIY artist, you have to pick your battles.

NS: Where can we next see you perform live?

BC: So my next concert is on the 18th of March at les Prémices Festival in Lausanne. I'm so excited! (laughs)

NS: What are your crazy goals of yours with Barbicop?

BC: I think my big goal actually is to do a tour at some point and open for bands that I love. I think that came with hanging out with people in Berlin that were constantly organising tours, even if they had no idea where to sleep or what the venues were like. Sometimes you don't even get much money out of it, but I think it's a cool experience. And as a Swiss artist, sometimes it's hard to get out of the comfort zone of being paid 600 bucks for a concert and getting food and accommodation. I think those are things that aren't offered in most venues in Germany and around Europe. But yeah, I would definitely be motivated to try that once. And opening for bands that I love in bigger venues is also something I really want to do.
I would love to open for an artist like World Brain who's from Berlin. Well, no, he's from France, I think. But yeah, he's in one of my favorite bands, Fenster. They're also a Berlin-based band. And yeah, I'd love to open for him.


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