HT Interview: Craig Myers – The Roots of Barika

Some musicians have a hard enough time balancing the demands that come from being a member of a band that it’s incredibly impressive that Vermont native Craig Myers has juggled three different projects over the last few years. The percussionist/Kamel N’Goni player is a member of Mike Gordon’s five-piece band, tours with Brooklyn indie-dance band Rubblebucket and fronts his own group called Barika.

All three acts had banner years in 2011, with Mike Gordon winning raves at every stop, Rubblebucket blowing up beyond the Northeast and Barika putting out their first album, Remember. Barika features a song so incredibly different from anything else making the rounds these days thanks in part of the blending of Myers’ Kamel N’Goni work with Western influences. We recently spoke with Myers about how Barika came together, what went into the making of Remember and how he balances all three groups.

Scott Bernstein: Barika’s first album, Remember, has been years in the making. Can you give a little background on history of group and how the album came together?

Craig Myers: The album was slow-going because all of us have different projects. I’m involved with Mike Gordon’s band and also in a band called Rubblebucket, both of those take up a lot of time. Unfortunately, as it goes right now, it’s everyone’s second or third project. The whole recording process we weren’t able to lock down a nice full week session or two-week session to go into the studio to record and then take another week so we could master it all at once. So our drummer Caleb has a home studio and we were just gonna piece it together as people’s schedules allowed.

All of the material was there, I’m doing all of the writing for Barika now. It was just kind of a long process of trying to make everyone’s schedules work and then locking it down. We sat on it for a little bit and then I went to More Sound Studios out in Syracuse with a buddy of mine, Jocko, who owns the studio and we ended up mixing it out there.

Leading up to the project in 2007 I went to Mail, specifically Mali, I’ve been to West Africa three times, this was my third trip, I went specifically just to study N’Goni. From there, Iearning all this traditional music, I was so inspired that I wanted to do something different musically. I’ve always been a percussionist and this was a great opportunity for me to try my hand at writing and enter the more melodic world. At that point I started Barika.

Barika has had a few different manifestations. The first one was more of a traditional style, where instead of a drum set we had a calabash, which is like a big half-board and you put a microphone underneath it. We also had a flute, so it was more of a traditional vibe. It was cool but there was something that wasn’t quite working for me and I got wrapped up at that same time with Rubblebucket and Mike Gordon really taking off, so I put it down for a while. When I came back I realized I needed to change it up a little bit.

I added some local artists from Burlington, Caleb Bronze on drum set who’s really an amazing talented percussionist and drummer and Andric Severence on keys. I added him into the mix because he’s really good at ethereal concepts as well as his jazz background, he can pick things up really quick. He’s a really talented guy. I just switched it up. This manifestation of the group has only been around for a couple of years and this is our first studio album.

SB: The horns were really something that captured my attention when listening to Remember. Many of the songs start out with a N’Goni riff and then when the horn comes in, it really takes off. Did the horns come late in the formation of the band?

CM: Yeah, the horns definitely came later. The beginning of the group, like I said the traditional one, had a couple of horns, we kind of danced around with that idea but they were just come and go. They weren’t an official part of the group. Then we took a break. When I came back into it, part of the reworking of the group was trying to streamline it to be just a core four, just a quartet. We did that for a little while and then it’s inevitable with anything I do that it turns into a bigger thing incorporating more people. With Rubblebucket we have nine people on the road, eight in the band, and It almost seemed inevitable that Barika would turn into a seven-piece band. It started out as just asking the horns to play on some shows. It was just working. It just seemed to really be a good fit. It enhanced some of the improvisation that happens at shows so I asked the guys to stick around and to be a part of the band and they were down, so here we are with a three-piece horn section.

[Photo by Jeremy Gordon]

PAGE TWO = Craig’s History with the N’Goni

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One Response

  1. Great to see the love for Craig. For those of you who have not heard, check out Barika and Rubblebucket, both excellent bands.

    Yea Craig!

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