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Barry Can’t Swim – When Will We Land?

Sat, February 24, 2024
Doors: 6:30 pm

The Atlantis
Washington, DC

Tickets are non-transferable until 24 hours prior to the show time. Any tickets suspected of being purchased for the sole purpose of reselling can be cancelled at the discretion of The Atlantis / Ticketmaster, and buyers may be denied future ticket purchases for I.M.P. shows. Opening acts, door times, and set times are always subject to change.

Barry Can't Swim

Barry Can’t Swim is a bold, colourful, impetuous voice in electronic music. Across a flurry of vital, cutting edge tracks he’s been able to blend club sounds with organic aspects, an outer-national approach that fuses house with afrobeat productions and jazz. From breakout EP ‘Amor Fati’ to club bangers such as 2022’s ‘Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore’, the producer has darted from style to style, all held together by that gleefully infectious approach. Incoming debut album ‘When Will We Land?’ finds Barry Can’t Swim switching it up once more – daringly ambitious, it’s also carefully finessed. His boldest statement yet? Don’t doubt it.

Real name Joshua Mainnie, the Edinburgh-born artist spent his youth in the Scottish capital. Taking piano lessons as a kid, he quickly found his passion in life. “I wasn’t great at school,” he recalls with a laugh. “Music was the only thing I was good at.” Joining some ad hoc bands, he tried everything – piano, guitar, and drums – before also becoming the de-facto lead singer. “I had this attitude,” he says, “where I didn’t want other people singing songs that I wrote. It was so personal to me, so even if the songs weren’t amazing, they were mine. It felt wrong. I still carry that sense of autonomy in everything I do.”

Club culture entered his life as a student. Enrolling at Edinburgh Napier University, he matched his lectures to late night club sessions at seminal electronic dugouts such as Cabaret Voltaire and Sneaky Pete’s. “It wasn’t just about clubbing,” he points out. “There’s a real sense of community. You’d go to after-parties, and meet people who were doing interesting things – like running nights, or they had their own labels. I was really involved in all of that.”

Studying music at university, he began seeking out collaborators. Failing to find like- minded people, he simply went it alone. “I thought, I’ll just start producing. I started doing my own thing, and really enjoyed having creative control.” It wasn’t easy, but gradually Barry Can’t Swim brought his singular sound into focus. It’s broad and ultra- colourful, complex at times but also undeniably open and pop. “I’ve always been really fascinated by melody,” he says, citing the Beatles as a key formative childhood influence. “It’s simple, but the thing that sets those tunes apart are the amazing melodies.”

Drawn towards the percussive kick of afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti while at university, the producer’s sound is held together by its unpretentious approach, and its vivacious cheekiness. “As a rule in life I don’t take myself that seriously,” he grins. “It’s who I am as a person.”

Initially placing some tunes on SoundCloud, the producer was stunned by the response. Something about his music simply connected with people – the melodies, the hooks, and the technicolour energy. Drawn into the orbit of seminal British label Ninja Tune, he’s now ready to unleash his debut album. A totemic moment in his life, it’s not something he’s taking lightly. “I put a lot of dedication and finesse into this,” he says. “It’s my debut album, something that I’m going to listen to personally and reflect on. So I knew it needed time and dedication.”

The results speak for themselves. ‘When Will We Land?’ is an exceptional record, a tightly-wound project that finds Barry Can’t Swim finessing his sound to the most infinitesimal degree. “I would think about albums that I like, the characteristics they have, and try to think of how I could do that, but in my own way. It was really important for me to write this thing as an album, in that classic sense of the word.”

The first sign of what’s to come landed earlier this year, with the gorgeous club- focussed energy of ‘Sunsleeper’. Utilising a reversed sample of a Galician folk group, Aliboria, it boasts incredible technical skill, while also aiming for something dynamic and succinct. “Sometimes it’s the simpler things that are better,” he grins. Lead single ‘Woman’ offers a fantastic blend of digital production and organic musicianship. A warm bed of notes pirouettes around an emphatic vocal from Låpsley, resulting in a song that moves between the cavernous house of Moodymann, say, and the neo-psychedelic tones of shoegaze. “I sent it out,” he recalls, “Låpsley came back immediately with this unreal vocal. I chopped it up, re-arranged it… it’s one of those things that fell into place.”

A carefully considered 11 track project, the album is packed with detail, erupting in surprises at every turn. “I was very considered with the sounds I would use, and how they would play into other songs on the album. I was pretty ruthless about cutting tracks if they were too similar to other ones. It’s very, very different,” he says. “But also the most fun I’ve had!”

The title track opens the record, and moves from a lush pond of ambient digitalism through to the headlong percussive charge of those drum loops. Self-consciously euphoric, its mood contrasts with the more downcast ‘Always Get Through To You’, which utilises a live recording of a choir. “It’s strange, I’ve never really been someone who goes into songwriting very analytically,” he says. “But with this album, I had to be very analytical.”

He never gets too introspective, though. ‘How It Feels’ is a super-catchy two-and-a-half minute dose of electronic joy, while ‘Dance Of The Crab’ leans on a jubilant sample of Brazilian group Trio Ternura. “There are moments in there that allow the album to breathe, and it’s more textured. But at least for the singles it was a conscious thing to be like: let’s just get to the point!”

Barry Can’t Swim has created his musical autobiography, a representation of his journey to date. The album is peppered with voice-notes and recordings from family and home. ‘Deadbeat Gospel’ is a literal embodiment of this deeply personal and inherent unity, with a live phone recording of university mate somedeadbeat reciting his poem on the banks of the River Liffey in Dublin. As Barry points out, “You only get to make your debut album once. So I want to showcase all the elements of the things I enjoy and love in music up to this point.”

“For me, I want it to have musicality to it,” he adds. “I wanted it to have the energy of electronic music but also with a more organic live element. I feel like I’m more of a musician than anything else. I’m a producer but I like writing music on instruments.”

Deeply ambitious, Barry Can’t Swim wants to build his sound, looking to artists such as The Avalanches and Maribou State as key inspirations. With his debut album set to land on record shelves later this year, his rise is assured.

Venue Information:
The Atlantis
2047 9th St NW
Washington, DC, 20001

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