Saturday, April 5, 2008

George Barnett interview: These New Puritans

Story: Kevin Soar
Photo: Ivor Prickett

George Barnett is the fresh-faced drummer of UK post-punk band These New Puritans, who, quiet as it’s kept, is just as handy with the tailor’s needle as he is with a drum kit. Suffice to say he sharpened his style skills with the best—a chance meeting with designer Hedi Slimane in 2006 had Barnett whisked off from his homestead, the seaside town of Southend, Essex to an apprenticeship at Dior Homme HQ, Paris. He’s walked a runway or two in his time, and along with the rest of the band (his twin brother Jack is the group’s lead singer) wrote an epic 17-minute track to accompany the fall ’07 show, for what would be Slimane’s last collection for Dior Homme. Back on home turf we talked to Barnett about the TNP sartorial bent.

So where did your interest in tailoring come from? Was it an interest you picked up when you moved to London?
Well the way I see it, if you can understand tailoring then that’s the hardest part of construction, so you can then construct anything else with that knowledge.

It was a good thing you met Hedi then.
I met Hedi through a mutual friend, in a London pub called the Griffin. I didn’t know who he was at first but we got talking and it led to a discussion on music and stuff. It was apparent that we agreed on certain things, namely fashion and music ideas. From that it led really organically to working with him. It was never something that was sorted out for us or me it was more of a happening.

When creating the soundtrack to the Dior Homme fall collection were Jack and yourself influenced by the collection and fashion in general?
I don’t think we were really influenced by the clothing so much as we were just thinking about having to actually write a 15-minute song. While I was out there [the band’s debut EP] Now Pluvial was released and that was just three-minute songs—something we were used to writing. To be given the task of writing a 15-minute song really turned everything upside down. Especially having to do it in such a short space of time. We recorded, produced, wrote, mixed the song in only about four days.

So did Hedi give you free reign?
We had pretty much free reign. We didn’t reference anything. I think the mood of These New Puritans kind of went with the collection anyway. There was no pressure on us, and we didn’t feel pressured. We didn’t really know it was such a big deal.

Do you believe there is a relationship between drumming and tailoring?
I suppose it’s all about the monotony of repeating a stitch, the repetition of that task is just the same as hitting a drum in time. Tailoring and fashion is definitely something I will turn to after pursuing music, depending, of course, on what happens with the band.

Do you sometimes wish fashion and music weren’t related at all, so you could get on with both without all the associations and pressure the other may bring?
In general, it’s good that fashion and music cross over, actually. They are both creative industries and they obviously go together. That’s what makes Hedi Slimane good because he is always crossing over art, music and subcultures. His earlier artwork is more what I’m interested in. He recreated this French labyrinth in a warehouse built out of panes of glass and mirrors. Incredible.

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