Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
If you haven't done it lately, something that's pretty therapeutic, though often depressing to do, is to pull a directory of people up in your head and start thinking about where it was that you last saw them. We find that we can usually remember these things. We can place ourselves and these friends, relatives and acquaintances to a specific place, day, month and year - or we can fudge it in pretty good. We can get close. We can bring back some vivid recollections even if we are drifting rather spectacularly into our memories. The last time that we crossed paths with David Quon, the lead singer for the New York-via-Long Beach, California, three-piece We Barbarians, was two days before the Fourth of July, out there in New York City, in a part of the city that we couldn't find again if we wanted to. We rode with a scary man and his girlfriend from the airport to there and none of it seemed legitimate, but all ended well. It was nearly midnight and it felt like primetime. There were countless pick-up basketball games still going on, hot and heavy, in the public parks, under the lights, on a Wednesday or Thursday night as the summer heat had abated for the time being. The fashionable bar, with ample bicycle parking, just adjacent from the place that Heath Ledger used to own before he died, was full of pretty young things - male and female - and the tabs were being racked up. The beer and the wine both were expensive for someone still operating on Midwestern prices. Quon was there, and the rest of the band - drummer Nathan Warkentin and bassist Derek Van Heule -- was inside, finishing off their late dinners. They'd moved out there, not long before that, for the change they thought they needed. It was a short visit, but a place like New York City, a place like Brooklyn or Harlem, a place like this one, seems to suit the music that these three men have been making for a few years now. They're better off without the beach as the backdrop. It's no wonder than they decided that they'd be better off living here. They should thrive there in Brooklyn, behind and surrounded by the gothic undertones and the epic grandiosity of too many people in a small space, of buildings that bend and shield the sun and the shadows. It's a place of great character and of magnificent coldness and ubiquity. It's a place that, in its noisiness, creates a deafening silence, something that a person could just listen to for a lifetime and be enthralled. It's a city that's taken all kinds of shots and it's a city that one can't imagine ever going away. It's perfectly American and almost all of what the entire country was based around - its various aspects and attitudes - and yet there's a part of the city that, no matter how often you visit, comes across as so macabre that it hurts. There's death or the end in so many pieces of that historic place and it's why we think about last times or what could be last times here. We Barbarians music is such that it makes us think about the fine line of being here or not, of existing so completely or being the fading, smoky tendrils of a memory that someone else has stored away, only to be remembered in their off-chances. There are feelings of things winding down, coming to a close or feeling funny. People are a little unbalanced, slightly crooked or shaking. It's a feeling of not being alone, but being unable to convince oneself of it. We think of drinking fake champagne - the cheap stuff - and sitting around to watch the neon glare as it pulsates and then turns off when the mornings arrive. It's about living somewhere with dirty sidewalks and rusty fire escapes. It's about sensing all the eyes and recognizing how much blood we're surrounded by, walking through this city. It's all incredibly hard to deal with, when we think of it that way. So, we and the three men of We Bars listen to that deafening noise of a dark and gothic city and imagine how it and we will all break, eventually.
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