For a man who’s been hard at work since 6.30am Charlie Barnes sounds remarkably perky as his lunchbreak arrives.
By day the 25-year-old is busy serving Americanos and lattes in a Leeds coffee shop; by night he plies his trade as one of the city’s most promising singer-songwriters.
“I started playing out on my own a long time ago,” he says of his musical career. “It was electronic stuff, laptop and loop stations.
“I played all over the place in the North while I was studying and released a couple of EPs on my own.”
A couple of years ago he decided if he was to seriously progress he needed to form a band. “I got fed up of playing on my own.”
The first few band shows were tentative. “We were trying to work out how the hell to do it live,” he admits. “For the first couple of times if you turned up to a gig with my name on it you would not see the same thing twice, we were always trying to tweak it.”
What changed matters was working with the established Manchester prog rock band Amplifier. “Through them,” Barnes says, “I met [fellow Mancunians] Oceansize and they pretty much changed my life. They are my Beatles, as such.”
Barnes’ dream was fulfilled when Oceansize guitarist Steve Durose agreed to produce his debut album, More Stately Mansions.
It’ll be released be released by Superball Music, the German indie label to whom Oceansize and Amplifier are signed, on Monday.
The following day Barnes and his band play a launch gig at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds, the city where the Lichfield-born singer-songwriter settled after studying at Huddersfield.
Barnes cites several influences on his emotive style of performing. “When I was 14 or 15 Jeff Buckley and Oceansize are things that happened to me in a big way. If I was to describe this record in the form of a Venn diagram it would have those two things in the middle.”
Since childhood he’s also been a huge fan of Freddie Mercury and Queen. “The six-year-old me was completely blown away by them,” he says.
“I have always preferred “emotional music,” he continues. “I don’t really listen to a lot of chirpy stuff. I like things that move you and make you think.”
Through conversations with Steve Durose while they were on tour, Barnes began to “realise the importance of melody”.
“For a long time I was more interested in sounds and textures then I realised all the things I really love have got some amazing melody that sticks with you. [Since then] I’ve put a lot more effort into coming up with decent melodies.”
To coincide with the release of More Stately Mansions Barnes has been asked by the Leeds-based coffee roastery North Star to create his own signature blend of coffee.
“I’ve worked in coffee shops for the last four years and played in coffee shops so it made a lot of sense,” he says. “It’s usually a big undertaking, you have to make a lot or it goes stale quickly. But I know a couple of roasters who make really small batches just for fun. It’s something a bit different. The band are all coffee nuts – our videos and posters are rife with references to Twin Peaks [the TV murder mystery in which coffee was often mentioned].”
In July Barnes will play at Tramlines festival in Sheffield. He also has a festival date lined up in Germany in August. He foresees the band promoting the album for the next 18 months. “We’re in this for the long haul,” he says.
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