Barber sets up shop

Union Dues support Barber.
Union Dues support Barber.
Photo courtesy of
Barber is all smiles when playing Kingston.
Barber is all smiles when playing Kingston.
Photo courtesy of

Queen’s alum Matt Barber’s soulful blend of rock, blues and mellow acoustic exudes the type of unwitting sexiness that most of us try and fail to achieve. Hitting the road to promote his latest release, The Story of Your Life, Barber will play the Grad Club tonight.

The up-and-coming crooner paused for a tête-à-tête with the Journal to discuss the trials and tribulations of being young, cool and a rock star.

JOURNAL: Matt, you’ve got some ties to Kingston, and to Queen’s. Tell me a little bit about your history with each.

MATT BARBER: Well, I was a Queen’s student—[I think I was] a ‘99, I guess. It was the first place that I lived after moving away from home, so it was sort of an important place for me, in terms of personal growth ... and I guess I’ve always continued to play there, since I lived there and I always feel like I’m going to have a good show. Kingston’s always a party. [Laughs]

After leaving Kingston, you relocated to Hamilton. How does the music scene down there compare to K-Town’s?

It’s a bit bigger, although it’s similar in that there’s really only one or two places to play. But it’s a bigger city, so there are more bands. It’s kind of a more punk, more gritty rock scene in Hamilton and Kingston seems to have more of a hippie scene. But they’re both small town music venues, which is cool.

Tell me about the Union Dues and your relationship with them up to now.

It’s the band that I play with, and I guess the nucleus of the band—myself, the bassist and the drummer, we’ve been playing together for a year and half, so it really feels like a pretty tight band. We’ve got a new-ish guitar player, who we’re bringing on this tour, and he’s a singer-songwriter in his own right—Peter Elkas. The other guys are Julian Brown (bass) and Joel Stouffer (drummer).

Did you perform at all while at Queen’s?

I did. Not really too seriously, I didn’t really have a band, but I did some solo shows. I played at Vic Hall Coffeehouse. [Laughs.] And the QP and Clark Hall, so I did kind of the campus venues. Although, I did play drums in a band called Cadence Code, and we played at the Toucan a bunch of times.

You’ve got a new EP out, called The Story of Your Life, which is an interesting title. Does it represent an autobiographical element to the album, or is it more of a reflection on the human condition?

I’d like to say that it was something really deep, but it’s really just the line from one of the songs on the album, and I thought it sort of had a ring to it. But, I definitely write songs that come from my moods and experiences, and there’s an autobiographical element to my songs, but it wasn’t what I was going for. I was just going for a title that would catch people’s attention.

Means and Ends was your debut release. How does it compare to The Story of Your Life?

It was my first time in the studio, so it’s not quite as polished, but I think it reflects more of me writing songs when I didn’t have a band and I was writing songs alone in my bedroom in Hamilton. The second one is more a result of playing with a rock band for a while and more high-energy.

How does it feel being based out of Toronto now?

I can definitely say that things just sort of happened for me in terms of having some success in the music industry when I moved to Toronto. Unfortunately though, everyone in the music industry seems to have their focus on Toronto, and a lot of bands go under the radar. But it’s a much bigger music scene, and I’m sort of the small fish in a big pond, and it’s more competitive and cutthroat—but I don’t have anything bad to say about it. It is more scene-ster, which sort of gets on my nerves. [Laughs] You’ll be hitting the Grad Club on Friday. Did you visit the Grad Club during your undergrad days? How does it feel to set foot on the Queen’s campus again, this time in non-student status?

I started going to there towards the end of my times at Queen’s, but I guess I’ve just been there many times since graduating. We’ve probably played there seven or eight times in the past three years. It’s always a party.

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