Sometimes, the right group of people come together and without any thought, planning, or warning, they create something awesome. This is the best way to describe Barncat, a 5 piece group out of West Chester, PA that serves up tunes fatter than a barbacoa with extra pinto beans. Members Kenny Miller (vocals/guitar), Alex Stern (guitar), Kyle West (vocals/keys), Ryan Mastrangelo (bass), and Kyle Stambaugh (drums) found each other while working at Chipotle, and after beginning to jam together as friends a little over a year ago, the band released their debut EP, Barncat Sees All, last month. The album’s six songs showcase the individual talents of each band member while at the same time establishing a unique sound for the band. Perhaps the best thing about Barncat is its seemingly infinite audience; whether you’re a fan of Led Zeppelin, The Sheepdogs, Thrice, or anything in between, I guarantee Barncat Sees All will resemble something familiar while simultaneously introducing you to new sounds.
The EP opens with “Big Kitty and the Protection Agency,” beginning and building up almost like a post-rock track. West’s keys provide an ambient background as the other instruments slowly build around it. By the time the drums enter the picture, a full blown ballad is in effect with a sound that seems like it should be played while Morgan Freeman is longingly looking into the horizon. Miller’s lyrical introduction is bold, giving listeners a taste of the grungy, abrasive vocals that will be prevalent throughout the album. The opening track is a calm, yet anticipatory tease of what’s to come.
The next few tracks really give definition to the album. “15 Minutes or Less,” the first single off the EP, opens fast and stays faster. It’s pretty easy to point out the garage rock influences as the track’s opening breaks into a free-style shredding by Stern as the others build harmony and rhythm around him. The entire track is up tempo and loud, mixing in some classic blues riffs with a bit of a 70s rock n roll. “The Smoke Temple” is where Barncat’s heavier side is revealed. The track opens with a slow, grounding ring of bass by Mastrangelo backed by a simple note progression on keys. The drums build up slowly, but immediately break off and become a dominant sound in the introduction as the guitars mix feedback with low octave notes. Until the vocals kick in, it almost feels Barncat has suddenly become a 70s metal band, along the lines of an early Black Sabbath. While the track does remain heavy throughout, especially when Miller utilizes his screaming vocals for the first time, the keys and bluesy guitar combine once again to prevent Barncat from being too unipolar. This track is easily my favorite on the EP, as it builds up perfectly and retains momentum until the very end.
The album doesn’t stay heavy for long. “8 Simple Questions” is an up tempo, light track that I at first felt was out of place based on the way the album had progressed. However, having listened to the album multiple times, I think “8 Simple Questions” is the perfect track for its spot in the record. It’s fun, experimental, and different, featuring a heavy dose of West on vocals as well as some creative guitar work from both Miller and Stern. Even Stambaugh gets into the creative mix with some brief drum licks built around the song. It seems to me that the next track, “Parallel Man,” could have easily been written as a hardcore song. Its ambient intro and subsequent guitar rhythm make it seem the song will breakdown into a furious verse at first. What occurs instead is a vocal duet mixed in with some fun yet sobering jams by the entire band. Mastrangelo’s bass in particular remains low and steady, and the guitar seems haunting at times. The funnest part of the song is by far the way it ends. After a series of teases, the whole band breaks down into a furious verse. Miller’s screaming vocals almost seem to be fighting against Sterns guitar as the band’s hardcore influence comes on full display.
The EP’s final track, “I’m Coming Back,” starts very upbeat, similar to “8 Simple Questions,” except it’s obvious from the start the band has a big ending in store. The song doesn’t bother building up until halfway through, when the current verse progression halts and changes to an epic final announcement by the band. During the final progression of the album, the entire band comes together, following the progression of Miller’s vocals from a soft, easy line to an abrasive, bold chant. When the vocals break down, so too does the rest of the band. Stern gives one last jam for the listener while the other instruments provide a pounding rhythm and the vocals scream in patterned chaos. A great ending to a great album.
Barncat is a band I personally have my eye on. They are an active group of musicians passionate about what they are creating, but more so passionate about the art of music. It can be hard to make an impact in today’s ever shifting music scene; trends come and go, as do fans and opportunities for success, but Barncat is proving that in the end, music is a unifying force meant to bring enjoyment to both listeners and performers. They truly are the definition of things just falling into place. With one EP in the books and a summer tour on the way, I look forward to seeing where Barncat goes from here.
You can download Barncat Sees All at http://veganthecarnivores.bandcamp.com/ as a pay what you want mp3 file, or order a $5 CD with album art and lyrics. Keep up with Barncat at https://www.facebook.com/VeganTheCarnivores?fref=ts. In addition, Barncat runs a basement venue in West Chester called The New Button. Like their page at https://www.facebook.com/tehnewbutton?fref=ts to find out what shows are coming up.