There's a moment during our conversation when Courtney Barnett abruptly, without warning, stops. The flower shop next door, she explains, is setting off her allergies – the Australian suffers badly from hay fever, it transpires. And that's when it suddenly hits home, just how wonderfully, fantastically normal she is.
A rising force, the singer's work to date – released on her own Milk Records – is a triumphal statement in favour of the inherent virtues of independence. Deliciously-titled debut album 'Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit' is packed full of astonishing word play, grinding riffs and a nagging, deeply physical rhythm section. It's a blast – trust us.
Able to tour the world with her music, it's this period of travelling which informs the new record. “I write a lot,” she explains. “I keep little books, I take notes of everything. I try to kind of keep diary, entry-type journals but I'm pretty bad at that. So it's normally just a sea of rubbish. But I pull it together at some point.”
Blessed with a unique eye for detail, Courtney allows a visual quality to stream into her lyrics. “I probably draw as much as I write,” she continues, “and a lot of song ideas stem from those little drawings.”
“The last year has been the most I've ever done in my entire life,” the singer reflects. “I've never really travelled before, so all these new, totally different things... of course, it kind of effects the songwriting, but not in a bad way – in an enriching way. It's great.”
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Collating her journals, Courtney Barnett began the long, arduous task of piecing her lyrics together last summer. “Everything is all over the place, so I try to collect it and condense it and type it up,” she explains. “But then I kind of kept changing it, so I would write out the lyrics again."
“I would be in this room,” the singer continues, “and I had everything stuck up, a bit like A Beautiful Mind or something, one of those slightly crazy people. Stuff all over the wall, just because I need to see it all in one place. It was a bit of a mess and it didn't really make sense.”
Somehow, though, the Australian artist would find a way through. A fastidious self-editor, she would gradually bring her words into focus before handing them to her band. “We spent like a week together,” she recalls. “That's when I showed them all the songs. And then we kind of just went through them, tried to figure out some arrangements.”
“A lot of them weren't completely finished. Like I had fudged it,” she admits. “I had paper all over the ground. We only had those few days to get it all semi-together, so when we're in the studio we kind of know what we're doing.”
It's the 'kind of' aspect which shows through. 'Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit' has a wonderfully fresh quality, as if each note is being played for the first time, with Courtney Barnett as a back-seat narrator, watching the world pass by.
“I reckon the record's very kind of fast, and it just feels... fast. I wouldn't say it was rushed,” she insists, “we were pretty chilled, just sitting around and having fun.”
“That's kind of how I like to do it.,” Courtney continues. “To me, I like sitting around with everyone playing at the same time. Even when you re-do vocals, without a guitar or without the band playing at the same time, I reckon they sound weird. I reckon you can hear it when everyone plays together. Maybe I can just hear it, maybe it's all in my own head.”
The recording process was dominated by the constraints placed on the band. Almost continually on the road, sessions were halted after ten days to allow Courtney Barnett to continue touring. “There's nothing much you can do,” she says. “Well, there is – you can go back in the studio, but we left for a three month tour the day after we finished. I spent the last eight months listening to it and wondering if it's finished.”
“I think, I get a bit... perfectionist about it,” she states. “You just think if we added this or that or whatever, it's a moment in time. Those songs are going to change. I mean, we only played them for a week so they'll change over the next year into totally different songs. That's how it should go – songs should evolve.”
As for the title itself, the words are drawn from a very real place in Courtney's life. “I thought it was really an appropriate title,” she insists. “It was on my grandma's wall when I was a kid. So it was always in the back of my head. When I was recording the album I went round to her place and saw it again, so it reminded me and I just thought it seemed kind of perfect.”
Partly a home-body, partly a perpetual wanderer, Courtney Barnett seems both admirably stable and continually creative, with a plethora of fresh projects already in her sights. “I mean, I write a lot as well,” she says. “Short stories and stuff like that. One day, when I have time, I'd love to do more of that.”
“I could publish it through Milk or something – that's kind of the point of the label,” the singer muses. “It's a little project-based thing, we can kind of produce whatever we want. We're not going to sell millions of them but we'll sell them to people who care.”
Finishing, Courtney Barnett seems to have all manner of notions floating through her mind. “There's always some sort of idea floating around,” she says. “Actually, I'm just an over-thinker.”
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'Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit' is out on March 23rd.