Jack and George Barnett on their shape-shifting journey...

These New Puritans have always heard pop differently - and how that comes through in their own music continues to fascinate.

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There’s an almost mischievous, absolutely playful energy between the Barnett brothers, Jack and George, as they discuss where they see eye to eye both as siblings and in sound, and where they don’t.

We’re discussing ‘Inside The Rose’, the pair’s March-released fourth studio album as These New Puritans, a band whose only constant since its founding in the mid-’00s has been the presence of the brothers. It’s a record of tremendous layers, colours and textures, the gestation of which was guided by two minds that didn’t always act as one.

“We’ve thrown much worse things than cups at each other,” Jack offers, when asked about the differences that can emerge during the writing and recording of any These New Puritans project; differences like the ordering of songs, and which cuts are culled come the final tracklist. George chuckles: “Maybe we disagree on what song you like, and which one I do.” Jack looks, just for a second, slightly crestfallen. It’s an act, mostly - when these two are talking about their work, as much with each other as the journalist asking the questions, smiles are warm and persistent. But he has to draw a line under it, nonetheless: “The music is fine, it’s no problem.”

George’s grin swells again. “I’m treating this as a psychotherapy session.”

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Jack and George’s music goes back to their childhood home, long before it formalised itself into the ever-shape-shifting unit that is These New Puritans: the banner under which the Barnetts and their chosen collaborators can do pretty much whatever they want, as four defiantly distinctive albums are a testament to. 

There are some early electronic demos on the band’s website, under the name of Mick the Asbestos, a “false start” which showcase the brothers’ collective ear for both unlikely hooks and tonal depth; but long before then, they were playing around with instruments and soaking up influences.

Today, Jack talks about how he loves This Heat, and engages in detailed discussion about Einstürzende Neubauten; but as a 10-year-old, his tastes were a little more MTV. “What were you listening to, back when you had that oversized guitar?” George asks his brother. “Soundgarden,” is the unexpected answer. “They had some great songs.”

Said Seattle-formed grunge four-piece isn’t the most obvious act that’d spring to mind if you were tasked with unpicking the DNA of These New Puritans. But then neither is Deftones, yet the Californian alt-metallers almost played a role in the Barnetts’ newest long-player. “We actually contacted [Deftones frontman] Chino Moreno to sing on this album, on the song ‘Inside The Rose’,” Jack reveals. “He was enthusiastic, but then they went on tour, and sadly it didn’t happen.”

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But that it could have happened says much about These New Puritans’ approach to creating what they do. The band’s debut album of 2008, ‘Beat Pyramid’, was a brittle and spiky sucker-punch to the then-pervasive trends of nu-rave, while the following ‘Hidden’ of 2010 broadened its percussive variety to represent a masterclass in propulsive rhythms, fogged by spooked atmospheres that crawled under your skin.

If you scratched the band’s name from these records’ sleeves, and masked Jack’s vocals, you might mistake them for the work of wholly different acts. Anything goes, when it comes to These New Puritans, and from day one they’ve been deadly against letting themselves repeat a formula.

“I already can’t wait for the next thing,” says George, excitedly. Jack turns to his brother: “We can do whatever your heart desires.” There’s the palpable impression that “the next thing” is already firmly in the works, not that they’re willing to divulge it - but that attitude, that ethos, of doing whatever this band desires, has guided them to another outstanding record in the form of ‘Inside The Rose’.

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Building on the elegiac envelopment of 2013’s third LP, ‘Field Of Reeds’, TNP’s fourth studio set matches mind’s-eye ambition with genuine achievement. Its many highs - the eerie aggression of ‘Into The Fire’, the transcendental chimes of opener ‘Infinity Vibraphones’, the funereal rush of ‘A-R-P’ - reach beyond what its makers have managed before.

But to call this experimental music, as so many have since These New Puritans showed they really weren’t an act to bracket alongside countless indie-dance also-rans of a decade ago, is to mislabel what is a pulsating collection of ear-worms. ‘Inside The Rose’ is replete with hooks, with nuances that dig in like barbs, motifs that you find yourself humming days after they were last heard. It mightn’t be chart-baiting fare, but it’s definitely got a tiptoe in what will always pass for pop.

“I think making something that’s self-consciously experimental and impenetrable is giving up,” Jack says. “It’s too easy to do that. Anyone could do that. My favourite music is stuff that’s direct and powerful, and hits you on a physical level, but is also mysterious and you can’t quite understand how it was made. You don’t know exactly how it came about.”

And you feel that, a hundred listens later, that’s precisely how ‘Inside The Rose’ will be appreciated. How it deserves to be appreciated, anyway: as an enigmatic yet accessible set of songs, somewhat pop but perfectly individual, too.

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'Inside The Rose' is out now.

Words: Mike Diver
Photography: Jenny Brough
Fashion: Harry JW Clements
Creative Direction: Rob Meyers

These New Puritans wear full look Dior.

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