Andrew Barnes is a New York-based producer, singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, who has spent much of his musical life playing guitar and drums in a variety of heavy bands. Barnes made a splash with his solo recording chillwave/bedroom pop/dream pop project Fake Fever — and its 2020 full-length debut, Surrogate, which caught the attention of the blogosphere with its material being a hazy, subdued trip through a lazy river of vaporware-tinged dreams and memories.
Nostalgia is a rather powerful drug. It can be provide a quick escape or a warm blanket of comfort in times of need — or in desperately uneasy times. But what happens when that temporary saccharine rush fades? As it turns out, the longer that Barnes spent in the nostalgic space that had long defined Fake Fever, the more he felt those reflective comforts dissipate over time, and found that the harsh realties of the present being uncomfortably inescapable. “When I initially tried to piece together ideas for my 2nd album, I was hitting a wall and slowly realized that I had spent so much time over the last few years trying to recreate this essence of my childhood and my past and existing in this escapist place where I was constantly looking backwards, that I was doing a horrible job of living in the present and trying to progress, both creatively and personally,” says Barnes.
After spending three years of false starts, new surroundings, much-needed band-aid ripping, chaotic experimentation and refinement, the result is Barnes highly-anticipated sophomore album Inside The Well. Slated for a for a September 1, 2023 release, the album thematically is a bittersweet breakup album viewed through the lens of nostalgia. “This album encompasses that sometimes-painful process of loosening the grip on the past so that you can free yourself to move forward,” the New York-based artist explains.
Sonically, the 11-song album sees Barnes sees him effortlessly weaving new genre flourishes to the Fake Fever sound including hints of shoegaze, house music, footwork, 2000s indietronica revival and drum & bass among others. The result is an album that sees Barnes showcases a new confidence that honors the electro pop sound and ear worm video game bleeps of the 90s and 00s while maintaining a creative, forward-thinking approach to blissful soundscapes and hook-driven songwriting.
Last month, I wrote about “Graveyard Shift,” a slickly produced and deliberately crafted slice of pop built around glistening synth arpeggios, sinuous bass lines and skittering, processed beats paired with Barnes’ ethereal and yearning falsetto and his knack for razor sharp, remarkably catchy hooks. The addition of a shimmering guitar solo makes “Graveyard Shift” sound a bit like a sleek synthesis of Jorge Elbrecht,Brothertiger‘s 2022 self-titled album and 80s sophisitipop. But the song is rooted in the devastation of heartbreak, the longing for something you can’t get back, and the slow process of moving forward as best as you can.
Inside The Well‘s latest single “Unknowable” is a brooding, Dâm-Funk-like funky strut built around wobbling bass synths, twinkling synth arpeggios, tweeter and woofer rattling boom bap serving as a lush and dreamy bed for Barnes’ ethereal and yearning delivery. The result is a song that continues a run of seemingly 80s-inspired material rooted in earnest, lived-in lyricism.
“This song is a perfect example of a happy accident. I had spent hours piecing together some upbeat sunny song idea that was not hitting at all for me when I played it back, and I was just sitting there frustrated and dejected about having to scrap it and start over,” Barnes says. “All of a sudden after the main track had stopped playing and it was just a gap of silence for a while, there was some random two-note dark synth layer I had accidentally recorded at the end of the project file on my little cheap Casio SA-46 that immediately made my ears perk up. I isolated that, deleted everything else I had made in the session except for the drums, and every layer just started immediately falling into place right after, forming the majority of what you hear on the finished product.”