Brendan Fowler is a musician, artist, and writer who performs under the pseudonym BARR. He helps run a record label called Dogg and Pony, is coeditor of the arts and culture magazine ANP Quarterly, and has performed his music in seminal art spaces all across the world. These things are all great, but what makes Fowler (BARR—it's all the same, really) unique is how open he is to earnest communication.
The guy simply holds nothing back. In a recent conversation, he was candid about a recent point of controversy in his life. BARR was asked to play a couple of shows with the bands AIDS Wolf and Jay Reatard, but Fowler simply couldn't roll with those band names.
"It would be like calling your band Jay Faggot," he says. "No one would let you call it that, but you can get away with calling it Jay Reatard." He canceled his performances at both concerts and put together an art show to challenge artists with inappropriate monikers and call for social accountability. It is currently hanging at Rivington Arms, a contemporary art gallery in New York. "I'm not coming at them from any sort of personal thing, but those band names are just supposed to stress you out," he says.
While the up-front vibe and message of his music is positive and motivating, BARR also tackles difficult personal and social issues, "forcing dialogue" and using his music as a way of dealing with the stress of everyday life.
"I've always wanted BARR to be really direct and honest," he says. "I guess I'm trying to make people feel not alone and, ideally, empowered." He hopes that people can believe that in life there is "space for triumph." He speaks of this space in "Context Ender" off his latest album, Summary: "There is so much space on this earth that is full of whatever you're looking for."
While he may write a song about a bad breakup so that you can feel better about yours, BARR is also helping himself by getting it off his chest. Therapy is expensive, friends get busy, and parents just don't understand. Why not write a song about it?