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Barley Station
Barley Station’s award winning song ‘10 NIGHTS’ is already at the top of the radio charts. A hybrid work of Americana, Pop/Rock, County and Folk, their evocative vocals and mastery of instrumentation are attracting fans all over the world.

Like twang-rock? Many do, perhaps in yearning for better times gone by. Here is a band that ably serves the sentiment. Barley Station amalgamates the unique talents of Randy Belt and Brian Kious, former members of The Barnacles, a Midwest group that performed over three hundred live shows. The practice shows; Barley Station's debut album ‘After All’ dwelt high in the Country/Alt. genre for four consecutive months. Their newest work 'Damaged Goods' is expected to do even better, led by the immensely listenable '10 Nights', a wistful juxtaposition of city and country realities that conveys the complicated journey so many people experience in transition. Barley Station operates from an unmistakably personal vantage - one can discern the anguished story-within-the-story in many of their songs, especially the title track. But they can also manifest more cheerfully as upbeat, catchy cuts like 'Younger Summer Memories' will attest. Reporter Lily Clark recently caught up with this exciting band to learn more about their musical inspirations and plans for the future.

LILY: When When did you first discover your love of music?:

RANDY: My parents always had music playing and I was exposed to a lot of different styles at a young age. I would listen to everything from Motown groups to Fleetwood Mac to Willie Nelson and AC/DC. I also grew up with top 40 stuff and had those pop sensibilities growing in me. I'm not a drummer per se, but I always had this sense of rhythm and would tap beats on the bed when I was very little, being forced to take naps but unable to sleep. I always had rhythm in my head - the sound of raindrops on the gutter outside my window and other natural cadences. Later on though, since my dad and uncle played guitar, I knew I wanted one. I asked for a guitar for Christmas every year and FINALLY got one when I was about thirteen or fourteen. I was glad to get it but it was a right-handed guitar and I'm left-handed, so it was extremely challenging to play. But I did. Later, when I picked up the bass I started stringing it upside down. Finally I found a left-handed bass and it felt so much more natural. So you might see me on stage playing guitar occasionally on a song right-handed, but most of the time on my bass left-handed. It freaks people out. (laughs) People ask me after gigs sometimes 'Hey wait, weren't you playing a guitar right-handed earlier?' In high school I got into doing musical theater and drama and was a thespian. So I discovered an even broader love for music by being exposed to the show tune writers. BRIAN: Age three. Loved what I heard on the radio! Also hearing Gordon Lightfoot's Dream Street Rose album around the same time sealed the deal. Later on, my friend Casey Wollberg (who helped with lyrics on ‘Medusa’ and ‘Never Leave’, from our newest album ‘Damaged Goods’) and I began writing songs together just out of high school. You know, just trying to be the next big duo. We went through a lot of God-awful band names and cut our teeth on open mics. Our first full length concert was at this 'festival' a girl put together in her backyard.

LILY: Your song ‘10 Nights’ is receiving a strong listener response on radio. What was your initial reaction when you first heard it played?:

RANDY: I’ll give you an honest answer. Being the perfectionist that I am, I start nitpicking over what I could have done better. But you know at some point you just have to say 'okay, leave it alone' because I hear flaws in major label recordings and my ear is so picky. I have to get out of producer mode and just enjoy it. And then, it’s always weird hearing your own voice. It seems like someone else sometimes. BRIAN: I don't know about hearing it on radio but after hearing the final mix I told Randy this one song was better than our entire previous album! RANDY: There. Brian has the practical perspective I can appreciate. (laughs)

LILY: What was the inspiration behind your debut radio single?:

RANDY: I wrote that in contemplation of finally going back to the country and a more rural atmosphere. Literally, down a gravel road. It’s kind of about getting away from the hustle and bustle of city life and just going somewhere quiet to chill out. Back to the small town country atmosphere where I spent much of my childhood and things were simpler. I was also listening to a lot of Queen, Keith Urban, and Johnny Cash at the time we cut the album and this song probably reflects that a bit. Strange mix I know. BRIAN: As I recall, Randy didn't want a harmonica on this track! (laughs) RANDY: I’m not generally a fan of harmonicas but I’m always up for new ideas so Brian played it on the bridge and it worked perfectly. He actually had to use two different keyed harmonicas on the song to make it work; a feat that was accomplished in the studio. Brian rigged it so that he could hold both harmonicas between his fingers at the same time. On stage though, he holds one in his hand while strumming, then throws the first one off the stage, which he did at the Texaco Country Showdown we were in - to puzzled looks on many faces. No one really understood why a harmonica was flying across the stage into the first row! (laughs)

LILY: Would you say that the mood of your other songs is in the same vein as ‘10 Nights’?:

BRIAN: Yes. No. RANDY: Hmm. There’s a bit of that laid back feel, but to really explain it, we change the mood up. I like that in an album. We have two singer/songwriters so we can really experiment. That’s something I like in a band. One of the best selling albums of all time is ‘Rumours’ by Fleetwood Mac. And you know why? They had more than one songwriter and had that dynamic of varying moods. And the best selling album of the 20th Century was also by a band with multiple songwriters. And of course, there was The Beatles. I like it when I can listen to an album AS an album and enjoy every song. And that’s what we have attempted to create. The album is like a calico cat that wanders from city to country yet remains a cat. There’s the laid back atmosphere of a song like ‘10 Nights’, the fun happy upbeat song ‘Younger Summer Memories’, and then the barn burner almost cowpunk type of song ‘Goodnight Mary’ which left our drummer in a soaking sweat when he finished his last take. Another song is in three-fourths time, so there's a lot of variety.

LILY: How would you characterize yourself as an artist/musician? (Ex. Down-to-earth, fun-loving, serious, etc.):

RANDY: As a group, all the above. (laughs) Personally though - all the above again! But I’m also the 'let’s get it done' guy. The organizer, the quiet serious one in public, the man of many hats. I might be writing a poem one day and reading a book on music law the next. Brian’s the fun-loving crazy idea guy with a side of mystery. So it balances out. BRIAN: I am err... Mysterious? I don't know. (laughs) I am very much like the lyrics of the songs I write. Layered with hidden meanings only I understand, yet still able to provide sparkling dinner conversation. And I come with a medium soft drink. On the other hand, on the serious side, I am majoring in Chinese Studies at Lindenwood University, and enjoy visiting Chinese businesses to practice my Mandarin.

LILY: Did you come from a musical background? Are there other musicians in your family?:

RANDY: Yeah. I think all the relatives on my dad’s side played something. My dad played guitar and banjo (banjo was 'in' then because of The Eagles I think) and actually wrote some songs too. My uncle is a multi-instrumentalist and was in a country band that toured regionally. They started out as a rock band until my grandpa told them to knock off the noise and play some country music. (That’s the story I was told). So they did. Ha ha. My grandpa and his brother used to jam on guitar and accordion and I found some pictures of great uncles and grandpas in some kind of school marching band. So it goes way back. My brothers can play as well. BRIAN: One of my uncles plays guitar and gave me my Godin custom telecaster. He had a 45 (rpm) he cut in the 1960s. That's the family lore anyway. Dissuasion in pursuing music is hereditary in my family, so I'm in uncharted territory.

LILY: What do you find most rewarding about being an artist? What do you find most challenging?: RANDY: Hearing the final product after we are done in the studio. Being able to step back from painstaking work then look back at what you created and being able to say “Wow! Did we do that?” The challenging thing is just the fact of being an independent artist causes a lot of people to not take you as serious and its harder to gain an audience. Once heard, the problem is solved, but it’s getting it there that is the challenge. But the fact is that the best music out there right now is, in my opinion, independent music. That’s mainly what I listen to about 75 to 80 percent of the time anymore. BRIAN: I really enjoy working in the studio and hearing these auditory concepts being "fleshed out." That's my favorite part of it all. I think the challenging part is trying to improve my skills as a lyricist and ...to use Randy's term... What is it? Melodician? RANDY: Melodician is a word I may have invented in another interview (laughs)

LILY: Who are your role models in music?:

BRIAN: Well, lately I've been following the singer/songwriter and electronic musician Howard Jones. I read about how he was able to sell pantloads of his DIY albums after the corporate labels were done with him. As it turns out in the end he was done with them. I find that really admirable. And he's still pushing the envelope in the electronic and club music scene. RANDY: As a bass player my favorite artists have always been guys like Sting, Geddy Lee, and anyone who can play complicated bass lines while singing. That's very challenging! And for songwriting, I'm a melody guy so I admire anyone who can write a great melody - from the old show-tune writers to The Beatles, to whatever great melodicians are out there today. That's what influences me. If you haven't studied the Beatles you need to. Study all the greats. And look at the great compositions and how they were structured, like Bohemian Rhapsody, you know? As a singer, I looked up to all those opera and operetta singers but never felt quite that good, so I figured I’d just stick with 'good enough for rock and roll', you know?

LILY: Describe your best or most memorable performance.:

BRIAN: Wow, I'm not sure. Shows are such a blur when we play them I feel like someone else takes over when we start. That's for the best because the one time I didn't do that well... We'll not go there. Ha ha RANDY: The most memorable performance was when the band Brian and I were in at the time were playing at this club and with the variation of styles in our original music we had EVERYone getting into it. There was this dude with a 4 foot tall Mohawk totally getting into us, and this old guy that would sleep until he heard a band or song he liked at the club, young people, old people, country people, and punk rockers all getting into our music. I think we realized then that we have a broad appeal, and it felt good to know we could alternatively countryish rock everyone out! (laughs)

LILY: Do you have a music video for your hit single? If so, what can you tell us about it?:

RANDY: Right now we just have a live video of it from a gig. Nothing glamorous yet. But we're working on an official video for two songs right now with some film students. So… about to go into production.

LILY: I look forward to hearing them! Thank you Brian and Randy. Wishing you and the band continued success.


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