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Looking up: Sarah Barthel and Joshua Carter of Charlie Everywhere.

Photo: Joe Putrock

Happening Cats

Charlie Everywhere make music that’s hard to define, but easy to enjoy

By Kirsten Ferguson

Things seem to happen pretty quickly for Charlie Everywhere. The electro-pop duo got their first show—a gig last year at King’s Tavern in Saratoga Springs—before they even had the songs to fill a set. “Sub-Bombin asked us to play,” explains vocalist/keyboardist Sarah Barthel, referring to a local collective of DJs, hip-hop artists and electro-rockers that now includes Charlie Everywhere on its roster. “We had about three weeks.”

Barthel and partner Joshua Carter (vocals, guitar, percussion) wrote the songs for their set-list in a hurry, but the well-attended King’s Tavern gig was a success. Since then, word-of-mouth and exposure on social-networking Web sites have contributed to a growing buzz about the duo. Metroland named the pair Best New Band in a recent issue, and record labels are expressing interest. “We’ve been talking to some different labels,” says Carter. “We’re playing the waiting game. We’re excited. ”

The song “Mouthful of Diamonds,” a download on the band’s MySpace page, surely generated some of the attention: The ridiculously catchy tune features Barthel’s breathy vocals and an addictive melody that rides over droning keyboard and a glitchy beat. It’s a fresh sound, one that pairs a dance-worthy beat with airy vocals in the vein of indie-pop groups like Architecture in Helsinki, Stereolab and St. Etienne: groups not afraid to experiment, but not alien to a groove either.

“We get a lot of kids who like hip-hop at our shows,” explains Carter. “I don’t even know what kind of sound we have, but you can definitely bop your head to it.” Originally a drummer, Carter spends most of his time playing guitar onstage, but the band also incorporates live looping and sampling. “I do a lot of recording of my own drums and cut it up,” he says.

Their sound combines elements of electronica, psychedelic rock and ’90s shoe-gazing indie; Carter and Barthel cite artists like Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine and David Bowie as inspirations, along with underground hip-hop artists like Madlib, J. Dilla and the Pharcyde. “When we first started working together, we were trying to figure out what we wanted to focus on because we have so many different influences. Then we said, ‘Fuck it,’ let’s do it all,’ ” says Barthel.

“We want to put together a collage of sound—things that don’t necessarily go together,” adds Carter.

“We’re fascinated with different textures,” Barthel says.

But they resist the easy categorization of their music, lamenting that they often get called “trip hop,” an outdated label that stuck to bands like Portishead in the ’90s, groups who trafficked in drum-machine beats, ethereal vocals and droning samples. “It’s not that we dislike them. We’re just more in the ‘now’ of that category,” says Carter, before settling on “street-beat psych-pop” as a more apt description of their sound.

“It’s always cool when someone says, ‘I’ve never heard anything like you before,” adds Barthel.

“We can fit into any bill, except maybe death metal,” says Carter, after the conversation turns to how the band could play with a variety of different acts, from DJs to hip-hop artists to indie rockers. “We have a diverse enough sound. You can dance if you want to, or stand there like a hipster with arms crossed. We try to be tasteful. I think it would sound pretty stupid if we rhymed over our music.”

Like their sound, the band’s name remains relatively undefined. Although Barthel once owned a 20-pound cat named Charlie, that wasn’t the direct point of reference when the pair named the band. “We have sort of an inside joke,” Carter says. “Some people think it’s a Vietnam reference, or a drug reference. We like that. We leave it up to people’s interpretation.”

Although Charlie Everywhere have only been together for a relatively short period of time, Carter and Barthel have actually known each other for years. From their top-floor apartment looking out on downtown Saratoga Springs, the pair reminisces about their junior-high-era friendship, when they were both students in Greenwich, a small town to the east of Saratoga Springs. “We both grew up there. We’ve been great friends since ninth grade. Little awkward Sarah and little awkward Josh hanging out together,” Barthel jokes.

After high school, Barthel went away to college in Burlington, Vt., to study visual arts, and Carter moved to New York City to play in the band Grand Habit with his older brother John. But both eventually ended up back in the Capital Region. “I knew what I wanted to do creatively,” Carter says. “I had started working on ideas for Charlie Everywhere. Then she and I teamed up. She has a great voice.”

“I’ve been singing my whole life,” says Barthel, describing a background in musical theater. “But I never thought I would act [on it]. Honestly I think it was kind of fate that we got back together and started the band. We’re committed to keeping this going for 40 to 50 more years.”

The pair can’t make loud music in their fourth-floor Saratoga Springs walkup, so they spend much of their time out at Carter’s parents’ place in Easton, a hamlet of rolling hills and farm fields just east of the Hudson River, where a converted barn/garage doubles as a practice space and recording studio (dubbed Ratland Studios after a rat population that plagued the barn until Carter’s cats dispatched the problem).

The rural location has its advantages. “It’s very quiet out there. It’s inspiring,” says Barthel. “We love nature.” They also get some valuable parental feedback from time to time.

“My dad will come into the garage and say, ‘Josh, I really like this song,’ ” jokes Carter, feigning a low voice. “ ‘Play ‘Mouthful of Diamonds’ for me.’ ”

The pair self-recorded their upcoming debut release at the barn-studio, a full-length scheduled for release in the fall by Sub-Bombin Records, available through online retailers and local shops like Last Vestige. If all goes well, a yet-to-be-named larger record label may re-release the album at some point in the future. “We’re extremely satisfied with our album,” Barthel says. It is a bewitching recording, full of sophisticated late-night sounds, one that seems more likely to have come out of London or another urban location than rural upstate New York.

“We’re country bumpkins,” quips Carter. “We’re making country music for city people.”

Charlie Everywhere will perform at the Official Unofficial Troy Night Out Afterparty at Revolution Hall (425 River St., Troy) this Friday (Aug. 29) at 9 PM. For more information, call the club at 274-0553 or visit charlieeverywhere.com/charlie.


ROUGH MIX

A LIFE IN SONG The Arts Center of the Capital Region (265 River St., Troy) is presenting a packed series of readings, classes, and workshops under the banner The Memoir Project this fall. As you might surmise from the title, the series is aimed at helping writers learn methods by which they can document their lives, from poetry to journal-writing—even a course in fleshing one’s story out into a novel. And among the many courses offered is Memoir Songwriting. Led by singer-songwriter Valerie DeLaCruz, the course will help both experienced and novice songwriters, ages 16 and up, hone the fine art of storytelling through song. The class begins on Thursday, Sept. 25, and runs weekly through October. It ain’t cheap, but sometimes it takes money to make money. (Hey, that could be a lyric!) To find out more on the Memoir Project, call the Arts Center at 273-0552 or visit artscenteronline.org.

YOU’RE THE MAN On Saturday, Sept. 7, the Northeast Country Music Association will pay tribute to Jim Dufty, a longtime Capital Region resident and, in the words of NECMA head Bill Graham, a “much overlooked” songwriter, with a songwriters showcase. The event, to be held at the Mabee Farm Historic Site (1080 Main St., Rotterdam Junction), will begin at 1 PM with an open mic session, so songwriters from around the region can showcase their country best; after that, a parade of area performers including Dale Wade-Keszey, Mark Baptiste, 3/4 North, plus Graham himself, will do Dufty proud in song. For more on the event, call 887-5073 or visit northeastcma.org.

ROCK ’TIL THE COWS COME HOME 879 bands entered; one band leaves. The Mariaville Cattle Company Band were just chosen as one of the 10 finalists in the Next Gretsch Greats competition, an online battle-of-the-bands event sponsored by drum- and guitar-makers Gretsch in celebration of their 125th anniversary. With their song “County Line,” the Schenectady-based band will face off against bands from all over the United States, as well as entrants from Japan and Canada, for the chance to perform at Gretsch’s anniversary concert in New York City and win $15,000 in instruments. Their fate now rests on a panel of judges; check up and see how they fare at gretsch.com/contest or cattleband.com. You can also catch the band live this Saturday at the Fonda Fair in Montgomery County.

PARTY NOW FOR THE FUTURE Have you scored your tickets to the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival yet? Word has it they’re almost gone (the last block of tickets recently went on sale) and for good reason: It boasts best festival lineup of the year, including the first stateside performance from My Bloody Valentine in 16 years. The three-day bash is happening at Kutscher’s Country Club in Monticello, less than a two-hour drive from Albany, Sept. 19-21. They’re only selling about 3000 tickets total, so it should not only be a musically rewarding weekend, but you won’t have to step on too many toes to see your favorite band. For information, visit atpfestival.com.

A number of the performing acts are booking warmup gigs around the area in the days preceding ATP, notably Dinosaur Jr. and the Wounded Knees, who will share a bill at Revolution Hall on Saturday, Sept. 20. It’s a rare performance from the Knees, the band featuring former Mercury Rev flautist (and Capital Region resident) Suzanne Thorpe and one-time Rollerskate Skinny leader (and brother of My Bloody Valentine frontman Kevin Shields) Jimi Shields; and, of course, Dinosaur is back to their classic original lineup, so that should be something. Check revolutionhall.com for ticket information, and peruse the Metroland club listings for more ATP-related area shows.

—John Brodeur

Let us know about local-music news and happenings for inclusion in Rough Mix: E-mail tips and information to tigerpop1 @yahoo.com or metroland@metroland.net.



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