(Author’s note: I owe these fine people an apology for how overdue this is. Life gets hectic, and before you know it, you are struggling just to stay aloft. But, no excuse, I’m late, and I’m sorry, guys.)
Tonight I had the privilege to sit down (virtually) with James Dean of the Wichita band BarrelBright. For those of you who don’t know, BarrelBright uses a post apocalyptic Dustpunk theme, and they have been melting faces with an amazing rock show in five states, fifteen cities, and have sold albums in 8 countries. On their own, they own the stage, typically headlining shows featuring local and regional acts, and have opened for national touring bands such as Flaw, Halestorm, Aedilitas Way, and Taproot to name a few.
James is friendly and open, and very obviously passionate about music, his band, and the Dustpunk story that is developing around them. He tells me the band’s concept itself was Dustpunk before he knew there was a word for it, forming around a comic book he was creating several years ago about the members of the band being survivors in a second Great Dust Bowl ravaging the MidWest in a post apocalyptic future.
“Little did I know that my awesome bass player and wife was a really good writer, too, and she’s always been an avid comic book fan, so we get to work together on the whole thing.”
What makes BarrelBright different from other bands playing Steampunk themed music? James tells me it’s because they focused on the music, and their stage show first, and are bringing the fashion, style, and genre back into the mix now that they have developed a sound and a show that is rock solid and unique. Now, with a music video in post production directed by Geneva Arena, the costumes are being added to the look, and exciting things are happening. The CD cover art features elements from the comic book in progress, which James describes as a “very dark, very intricate world for the characters, one that’s so realistically plausible, its stomach-turning.”
Another key thing that makes BarrelBright different from other Steampunk bands is they are from Wichita. This heritage gives added legitimacy to the Dustpunk themes such as the Dust Bowl, and the reason they have added compasses to their gear. At times, during the Dust Bowl in Kansas, you needed one just to find your way around outside your own home. James takes pride in the MidWest origins of the band, and makes note of other MidWesterners, the Marquis of Vaudeville and Airship Isabella. His wife, Geneva, bass player for the band and writer for the comic book, wears a cuff made by a member of ASI in both the upcoming video and on stage. He describes Marquis of Vaudeville as “flat out musically fantastic and fully dressed as Victorian men. Beautiful stage props, too.”
Not long after, I had the opportunity to see them live again, this time with fellow MidWest Steampunk band, Marquis of Vaudeville at America’s Pub in Wichita’s Old Town entertainment district. It was the weekend before Halloween, BarrelBright’s CD release party, and to help facilitate the atmosphere of the party, the bar encouraged fans to come in their Steampunk best, as long as we weren’t actually threatening each other with our oftentimes heavy personal arsenals. Great Plains Steampunk heeded the call, and showed up in force, with personnel from member Airships Defiance, Nox and Banish Misfortune, Emerald City Steampunk Expo’s leadership and others.
Peter Pixie was our Master of Ceremonies that night, keeping things moving and keeping the crowd from wandering between sets. Red Eye Rising opened the night, warming up the crowd and building the energy. Marquis of Vaudeville hit the stage next, and then it was BarrelBright’s turn to burn it down. Which they did in grand style. A night to remember for a long time, and a lot of new good friends.
And that video in post production? It’s been released and it’s GLORIOUS. It’s edgy, in your face, thought-provoking warning of things going wrong in a future that doesn’t seem all that unlikely. And a beautiful example of effectively bringing a comic book to life in live action video. Allow me the privilege of presenting “Long Way Down” from BarrelBright’s The New West: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jmG3ojDwuo&feature=youtu.be
Keep an eye on BarrelBright. These guys are going somewhere, and when they get back to tell the rest of us about the dangers they faced in their world of dust and decay, it will be worth hearing.