Former award-winning Boston punks forge promising new beginnings with boisterous blues-rock reboot in debut EP Barns.
Grungy folk-rock quartet Barns are certainly no strangers to the local Boston punk scene.
Three of its four members made their debut in 2008 as punk trio Dead Cats Dead Rats (later re-branded to DCDR), releasing over 50 tracks and five full lengths in the span of nine years. Back-to-back winners of “Punk Artist of the Year” in both the 2010 and 2011 Boston Music Awards, DCDR pushed out cleverly crafted, grunge-tinged punk rock anthems year after year.
But late last December, a brand new musical project suddenly emerged from the minds of guitarist Matt Reppucci, bassist Chris Wolz, drummer Travis Tenney, and newly-added vocalist/guitarist Matt Wolz. Barns marked a clean slate for the foursome, allowing them the freedom to experiment and develop a more refined sound outside the predictability of three-chord punk.
It didn’t take long for their four-song self-titled EP to gain traction across the city, earning airplay on WEMF radio and WZLX’s popular Boston Emissions program within the first few weeks of its release.
The opening song “Praying” jumpstarts the EP with a playful, bounding folk-rock progression. The twanging bends of the lead guitar interplay with the melodious walking bass line from Chris Wolz, hinting at the blues and Southern alt rock influences these former punk rockers are blending into this new project.
But despite these sonic shifts, Barns is still anchored in grunge revival, best demonstrated by vocalist Matt Wolz’s gritty yet soulful wailing and the band’s ability to infuse their songs with raw, unflinching energy. With nearly a decade of shared musical experience under their belts, there is an undeniable chemistry between the tightly-knit group formerly known as DCDR.
“Color Me Black,” a heartbreak anthem turned mid-tempo bluesy shuffle shows Barns’ ability to build on minimalistic concepts with a variety of tempo and texture changes. Lyrics like “having fun with no one,” “taking pictures off the walls,” and “she colored me black” help to paint a vivid, personal picture of the singer’s post-breakup struggles. The tune eventually ratchets up to a rambunctious pop-punk gallop that transitions nicely into an infectious chorus. Guitarist Matt Reppucci’s sweet, supplementing harmonies tie the chorus together nicely adding in just the right amount of Southern bluegrass soul.
“Microphone,” the standout track, is a high-energy, backwoods garage rock sing-along that pays homage to old school blues melodies and soulful guitar licks that would please both circle-pit moshers and Southern square dancers.
This barn-burner features some memorable lyrical lines from the gravelly Wolz including, “I try to keep myself alive/but this shit happens all the time/when we go out drivin’, got me feelin’ so high,” evoking images of aimless late night cruises across open country highways. “Microphone” eventually builds into a blistering, twanging guitar solo that is held together by the incredibly solid rhythmic foundation laid by drummer Travis Tenney.
“Radio” rounds out this well-crafted package of four songs with what is arguably the most straightforward “country rock” sounding tune of the bunch, reverting back to the Southern shuffle feel. The verse features a catchy sing-songy bassline that intertwines well with the fuzz and crunch of both guitars. Although “Radio” travels through some evocative peaks and valleys building louder into the choruses, the overall song is a bit too repetitive and recycled feeling to warrant clocking in at five plus minutes.
As a debut release for a new project, Barns’s self-titled EP gives these former punks a fresh and fun restart as they confidently tread into new musical territories. By leaving just enough punk and grunge influence in these catchy blues tracks, they’ve begun to successfully mold their own one-of-a-kind sound. Despite the one new member, the band’s chemistry and togetherness makes for a collection of music that comes across as a tight-knit group of friends jamming out for hours on end. Only not in a suburban garage, but a countryside barn.