FARTBARF: SMELLING TERRIBLE SMELLS
I first heard about Fartbarf last spring in small record store on the westside when I asked the owner who his latest favorite band was. Three weeks later I end up catching them on a Sunday night doing a gig for a packed crowd in Long Beach. Everything about them—from the name and mutant space-ape costumes to their uniquely upbeat and highly danceable Devo-esque electronic synth-punk sound—is hard to describe but a lot of fun to experience. Their highly anticipated first full-length album comes out—naturally—on April Fool’s Day this year, and if it’s anything like their live performance then it’s sure to be an instant local classic. This interview by Desi Ambrozak.
The name … I can’t not ask.
Josh (synthesizer): We have no story! Why are we called Fartbarf? We don’t know! We needed a name quick. I took a road trip to Delano, California, and that town smells like absolute crap. Not to say the people aren’t nice, but I think they must have a factory there that reclaims manure. I stopped at McDonald’s to take a leak and there was a little sticker that came off a dot-matrix printer that just said FARTBARF. And I was dying laughing. And it stuck in my head. Not as a name, just for fun. We got fartbarf.com just to make email addresses for our friends. And when we needed a name, that was it.
Brian (drums): Me personally, I thought we’d just be this freakshow band. I didn’t think people would latch on. I guess we’re less weird than we thought?
J: After the shows, people come up to us kind of angry, like, ‘You could be big! But you gotta change the name!’ But … we are what we are.
Dan (synthesizer): It’s the same thing as when I pick up my son from daycare and I’m wearing my Dwarves shirt that says ‘Teach Your Children to Worship Satan’ and I forget that I’m wearing it and I get all these dirty looks.
So this is your first actual album.
J: There’s stuff online now that was our improv. Hit RECORD and play—lots of mistakes. That was kind of a test for distribution. We wanted to figure out how to self-distribute. We didn’t want to go through a label. We definitely wanted to keep it all DIY. This release we’re putting out has all been done by us. The previous stuff was like … so how do we get on iTunes? How do we do all this?
J: We actually have a production company.
B: That makes it sound really legit.
D: We are really legit! I started a goddamn business! Space Jumbles Music. It’s all done by us.
J: But along the road we met a couple different people and different favors were pulled. This guy Florian helped produce the album with us. He did all the Rammstein albums. And Quincy Jones and Mariah Carey. Our buddy Cadaver is a guitar tech for everyone in the world and he’s got all sorts of friends, and we played the Whisky with a couple bands and Florian ended up coming to the show with one of the dudes from Rammstein. And people were freaking out. They loved Rammstein. ‘What the hell is the guy from Rammstein doing here? He’s here to see Fartbarf!?’
Is the record a live-in-the-studio record?
B: Not altogether.
J: The album is ten songs, a lot of which we play live. It’s a pretty good representation. We did our own little focus group thing, and the one thing people wanted is for it to sound like we do live. Cuz that’s all people knew. We’re a band that plays live three nights a week, and they know that sound and want the album to reflect that. It’s a really clean representation of what we sound like live.
Are you doing any special editions?
J: We’re doing 1,000 records—500 one color, 500 another.
B: And the guy who made the last version of our masks made like plexi kids’ versions of our masks. We were thinking of doing something like that.
J: Kind of like a mask you buy at Sav-On drugs.
D: Like ‘Casper The Ghost,’ where it’s just a PVC jumpsuit and a mask.
B: You can rob a bank with it, or scare your parents with it.
What’s with the mask? Is that an ape? A mutant? A human?
D: Ape … mutant … human?
B: They’re really old. I think they’re from the 50s. They’re supposed to be gorillas.
And then you have the space jumpsuits—I was trying to figure it out.
B: It’s like from Fantastic Four—astronauts that went up and got irradiated.
D: The masks have always been there.
B: The masks were hanging on the wall when I came to the first practice—they were already around!
J: From a costume shop in Arizona that had been there since the ‘20s. These were like World War II West German caveman masks. He had a stock and I was like, ‘We gotta put these to use.’
J: Now Fartbarf never ages. And if we kick someone out, no one else will ever know. There’s all sorts of possibilities for these masks.
It’d be awesome if you got so messed-up looking you wouldn’t even need the masks anymore.
J: We’d need to start serious meth right now.
Which of you is Fart, and which of you is Barf?
B: There are actually two graffiti writers who are supposedly brothers.
J: I don’t know them, they don’t know us. We’ll probably get stabbed over that sometime! But there are literally two people called Fart and Barf and it’s not us. People send us like photos like, ‘Look at this train car someone did of you!’ But it’s not us. Great promotion, though!
J: And we are for them! It’s mutually beneficial.
J: When we played the Devo-tional, Dan was losing his fingernail and just had a bloody pulp of a finger. He dipped it in Hollandaise sauce and sucked that out of the finger hole, and that was enough for Brian.
B: I went and threw up outside the Cracker Barrel. So a few of us have barfed. I know all of us have farted.
J: Do not light a match behind us—it’s like a methane farm on stage.
What do you think your sound is like? How do you talk about it to each other?
D: We were yelled at for calling it thrash. We don’t wanna piss off any heshers.
J: But all of us come from a punk and metal background. We picked up these instruments to discover something new. When Dan and I first started this and we were playing synths and people wanted us to play live, we didn’t wanna do it without live drums. That’s boring as all hell when people play a laptop and like … clap their hands and pretend they’re playing music.
D: It’s like if you had Black Sabbath, but everyone played synth. It’s heavy riffin’! You can have chuggy guitar, why not chuggy synth? Remember in Marina Del Rey when the speakers caught fire?
J: At the end of our set, thank God. The sound guy had set up the PA and then walked away. At the end or set, thank god, our one song has multiple frequency sweeps with no compression, and it just hit a certain frequency where the stage monitors couldn’t handle it.
B: We started smelling terrible smells, like rubber burning. ‘What’s that stink?’
You went out in a blaze of glory?
J: I didn’t know it was literally possible to light speakers on fire. And it didn’t even take heavy metal!
FARTBARF WITH RESTAVRANT, BOMBON AND BELLA NOVELA ON FRI., MAR. 28, AT ALEX’S BAR, 2913 E. ANAHEIM ST., LONG BEACH. 9 PM / $7 / 21+. GET TICKETS HERE! AND WITH DUHAST (RAMMSTEIN TRIBUTE), BLACK HEARTTHROBS, HIGH DRAGS AND THROUGHOUT THE FALL ON SAT., MAR. 29, AT THE OLD TOWNE PUB, 66 N. FAIR OAKS AVE., PASADENA. CONTACT VENUE FOR TIME AND COVER / 21+. AND ON LOVELINE ON MON., MAR. 31, ON KROQ 106.7. 10 PM. FARTBARF’S DIRTY POWER RELEASES ON TUE., APR. 1. FARTBARF.COM.