First, you notice the band’s name … Fartbarf. Enough said about that.
Second, you notice that all three of the members are wearing Neanderthal masks. Enough said there, too.
Third, you notice that the band plays … synth music? Yes—really awesome synth music.
The Los Angeles trio will be bringing a live show to Pappy and Harriet’s on Friday, July 21, sharing the bill with the queen of the high desert, Jesika von Rabbit.
Fartbarf is either one of the funniest names for a band you’ll ever hear, or it’s one of the most disgusting, depending on your sense of humor. But whatever your opinion is on the name, the band’s sound will leave you in awe. It’s as if Daft Punk, Devo and Minor Threat had a threesome, with Fartbarf as the result.
Josh McLeod, one of the band’s two synth players, explained how Fartbarf came into existence.
“It was kind of a response to what we thought was happening to the record industry in the early 2000s,” McLeod said. “It was pretty much just a play on primitive meets futuristic. Cavemen playing electronic music was kind of what we were going for.”
The name came about, in part, to keep expectations low.
“It was very self-sabotaging,” he said. “We figured if we picked a name that a bunch of 12-year-olds wouldn’t even want as their punk-band name, and this name is just terrible, it would keep us grounded in our idea that we would probably never deal with record labels and do this all on our own. We’d play venues that liked our music and thought we’d fit in their bar well. … More recently, I think it’s been a benefit to us. But it’s a terrible name and one you can’t believe people are actually using as their band name.”
When I saw Fartbarf last year at the Palms Restaurant in Wonder Valley, I was shocked when I saw the synthesizer setups. Moog synthesizers, which are heavy and require a lot of tuning, can be a hassle if you don’t have a road crew ready to work on them when they break down. McLeod conceded that it’s a challenge to tour with them at times.
“It’s actually pretty difficult. The Moogs and the bigger analog synths weigh a ton,” he said. “If we need to fly somewhere, we have to pay extra. It’s normally quite a hassle. We never went into it thinking we’d get as far as we did, but being totally analog synthesizer players is pretty easy these days. Before we started Fartbarf, there wasn’t a big resurgence of these things, so we had to find vintage synths or use what we had at the time. Now, manufacturers are coming out with brand-new versions of this stuff. It makes it a lot easier with portability, because Korg has come out with versions of their MS synthesizers that weigh a lot less and are more accessible and reliable.”
McLeod said audiences sometimes struggle with everything surrounding Fartbarf—the name, the masks, the synths and so on.
“Normally, if we play for an audience that has never heard of us or never seen us before, it is kind of hard to register all this stuff at once,” he said. “Our name sets the standards real low, and with our outfits on top of that, it’s kind of a mass of confusion. If people have an open mind within the first three or four songs, they’re usually dancing at the end of the set.
“We never really thought we’d be doing this almost 10 years later. The latex masks were never taken into consideration when we’d be rocking out onstage, and it’s so hot in the masks that you almost just want to die. It’s really difficult; you can’t see much of what you’re doing, and when we rehearse at our studio, we do it with our eyes closed so we know what it feels like when we’re playing live. I think a lot of the stuff that Fartbarf does, we set these limitations just to see how creative we can become with these limitations.
“We noticed when we first started that there was a lot of electronic music coming out, and none of us really came from an electronic-music background. A lot of the music is interesting, and when you go see some of these people live, it is just a dude hitting play on a laptop and pretending to do something. We really set the limitations so that we would never play live with a computer, and there would be a lot of mistakes. We have a live drummer with real drums, because we don’t want to feel like those shows you go see, and it’s like, ‘Eh, it’s all right, but I can do this in my living room.’ I don’t know if setting limitations is for the greater good of anything, but it’s kind of fun to try to work our way out of the rut we create for ourselves.”
Fartbarf has released one album, Dirty Power.
“We’ve talked to a handful of different record labels over the years, especially when we first introduced our album in 2014,” McLeod said. “We had a lot of interest, because we were playing a ton of shows, especially for a couple of years; we played over 100 shows a year. We’re three guys who have careers on top of this side project. At the end of the day … would major labels really do for us what we could do on our own if we got our hands dirty and put our minds to it?”
Playing with Jesika von Rabbit and at Pappy and Harriet’s is pretty cool for Fartbarf, McLeod said.
“We actually don’t know (Jesika) too well, and that’s the crazy thing: We’re actually really excited right now,” he said. “We’re obviously excited about playing Pappy and Harriet’s, given we’ve been there. We love their chili, and we love the vibe. We’re pumped to play there.
“When we played at The Palms, we just kept driving and driving and driving, not knowing where in the hell we were going, and that place is out there. … For us, playing in the desert, it’s definitely out of our comfort zone.”
Fartbarf will perform with Jesika von Rabbit at 9 p.m., Friday, July 21, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $15. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.