5 Minutes with Boston Building

Growing up in Glasgow and now residing in South East London, James Barr aka Boston Building is set to release ‘When You Need Somebody” to be lifted from his upcoming EP which will include the first few collaborations under the Boston Building name. “I am working with some of the most exciting new vocalists in London who have brought their talent and energy to the project.  The styles of the tracks vary – but essentially all come under the banner of pop. I am very influenced by what Brian Higgins did with Xenomania in the early 2000s (and what others have done many times before, e.g. Motown, Brill Building, etc) – i.e. working with lots of artists and combining diverse sounds and influences but always in a highly accessible and infectious format.” says Barr.

We caught up with Boston Building ahead of the release of his debut EP on 11th March..

Hi there, how are you and what are you up to today?

Great thanks. I’ve been mixing tracks, which as many people will know can be either a totally joyful or a completely tedious process. It was a bit of both today.

To those not familiar with you, how would you describe your sound?

A big, pop-flavoured, punch in the mouth. 

Can you name albums and artists that have influenced you the most?

For this project, I’m really influenced by producer/writers like Pharell Williams, Mark Ronson and Diplo/Major Lazer. I think they all make really interesting and worthwhile albums. Even though they feature different singers on each track and throw a hundred different influences into the sound, the albums still hang together as consistent pieces of work.

Which other artists are you into at the moment and why?

Like everyone else in the world I’m getting really into Blackstar at the moment. In terms of Bowie’s whole catalogue I think it’s right up there.

In terms of new artists I’m enjoying Gallant, Leisure and Buck. All Soundcloud artists I discovered recently. I love Soundcloud.

 What would we find under the category of “Guilty pleasures” in your music collection?

I’ve never felt guilty about listening to any sort of music.

There is maybe one exception – Queen’s 1982 album ‘Hot Space’. Only because I think the surviving members of Queen, somewhere at the back of their minds, might themselves feel guilty about certain moments on that album. So I have to feel a bit guilty in turn for loving all of those moments.

The UK music scene is certainly always changing. Some might say that at the moment it’s more electronic oriented. Do you think this makes it more difficult for indie/alternative acts to get recognition that it would have done ten years ago?

I guess the trend is mostly towards electronic at the moment but if you look at the very top of the album charts for the past year or so you’ve got also got Adele, Ed Sheeran, James Blake, etc. who sing quite traditionally structured songs backed by guitar or piano. There’s a huge market for that sound too. Probably if you’re a guitar band or an indie/alt act it’s not the ideal time to break through right now. But all these things are cyclical. It’ll come back round eventually. If you love electronic and non-electronic equally like I do then it’s not a problem as a listener. 

If not the popularity of electronic music, what would you say some of the challenges indie bands face in the music industry today?

One big challenge is the number of other artists competing today now everyone has access to decent recording equipment. Really good artists as well, so you need to work if you want to stand out.

I have a childlike belief that if you just write a good enough song it can overcome any obstacle. I hope that’s still true and I really think it might be. Music is magical like that.

Where do you gather songwriting inspiration? 

My first inspiration tends to be musical rather than lyrical, so I’ll be inspired by something else I heard, or a melody, chord sequence or beat that comes to me.

Take us through your songwriting process. Are there any particular steps you take when put music together?

So I always start with the melody and a basic lyrical hook, even if the lyric changes later. Just accompanied by guitar or piano. If that sounds good all the other stuff can be fitted around it. I might add a ton of synths and crazy sounds later but without a strong melodic idea I don’t bother finishing a song. It’ll just go in the rubbish bin.

What’s the best gig you have ever done and why?

Boston Building isn’t currently a live act, although I’m not ruling it out in future. The best gig I ever played in the past was in a gigantic Irish pub in London on St Patrick’s day. For obvious reasons.

And the worst?

I once played a gig in a really badly laid out bar where we were actually positioned around the corner from the seating area. We were playing to a brick wall, no audience visible. People could hear us a bit, but only actually saw us if they were walking past to the toilet. Some of them looked quite surprised.

We still did a 3 hour set. Professionalism is everything.

If you weren’t a musician what would you be? 

I’d design bars.

 Do you have any particular gigs or festivals that you dream about playing? 

Obvious answer but I’d love to play at Glastonbury in some capacity.

If you could perform alongside any other band or artist, who would it be? 

Led Zeppelin. Because it would be awesome.

Do you have any information regarding upcoming releases, projects or gigs in the pipeline that you would like to tell us about? 

The debut EP from Boston Building is coming out on 11th March.