June 30, 2017 Interview – Keith Barney of Eighteen Visions
Eighteen Visions arose from the Southern California Metalcore scene way back in 1995, a scene that would give rise to such well-known artists as Avenged Sevenfold and Atreyu, amongst others. Often noted for their fabulous hair and, by Hardcore’s standards, pretty looks, the band found themselves somewhat mockingly-entitled as “Fashioncore” and oft-times quickly written off. Despite the critical views from music fans and the media alike, Eighteen Visions were uncompromising in their assaultive, but unique blend of all things Metal and many things Hardcore. Arguably, they are one of a very small, select group of bands that started the entire SoCal Metalcore scene and, while Metalcore, might be a dirty word in 2017, in the early 2000s it was exactly what the world of music required.
On June 2nd, 2017, Eighteen Visions reemerged from a decade-long slumber to deliver their sixth studio album, the explosive XVIII. Guitarist Keith Barney recently sat down to discuss the band’s exciting return, their new album, future tour plans, and what adjustments the men of Eighteen Visions have had to make after their decade-long hiatus from the music industry.
CrypticRock.com – Obviously Eighteen Visions recently returned after a decade. Not to say that this is not an amazing thing that music totally needs, but why now?
Keith Barney – We talked about it a few times over the past, over the years it came up a few times. We wrote music along the way. Initially, not really a hurdle, but the reason it didn’t work out the first time we talked about it was because our other guitar player Ken [Floyd] – he’s been with the band since the band started – he couldn’t really commit to the time. He was interested but then he never really followed up on it, and so we were kind of waiting for him to jump on-board so we could move forward. Him being an original member, we wanted to have him aboard. I had been writing music and I actually demoed a song with James [Hart, Vocalist], and then we kind of brought it to everyone. Everyone was interested but, yeah, we were waiting for Ken to jump on-board and he didn’t quite do it. We had these songs kind of lying around and then, it was like a year and a half later when Mick [Morris, Bassist] passed. At that point, we just put all the discussion on the shelf completely.
CrypticRock.com – Totally understandable!
Keith Barney – It was like, ‘Just forget it! We’ll just not talk about it!’ Fast forward years from there, you know, we’re all doing different things in our lives. I was doing music locally, at home; this and that with different projects. I saw James play with Burn Halo when they came through on-tour, and his voice just sounded really, really good. It just was like, ‘Gosh, man, I miss writing that stuff!’ It’s like there’s just something waiting to happen there, you know? So eventually, last year, I brought it up again, like ‘Hey man, we still have some of those songs sitting around. We should finish those! Maybe it’s for nothing, maybe it’s just for us but we should just do it.’ That’s when the process really started up again: I spoke with James and then we brought Trevor [Friedrich, Drummer] into the mix. We did reach out to Ken again, but his schedule is just too crazy and he’s full-time traveling and stuff like that; it just wouldn’t work out with him.
CrypticRock.com – With over a decade having passed since the last album, did you feel like this was starting over in a sense, or was there ten-times the pressure because of the time passed?
Keith Barney – It was a little crazy at first to think about. That was our career for a long time; we invested our entire lives in it. When you close that door, that’s a pretty intense thing to re-open. Ten years later, when we have different things going on in our lives, it’s like, man, can I handle this? How are we going to juggle this? The one thing that is a no-brainer is the writing of the music part, which is where everything stems from. We wanted to write new music and we didn’t really even know where it was going to get put out; or, we figured at first, that we were going to just put it out ourselves. Everything else, you know, it’s like what about when we play live? What are we going to do? We kept putting those things off to just focus on making music, which…then it turned into an EP and then it turned into a full-length. Then we got involved with Rise [Records] and everything started snowballing at that point, picking up pace. As things snowballed, we got more and more confident.
CrypticRock.com – The music industry has taken a serious beating over the past decade. Were you at all apprehensive about what you were returning to?
Keith Barney – Yeah, we had all kinds of questions, and we still do! A couple weeks ago – when the record came out – after the first week, generally they go, ‘This is how many records you sold’ and stuff like that. Our manager was saying, ‘Yeah, you guys got, you were’…I can’t remember what he said. Something like forty on some chart. We were like, ‘Well, what the hell does that mean?’(Laughs) I have no idea what that means, you know?
When we were going to put out the record, we were thinking, well, when we were talking about it…We obviously didn’t have any label that we were talking to; we were trying to keep things really, really close to the chest at the time. We didn’t want to let the word out yet that we were working on music. There was some buzz around from shows, from our friends saying, ‘For some reason, people have been talking about you guys online, trying to buy your old merch; things were getting sold on eBay. It’s kind of a hot thing right now!’ Weird timing, but that’s cool, I guess!
When we put our first teaser song online – which was a small snippet of the first song on the record – it really kind of blew up and a lot of people took notice. Then all of the news sites jumped on-board and reported it and everyone was looking at this thing, and it really got passed around really quickly. Which was rad! That was the first realization of the power of instantaneous getting the word out there. Unlike the old days, you know what I mean? That was crazy!
Yeah, going through these…having an Instagram and a Twitter page or whatever, just being able to connect right away is really cool. Those are the biggest differences. As far as the record label, the rest of the industry, I think the fact that vinyl is an important thing is super cool. It was dying while we were a band before. We did always put out vinyl but it was never as important as selling CDs. Now that has flip-flopped, so now that’s different.
CrypticRock.com – Everything always cycles back!
Keith Barney – Yeah, I guess so! Then just working with the label, working with a label like Rise…that’s not very different. Before we broke up we were on a major, but before that we had done indie labels for years and it still feels like that. There’s different ways that they approach things and now if you put out a song, you have to make a video out of it and put it on YouTube. So that kind of stuff is a little bit different and we’re learning that stuff as it comes along the way. The vibe still feels similar, I guess.
CrypticRock.com – The new album, XVIII, is incendiary, absolutely blistering. Over the years, the band’s musical evolution had started to move away from that heavy sound, and on your 2006 self-titled disc, 18V were very heavily leaning towards straight up Hard Rock. This time around, was there a conscious thought to really kick people’s asses with the new material or was that just a natural course that the band took in the studio?
Keith Barney – Really, what happened there is, before we broke up – for a long time there, from record to record – we were just continuously exploring; we were just trying different things. It’s kind of nice: most bands don’t get an extra ten years to look back and have perspective. (Laughs) I’m lucky to do that!
That was our career; we were trying to prove ourselves as songwriters. We were always a little bit ahead of the curve of what our fans were listening to in some ways. So, at the point that we had done a record like Vanity or even Until the Ink Runs Out, we had been playing Metalcore and that stuff for years. I guess it’s just the type of people we are: we were ready to try different things, bring in different types of music. That just became a theme! Internally as a band, we were always trying to impress each other. The songs became simpler in their structure and we were trying to write hooks, so we were trying to become songwriters. I know on James’ end of things, once he started singing, it was like the new, shiny toy for him. He was like, ‘Okay, I think I can do that so I can try this now,’ and he would go on to the next; he would do a little bit more each time. It really was, for us, a natural thing. We always tried to have a little bit of a balance, like keeping it sonically heavy while still trying to do these new elements.
Now that train stopped ten years ago, it’s like now I’m sitting here looking back at everything and I don’t give a shit about if I’m a good songwriter or not anymore; I’ve proven myself at this point. I feel like I know what I’m doing; we all feel like we know what we’re doing. We don’t have anything to prove to each other; we’ve already been there, done that in a lot of ways. Now it’s just like, ‘What would be fun to write? What would be fun for us to make?’ That’s what this record ended up being! I wanted it to be super aggressive, I wanted it to be super heavy. I still listen to that stuff, that’s kind of what I grew up on. I still love all that stuff! So, yeah. We also felt like – like a lot of our records, from record to record if you were along for the ride with us – we wanted to do something that would be a bit of a shock, a bit of a surprise; it was unexpected.
CrypticRock.com – The album has been out for nearly three-weeks now. How has the reception been from fans, as well as critics?
Keith Barney – From my point of view and I know from the dudes, the reception from our fans is probably the best reception we’ve ever seen. (Laughs) We’re used to putting out a record and pissing off half of our fans and then gaining another set of fans. That was the way it worked for a long time!
CrypticRock.com – (laughs) Nowadays that is kind of the standard, though.
Keith Barney – Yeah, I guess. Coming out of the Hardcore scene though, there’s so many bands that just put out Hardcore records and it was easy for them. They could just continuously keep putting out the same thing and no harm, no foul. We were always pushing things further and harder than, you know, other bands from around here like Atreyu or Bleeding Through, Throwdown; bands from our area here. They did different things and stuff, but for the most part they were really-aggressive bands and they didn’t put out songs like “Broken Hearted.” (Laughs) They didn’t do out-of-the-box, trying to do something big and different. You know what I mean?
CrypticRock.com – Unfortunately, when you try to do anything remotely different, people will always have very mixed reactions.
Keith Barney – Totally. I think our fans have been really excited: it’s sounding to them like a little bit of a throwback. The way we look at it is, what do we think our strengths as a band were during the time that we were together before? That’s what we think this record is! It showcases that we’re really heavy, that there’s still some melody in there. There’s still a bit of Rock in there, but for the most part it’s super aggressive and super heavy. I think that’s what we do best!
Critic-wise, I haven’t seen that many reviews to be honest. I’ve seen some good ones and I saw a really bad one the other day that was like a 6 out of 10 or something like that. It’s not a surprise! This is another thing where we’ve been there and done that: damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Reviews are strange! If you’re a fan of a band, it’s easier for you to review something than if you’re not. If they’re not a fan, then you have to really, really impress or you have to strike a nerve with something that they already like. If you’re a fan of Dillinger Escape Plan and you’re reviewing an Eighteen Visions’ record, it’s going to be really hard to get a good review out of that, right? It’s kind of tough for bands!
CrypticRock.com – Reviews are highly, highly subjective.
Keith Barney – (Laughs) Exactly! That’s what I’m saying! If you don’t already like some of the styles of the things that we’re doing…If you don’t like Hatebreed and you’re reviewing a Hatebreed record, you’re going to say that it’s too simple. But if you’re like me and you love Hatebreed, you get that it’s simple; it’s supposed to be heavy and simple and not rock the boat. That’s what you love about it! At least, that’s my opinion.
CrypticRock.com – Eighteen Visions recently played a hometown, album release show. By all accounts, it seems to have gone amazingly. You also just announced a trio of UK dates for November 2017; any plans to tour here in The States?
Keith Barney – We do have some stuff lined-up: some of it is confirmed and some of it isn’t. Yeah, I can’t say what it is right now but we will definitely be playing in The States. As for expectations…like I said, I have a family here – I’ve got kids, a wife – and I have a career in design, and James has a career as a hairstylist. Trevor has his own business. So we’re definitely going to get out there and play – that’s what we really want to do! – but at the same time, we’re not going to be doing super-long stints or anything. We’re just going to try and get out to where we can and do short, little hits; play different cities and markets and get out in-front of people, but we’re going to do it in a piecemeal way so that we can not rock the boat of our personal lives.
CrypticRock.com – A lot of bands are doing that now. They do one-offs or they do weekend-long stints where they fly out and do 2-3 nights and then head back home.
Keith Barney – It’s nice! (Laughs) It’s really nice! We did a lot of years of the day-in, day-out grueling work. To be able to do a trip and then come home, and be able to afford to do that is nice. We wouldn’t be able to do that if we didn’t have careers and all that other stuff.
CrypticRock.com – To begin to wind down a bit, what are your thoughts on the legacy of 18V? Eighteen Visions were instrumental in bringing Metalcore to the forefront and now, all these years later, you have a whole new wave of fans getting interested in the band thanks to bands out today who claim you guys as inspiration. There’s even a successful band named after one of your songs! Does that inspire 18V to push the boundaries further, and what do you see for the future of the band?
Keith Barney – I wouldn’t change what we’ve done! We were bold in our attempt to explore music, and I would never change that. Like I said before, when I look back at all of our records and the things that we’ve done, certain things make me cringe and a lot of it I still think is really rad! It made a lot of sense for what we were trying to do. I feel good about 18V and I love the way that our fans talk about all the different records, and I love that we have different types of fans. Like the show that we just played, we had fans that are like, ‘Oh my god, I love the self-titled record so much!’ I love that! They basically got turned on to Eighteen Visions through Obsession and the self-titled. Then we have fans who are only fans of our older stuff. It’s very interesting because they are different types of people in some ways. I think that’s kind of cool! It gives us an ability to be diverse.
For the future, we just want to keep making more music. This is a bit of an experiment for us, having not done it yet. Making the record was so fun and so natural and easy for us; we had a fucking blast making the record. We love how it came out, we’re so stoked and excited about it! We definitely want to do it again when the time is right. As far as playing shows, like you and I just talked about, we’re just getting all of that squared away and seeing what we can handle, feeling that out. By next year, we will have that under our belt and be like, ‘Alright, cool. So this is what we can do.’ We can continue doing what we do.
I look at people who tag us in posts and shit with 18V tattoos, whether it’s old shit or lyrics…Even before the record came out, people were getting tattoos…
CrypticRock.com – There are some photographs on Twitter of people with tattoos from the newest merch artwork!
Keith Barney – Yeah! I couldn’t believe that people were getting tattoos from the new logo, the cover of the record. This dude got the “Oath” lyrics down half of his leg. I was like, holy shit! That’s awesome! Obviously that means there’s still a desire and an excitement about us and that’s great. That’s what we’re trying to do!
CrypticRock.com – Last question and a bit of a spin from all the music talk. CrypticRock.com covers music as well as films – especially Horror and Science Fiction movies. Are you a fan of either of these genres? Any favorite Horror or Sci-Fi films?
Keith Barney – I like Science Fiction more than Horror. Two of my favorite movies of all-time are The Shining (1980) and Psycho (1960). Not super original but they are classics. They’re just so amazing, I’ve watched them a trillion times. Even from a graphic design perspective, Psycho and Saul Bass, who did the intro credits to the movie…the soundtrack is just so perfect and amazing. Of course, I’m obsessed with Stanley Kubrick. From a photography standpoint, the way he sets up his shots is just so cool.
I love the Alien movies. I just saw Covenant, which I thought was awesome. What else do I love? Tron (1982) is one of my all-time favorite movies: I liked the reboot, as well. Those are some of my favorite classics. I’m really obsessed with movies, it’s a passion of mine. I definitely go to movies! I just went and saw Pirates, the new Pirates movie [Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales]. I loved it! I didn’t like the last one that came out, I wasn’t a fan of that one. This new one was awesome, it was super fun. The graphics were really cool. I went to that one by myself, I do that fairly regularly.
Back in the day, when we were touring day-in and day-out, I would just go in my bunk and I would just watch movie after movie. I watch movies over and over again, and I watch all of the behind-the-scenes. Every movie I see now, I come home and go on YouTube and look up interviews with the directors and the cast. Get more background behind it: I get nosey about it! (Laughs)
For more on Eighteen Visions: 18vofficial.com | Twitter | Instagram
For more on Keith Barney: keithbarney.myportfolio.com | Twitter | Instagram
Feature photo credit: Travis Shinn