A few months ago, before the October release of her second album Hello, I’m Doing My Best, Australian artist Ali Barter visited the U.S. for a press tour, during which I had the opportunity to chat with her about her new record, and she performed a few songs for our latest SubModern Session, which you can listen to in the player below.
FMQB: The first song that we heard from the record was "UR A P.O.S." so you made it kind of hard for radio DJs.
Ali Barter: Yes, but it’s really a term of endearment. This song is about my best friends and essentially I’m saying, "you’re a piece of s— and so am I," so this is why we’re friends, y’know.
FMQB: I found that funny when I first got the song and read that. I thought, that’s an interesting term of endearment.
Ali: We have some in Australia that are interesting. Many that are words you can’t say here very easily. We’re an odd bunch, yeah.
FMQB: So if this song is autobiographical about you and your friends, you all really went through some stuff together.
Ali: I think all kids growing up, we go through stuff. The point of the song is I’ve known these girls for a long, long time. I’ve been though everything with them. I see how the stuff that affected them as kids has f—ed them up now, but I love them and we’re all doing it together. They’re the same with me. And everything in the song is true. I would never write anything that wasn’t true. I guess it’s good to talk about stuff sometimes. You can’t help but write about the things that happened and how they affect me today or the people I know. When I finished writing the song, I texted one of my best friends, who I talk about in the song. I said, "it’s a about you and it’s called ‘UR A P.O.S.’" and she was like "I love it. That’s amazing." And then when I called each friend to tell them, they were stoked. And some of them were even upset that I didn’t say other things about them.
FMQB: Obviously people use music as catharsis. You’ve gotta get stuff out of your system. And not to make light of anything, but of everything you unload in that song, having a sister pull your hair seems like a very minor thing.
Ali: It is. I’m an only child. I didn’t have a sister pull my hair, but that’s the line that some people were like, "Oh, when you say that… I hated my sister…" or whatever. Look, not everything can be super heavy.
FMQB: Right, it’s a mixed bag. So, going back before this album, the song "Girlie Bits" was the first of yours that I heard, which I guess touches on some of the same stuff. I love how you took what is an unfortunate reality that women in music and women in general are dealing with all the time, and you put it into an easily relatable and catchy form of a song.
Ali: I guess that’s just what I do. I seem to write these really upbeat, happy sounding songs that have an underlying message. I think it’s quite a manipulative and easy way to convey a message.
FMQB: So, the new album deals with more issues all the way through and you’ve done kind of the same thing and turned them into these really great pop songs.
Ali: Yeah, all my issues. Thanks.
FMQB: The album is Hello, I’m Doing My Best and I read a quote from you that said that’s what you’re learning to do in your own life, if you want to explain that a little bit.
Ali: It’s just basically my life motto. I can get bogged down in trying to be better, and trying to be not jealous, or not be a gossip, or not eat badly, or not whatever. So it’s just this stuff that goes around in my head all the time. And a couple years ago I came to place where I was like, all I’ve got is to do my best and that’s what when these songs started coming out of me, when I had this moment of acceptance. It’s just a human thing I guess. And also, I have lots of conversations with my friends and they’re all stressed and whatever. That’s what inspired me to write, was just our flaws and our f— ups are what make us interesting and unique and fun. I definitely have more fun with f—ed up people than with perfect people. So, yeah, I wanted to explore that.
FMQB: No one’s perfect. They just make you think they are, some people.
Ali: That’s true. They’re probably more f—ed up than anyone.
FMQB: The second single was "Backseat," which is kind of about how you became a couple with your husband Oscar [Dawson of Holy Holy], right?
Ali: It is. I sort of admired Oscar from afar you could say. I saw his band play a few times and I was always going out with someone at the time when I would meet him earlier on. I just thought he was really beautiful looking and a really amazing guitar player, and just so amazing. Then a few years later he ended up playing some guitar on my EP, and I got dumped by a boy, and Oscar was there playing in my band and it was a beautiful thing, y’know… And we’re still together now. We got married, so… The clip is about two people who meet in a bar and hit it off, but they’re a bit awkward and they end up injuring each other.
FMQB: So that part didn’t actually happen?
Ali: That didn’t happen. Maybe emotional injuries. Y’know, sometimes getting together can be a confusing process and it definitely was for us. But we survived, and everything’s okay. But, yeah, I always take inspiration from movies for my clips and this one was kind of like a cross between True Romance and Misery, y’know where she traps the guy and hits him with a sledgehammer.
FMQB: Oh yeah.
Ali: So it’s kind of like a PG version. I just like to have a little violence. It’s more fun.
FMQB: Did you recently get married?
Ali: Three years ago. Yeah, that’s recent. I’m a newlywed.
FMQB: Then I can still say congratulations! And Oscar produced the album. Is that the most you’ve worked together?
Ali: No, he actually did the last record and two EPs before that as well.
FMQB: So obviously you work well together.
Ali: I think as a couple, there’s good things and bad things about working together. We definitely collaborate really well together. But I can tell him to f— off too much. [laughs] And he can tell me to f— off as well. But we’ve come to a happy medium where we’re both heard. Any working relationship people out there will know the intricacies of working together, but seems to be working alright.
FMQB: Are there ever times when you can’t leave it in the studio?
Ali: Oh, 100%! I think the specific process where it becomes tricky is the mixing process. I find that awful and we always fight then. And in the studio, the band knows to just go have a coffee or a cigarette when we’re fighting. That’s just how we are.
FMQB: You bring up your band. You’re alone doing a promo tour right now, but when you come back you’ll have a band. Is it the same band that tours with you and you record with?
Ali: Well, I have a band in Australia, I’ll be coming with an American band here. It’s just, logistically a bit easier. I met this awesome couple of musicians in Nashville and so I’ll be rolling around with some Americans, which will be fun.
FMQB: You’ll get a lay of the land, cause it’ll be your first tour of America?
Ali: That’s right. Yeah, this is my first tour so I’m just doing a smaller one, but I’ll be back. I think there’s plans to come back next year.
Hello, I’m Doing My Best is available for airplay now from PIAS. Check out Ali Barter’s videos and dates for her upcoming U.S. tour at AliBarterMusic.com.
By Josh T. Landow