ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Barely Civil
X-Ray Arcade hosted a packed show on Saturday night featuring local acts Meadowers, Barely Civil and Telethon performing alongside Cleveland-based Signals Midwest.
Barely Civil consists of vocalist/guitarist Connor Erickson, guitarist Alex Larsen, bassist Eric Doucette and drummer Isaac Marquardt. Their sound encompasses emo, punk and post-rock, capable of dynamic emotiveness both subtly and explosively. The band’s name was coined with the help of Larsen’s mother and sister. Formed ten years ago in Wausau, Barely Civil’s origins stem from the lifelong friendship between Erickson and Marquardt. “We’ve known each other for two decades now,” Erickson explains. “We’ve been making music together for a long time, but it started becoming good music when we graduated high school (laughs). Barely Civil started with us just playing Green Day covers and slowly we’ve paired down to the crew we have now. Alex grew up in the same neighborhood as us and was there from the band’s beginning.”
Doucette is the most recent addition to the band; they used to be in the band Circus Fires, who were a huge influence on Barely Civil. “They were the sweetest kids,” Doucette recalls. “I’m now humbled to play with them because they’re great.”
When the band opened for Joyce Manor in Madison but their bass player wasn’t able to play, that’s when they hit up Doucette. Erickson elaborates, “We reached out to like everyone we knew and asked Eric if they’d play, and they said that they had already learned our entire discography (laughs). It was a very full circle moment for all of us.”
“The new song we played tonight, “Dwindling”, the lyrics and structure are all from Eric,” Larsen said. “Seeing Eric’s band do cool shit made me feel like I could do cool shit.”
Erickson feels that Barely Civil has worked out for as long as it has is because both the members’ personal and musical connections to one another keep them from stagnating. “We’re always trying to progress and I always want to see these folks get better and better,” he reflects. “It’s all reciprocal. I think our discography really shows that every time we’ve made the effort to create a body of work, and it’s because we’re always pushing each other to grow.”
Barely Civil’s intensely existential sophomore LP “I’ll Figure This Out” was released in September 2020 during quarantine. They are finishing up writing and plan to track their next two EPs (together forming an LP) at Connecticut-based Silver Bullet Studios in June, which is where they tracked “I’ll Figure This Out.” Erickson said, “We’ve had a steady influx of shows lately that have allowed us to really test the waters with what we’re writing and see how people are receiving it.”
On what place his lyrics come from, Erickson shared, “Every time I approach writing, it comes from a perspective of treating albums like a snapshot of where we’re at in that time, like Justin Hawkins of The Darkness said. When we go into the studio, I’ll have a general idea of lyrics that I’ve been singing for a while, but then the day before we track I’ll update them true to that exact moment. Our first record was a lot about my insecurities and not knowing who I wanted to be or where I wanted to be; I was writing that as I was coming out of high school and I was feeling scared and unsure of myself – all I really had were these folks. What’s ironic about “I’ll Figure This Out” is that I wrote it pre-pandemic, but thematically it felt very at home during the pandemic. At the time, I was writing from a place of trying to make things work for the last three years but I still didn’t know what I was doing or what I wanted to do. The opening track of “I’ll Figure This Out” is called “For Now” and the closing track is called “Forever”, and those are continuations of the sentence “I’ll figure this out for now, I’ll figure this out forever” – that’s the whole idea of the record – that everything everybody is doing every single day is figuring out how to get through today, and then they have to figure out how they’re going to keep doing that. This new record that we’re working on, I’m writing where I feel more stationed in my life; I have more of an idea of who I am and what I want to be, and so it’s really exploring my and the band’s values. A lot of the songs are about workers’ rights and the ability to survive daily life in America. It also has moments of making sure everyone else understands who I really am and where I’m going, so if our first two records were very much open-ended questions, this one is starting to submit some answers.”
Barely Civil play JJ’s Bar and Grill on May 20th.