In this edition of Times and Tunes we have a slick and bespoke Spotify playlist by Barbie Bertisch whose new album Prelude is out on her own music label Love Injection Records. While Bertisch has been making zines under the same label name for the past 7 years, her musical ambition was already there from the start. This album represents the culmination of the last 5 years of Bertisch’s life and the explosion of confidence and creativity that she intentionally fostered during lockdown. A compilation of ideas that she had previously thought unworthy of attention bubbled to completion as she grew and healed past her frustrations. Put this playlist on while you read our conversation with her to get a deeper look insider her process and inspiration.
Hey Barbie! How have you been lately, any exciting things happening in your life?
Hi! That’s a big opening question. Prelude, my first album, came out mid June which feels like a lifetime ago but I guess it’s still under a month. So much has happened since, both related to the album and not. I’ve been feeling a little swept into the rollercoaster of the release, having produced a mini festival in Upstate NY, various creative deadlines and the ebullience of summer in the city. I’m planning on going into hiding the rest of July to recharge and refocus.
I’d love to hear the reasons why you chose the tracks that you did for this feature. What inspired this playlist?
I went back to the songs that I listened to a lot during early 2018. It made me happy to reacquaint myself with music that clearly meant so much to me. I see a quest for music that was spiritual, introspective, and at times explosive… which kinda makes sense given the state of mind I was in back then.
How does it feel to finally be putting your music out into the world?
It feels nice finally, but it was very scary for a while. I say scary because I consider these songs to come from a very vulnerable, intimate place and that’s not something I always embraced, let alone in a public way. I considered pulling the plug a dozen times but as the music was getting closer to its release, I realized it was time to let it all go so I could move on to what’s next. So that felt quite good. What was very surprising was to hear Prelude resonating with people.
When did the journey for creating this album begin? Where and when did these first tracks start to emerge?
The tracks started to come about sometime in 2018. I was in a period of heavy personal change and very creatively stifled, which caused a lot of internal struggle that needed to be let out somehow. So, without any aim, I started putting stuff down anytime it felt visceral and necessary. I worked on these projects without any intention whatsoever for them to be made into any release—I just needed to get stuff out because I had no other way of making sense of what I was going through.
What helped encourage you to finally push forward and release this music?
Corny to say the lockdown? Partly. I had abandoned all those sessions and had began another project with a collaborator, and then March 2020 came along and I was sitting at the kitchen table writing lyrics for our songs, when I realized I hadn’t closed a really big chapter. Maybe I needed to turn back to those sessions to save me from going insane at home or perhaps I felt like I had unfinished business—that I wouldn’t be able to move on without putting it out and behind me. So that propelled me to go back into the hard drive and reexamine where I left off. It was very methodical, like I put two pieces of paper together and listened to each project and assessed what I thought each was missing, then I got to work.
Do your zines inform your music? The other way around? How do your other artistic practices influence your music?
I think everything I absorb informs the music I make. We live in a high stimuli world that I really think we miss a lot of the stuff that seeps into our subconscious. Love Injection has been a vehicle for me to reach out to, interview, and learn from folks I admire, so naturally it has to have made an impact. I remember interviewing Anna Domino or Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy some years ago and being really inspired by each of their journeys. I also think the act of listening, more than anything, informs and seeps into music making. I was recently at a Q&A with Ron Trent, where he was talking about his new project called WARM and his recent album, and I loved hearing about how record collecting changed him. How the process of following your nose can take you into previously unknown directions. Learning, listening, reading. Art, design, architecture, a hodgepodge of my favorite records, and very raw emotions are all part of Prelude, for sure.
I’d love to hear more on musical influences as well. To me the influence on this album feels eclectic, coming from a wide variety of sources, but I’d love to hear some specifics!
I mean, it’s quite difficult to nail down. It’s quite evident that I love synthesizers from hearing it, and I do love a lot of the Berlin School era electronics while also having deep admiration for the studied wildness of Gavilan Rayna Russom’s approach. She’s the best. From a mood perspective, I came of age with a hefty dose of new wave and post punk, and I do think that made it in there. From a technical perspective, I won’t shut up about how much I think Francois K’s productions have made an impact—but I’ll say it again because I think he deserves endless flowers.
What got you into DJing?
I’ve been at clubs since I’m 16, primarily as a dancer. It wasn’t until I went to a party in the lineage of the Mancuso’s Loft that I was really inspired to get into DJing. The group of friends who were regulars were also what I’d call heads. They were always getting together, playing records at each other’s places, basements, you name it. Wherever you went, there was a rig. I expressed interest and they were very open and nourished my curiosity. They put me in front of a two channel mixer, two house 12s, and taught me the concept of beatmatching. It went from there.
When you started making zines with your partner in 2015, did you go into it of the mind that it would evolve into a bigger, multi-medium, project? Was Love Injection destined to be all the things it is now from the start?
Absolutely not. There was no masterplan and definitely no roadmap. Paul started it first and invited me early on to participate, and my role grew with time (as did our relationship). We’re 65 issues and 7 years in. We’ve ticked off so many things off our wishlist but there’s still so much to do, so many people to talk to. It still feels like we’re winging it because there’s no staff, no office, no budgets—we just make it work on our terms and try to do the best we can while pursuing the stories that truly interest us the most.
Obviously for a lot of us who couldn’t go out during the pandemic our music habits changed. Especially for DJs and people who like to go out to consume music, did you find that your habits changed? Do you think there’s something exciting you learned about yourself and your tastes from that period?
Not much for me honestly. I’ve always kept a pretty open mind in terms of the music I listen to while being very context-minded when I present music. I was managing a record shop for six months by the time we locked down, so I was on this incredible journey of absorbing new music on a daily basis. It was the best job ever. But also having a weekly radio show (shouts The Lot Radio!) with Paul has been the best driver. We’re always ‘digging’, always looking for something that speaks to us. Radio is such a great format for putting people on because it is a different way of entertainment. You don’t have the pressures of a full dance floor. But I did definitely miss the euphoria of parties and the special moments that couldn’t be replicated at home.
If Prelude is a Prelude for what is to be a fruitful music career for you in the future, where do you see it going from here?
Hopefully making space for collaboration, and allowing me the opportunity to further develop my voice. I feel like I’ve already changed so much since this album was made, that I’m keen to see who connects with the next one.
Interview by Jacob N-E.
Pictures by Guarionex Rodriguez Jr.