Hailing from Auckland, though now living in Sydney’s inner west, William Cooper Barling – aka WCB – concocts an enticing blend of electronica, trip-hop and soul, that is inspired and melodramatic.
With a background in performance, having danced in the Okareka Dance Company, WCB’s music dwells in darkness, swirling in an emotional vortex, but with a strong theatrical essence that is enrapturing to listen to.
His debut EP, simply titled EP1, traverses sparse electronic landscapes, pierced with his own soulful vocals. Dealing with themes like toxic relationships and their subsequent breakdown, fear and isolation, and the power of nostalgia, the five songs that make up EP1 are intensely personal, but also instantly relatable.
To find out a little more about how it all came together, what inspired the songs and why Barling loves Portishead so much, we asked him to run us through EP1 track-by-track. Be sure to catch him as he brings it to the stage of Oxford Art Factory, Friday September 1st alongside the wonderful Eilish Gilligan.
Ahead of his headline show at Oxford Art Factory on September 1st, WCB runs us through the ins and outs of his complex, dramatic new EP.
Control is an interesting one. I wanted to play with the dynamic of a toxic relationship (we’ve all had them) and how you can literally become a different person, driven by desire or lust often doing stupid shit that at the time feels good but you know is gonna bite you in the ass. It is almost like you know you’re being a dumbass but you kinda like it and don’t care. It can be fun.
With the video I wanted to be a little more “fuck the Patriarchy” and have strong women teaching a man a lesson; in this case me. There are of course sexual undertones in the most literal sense that you feel powerless to your physical response in these types of relationships, but there is a darkness and seediness to that that I wanted to capture in the production as well. It tends to feel sexy and scary at the same time.
I am a massive fan of Portishead and have been since I was introduced to them when I was studying; I was probably around 19 and I either listened to Tool, Sublime, Deftones or …. Britney. I was definitely not prepared when I first heard them and immediately became obsessed.
This cover is really an homage to how much they shaped my musical taste, even if it isn’t in the way I produce, it definitely is a guide for how I want people to feel listening to my stuff. I wanted to stray away from the original seeing how iconic it is and move in a different direction without sacrificing the intent… and I got the opportunity to fall in love with the song all over again.
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/338922341″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
This song came about as I thought back to earlier relationships I have been in during my adult life. Overdone is the representation of a relationship gone stale, like you love them but you’re not in love with them; honestly this has happened to me more than once so I have a bit of experience.
I wanted to express the feeling of regret for my own hand in it going south, and also for not calling it quits earlier. I have a weird thing where I want to please people even at a detriment to myself or them… Working on it don’t worry.
I needed the listener to know that love is still there and that I want the best for the other person, I’m just not the one that is gonna make them happy. In the video I wanted to parallel this idea by creating the two looks and mimicking them visually, using symbology like washing hands. I was lucky enough to be dressed by the incredible Jimmy D whose understanding of androgyny really allowed me to remove gender from the song and video.
Eclipse for me is a figurative representation of a solar eclipse. Whether it be social dynamic or societal ideals of what is right and wrong, whether it is aspects of your personality overshadowing one and other or a relationship taking over your sense of self.
In truth it is all ultimately inevitable and passing so you learn and grow from what you discover about yourself in those moments. The idea for the song came after spending some time overseas and how isolating it is when you are alone on the other side of the world and how even a bustling city can be as hollow as an empty airport hangar. I used to find it quite intimidating being left alone with my own thoughts, now I look forward to it.
I wrote the intro to Eclipse quite a while after I thought I had finished the song. The intro was what I thought was going to be the beginning of another song although short it felt kind of “finished” but when I was playing with it being before Eclipse I felt it really synced up and set the tone for the EP.
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/291726280″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]
Staring at Mirrors
I wrote this song the week after I had returned from tour with Okareka Dance Company, we had just performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and I was itching to get back in the studio and get cooking with the EP.
Something about the city of Edinburgh made me feel… The best word to describe it is nostalgic even though I had never been there before, there was something about the architecture, the people, the land that really inspired me.
I wrote the song in only a couple of days which is strange for me and as I was writing I started remembering all these things about my life and my childhood that suddenly made me reminisce about where I grew up and what a different person I am even in the last you know five years, that’s when the lyric “Staring at Mirrors, trying to find an answer” came about, I honestly think checking yourself and looking internally at the best and worst of times can help you get through whatever shit you’re dealing with … It can be fucking grim, but it works for me.
Check out the new EP below: