Bora York's Chris Bartels: If I had stuck with folk rock, I would've been settling

Categories: CD Release
Bora York.jpg
Photo by Jon Wise
As many artists before that have set out to reinvent themselves, Chris Bartels, too, has turned his music aesthetic inside out for his new project, Bora York. The new band has Bartels including his wife, Rebekah, and a few other artists collaborating on a new sound that has built on Chris' former musical life -- that of a folk musician. Bora York's new album, Dreaming Free, has the band claiming the taste of synth pop, while pulling in the gentle and zen feel of ambient rock.

Gimme Noise spoke with Chris before the band's album release at the Triple Rock on Friday about his evolution in sound. 

See also:
Chris Bartels talks Morning's Gold and DIY recording

Band members: Chris Bartels, Rebekah Bartels, Charlie Wirth, Brian Seidel, Bjorn Nilsen, Jamie Kauppi

Gimme Noise: Chris, you had a previous project before Bora York. Why did you decide to pursue this new project?

Chris Bartels: Bora York actually started as a follow-up to my previous project. I started writing songs for a full-length folk album, and during the writing process, the entire project drastically changed style. I think I just wasn't very satisfied with where the new songs were headed and how they sounded, and I eventually decided to stop holding back style-wise and started adding more synth-driven, dancier elements to the songs. So it was an unintentional, gradual transition.

GN: Do you feel it was too different than your solo stuff?

CB: Yeah, I remember one day as I was listening to the songs I had so far, I was sort of freaking out. Most of the songs I actually liked were far from the original intended style, and at the time I was still not committed to completely changing the project and starting a new band name and all that. It wasn't until I made the commitment to let loose creatively, and just go with what felt right with the songs, that I began to get excited about the songs and believe in the project.

GN: Do you feel Bora York is where you're headed, or are you still writing solo stuff?

CB: Yes, and yes. Bora York is absolutely my favorite project right now, and the one that I'm investing the most time and effort into. I do, however, have a number of new solo songs written as well, though they too could turn out quite different from the Morning's Gold sound. But that's on the backburner for now. I don't know when I'll get to that. I think I just have a problem - I can never stick to one thing! I always have to be starting new projects and playing around with styles I haven't worked with in the past.  Which has its ups and downs I guess.

But I definitely plan on sticking with Bora York, and I've already started writing new songs and tracking rough demos for new material. Plus we have a lot of fun as a band and we all work really well together, so it'll be fun to have the rest of the band more involved in the writing process with new songs.

GN: What's the meaning behind the album name Dreaming Free?

CB: Dreaming Free is taken from the last song on the album, the title track. Musically, it's very mellow compared to the rest of the album, but I felt like the lyrics and the overall feel of the song most appropriately encompasses the album as a whole.

The song is about exactly that: dreaming free, and not settling for less than what could be -- in whatever your passions in life are. It's about being hopeful and striving for something greater than you can imagine, and chasing that dream. Though it's not a concept album or anything, this is sort of a theme that shows up from time to time throughout the songs.

I don't know what this album would look like now if I had forced myself to stick with the folk sound, but looking back on it now, I really think that would've been settling for less. It was a rough, slow process conceding to a completely different sound (I ended up throwing more than 20 songs out the window), but it was well worth it in the end. So it's interesting how that worked out - the actual writing process was a tangible picture of this album's overall theme.

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