Losing his religion

With Saint Solitaire, Andrew Barnhart pushes his music toward a more genre-bending, sophisticated sound

<p><b>Fear the beard? Nah, Andrew Barnhart's Saint Solitaire crafts smart, danceable indie-rock songs with nary a Blink-182 chord in the lot.</b></p>

Fear the beard? Nah, Andrew Barnhart's Saint Solitaire crafts smart, danceable indie-rock songs with nary a Blink-182 chord in the lot.

Photo by Steven Chea

Check out Saint Solitaire on Saturday, October 26, at 9 p.m. at the G Street WunderBar, 228 G Street in Davis. There is no cover. Visit http://saintsolitaire.com for more info.

Andrew Barnhart never intended to start a solo project, yet that’s how Saint Solitaire began. The singer-songwriter was so full of ideas, he recorded Saint Solitaire’s debut electro-pop EP Full Artistic Control by himself—save for a piano part on one track.

While recording, he also played a few acoustic sets around town, but didn’t spend much time publicizing them, because he was still trying the material out on an audience.

By the time Control was finished, however, Barnhart had put together a full band for his release show. And that, he says, made all the difference.

“I know what it’s like to have a band with a leader and hired guns compared to a band that has contributing members,” Barnhart says. “I’ve always preferred the latter.”

Currently, Saint Solitaire’s lineup includes Peter Miller on guitar, James Murphy on bass, Dave Jensen on drums, Richie Smith on keyboard and, in the role of deejay, Chris Karriker.

Putting that band together, however, proved tricky. Barnhart didn’t just have an EP already recorded, he also had two additional ones of which he’d made demo recordings. The songs were ready to be recorded in full, but Barnhart wanted the new band’s input. While the first EP’s music consisted of electronic indie pop, the demos for the upcoming recordings are a little different. The band plans to record the second EP in November, with a tentative release set for December. For now, the members of Saint Solitaire are tasked with figuring out how to transcribe Barnhart’s demos into full band compositions.

The second EP is a strange hybrid of pop punk and dubstep, which Barnhart says “strangely, somehow works well.” The third EP sounds even dancier, he says, but “not necessarily dance-club dancing.”

In stark contrast to the music he now makes with Saint Solitaire, Barnhart spent his early musical years in No Avail, a band that worshipped at the altar of Blink-182.

Barnhart attributes his limited taste as a teen to growing up in a religious family.

“The first album I ever bought was [by] Third Eye Blind—and I loved it, but my dad took it away ’cause of the [drug-related] lyrics,” Barnhart says.

And so, like many teens, he turned to his peers.

“A bunch of my friends, they’d been listening to Christian pop-rock bands, MxPx, stuff like that. It was all I had,” he says.

Barnhart’s life changed, however, after he graduated from El Camino Fundamental High School in 2003, made new friends and found himself exposed to music he’d never heard before, namely Radiohead, the Mars Volta and Deerhunter.

“I didn’t want to write what I’d been writing anymore,” Barnhart says.

And the more music Barnhart was exposed to, the more he wanted to hear. Now, in addition to Saint Solitaire, he’s currently in three other bands, including a gig playing bass for local singer-songwriter James Cavern.

Barnhart says he enjoys the different turns his music takes these days.

“I really like stuff like the Gorillaz, [where] you’re kind of hearing something different from song to song. I just like to be influenced by [it] all,” he says.

Barnhart’s own music reflects this approach. On the surface, Saint Solitaire’s debut EP sounds like a pop-friendly indie-rock album packed with catchy hooks, but there is also no shortage of electronic sounds and drum machines to add nuance. Throughout, Barnhart mixes in guitars, synthesizers, drums and drum machines. The result is a sound with one foot rooted in rock and the other in electronic.

“You can do anything you want,” Barnhart says of his musical philosophy. “You don’t necessarily have to follow the one-genre rule.”