Carpenters have a legion of fans worldwide that have come to love Karen’s voice 30 years after her passing. There are a few million fan now under the age of 25 who are dedicated to the voice and the music. Brandon Barry is one such fan, an American, at the young age who says Karen’s voice is textured with melancholy and loneliness. Brandon has put together a series of videos featuring the music of Carpenters which are being premiered on this Karen Carpenter Superfan page.
The following is an interview I did with Brandon in order to get some insight from a younger generation Carpenters fan.
RH = Rick Henry
BB = Brandon Barry
RH: How old are you (It is currently February 2014)?
BB: I’m 20 years old.
RH: You are a young Carpenters fan. Most people your age are into Jay Z, Bruno Mars, Chris Brown or Katy Perry. But you’re into Karen Carpenter. What’s up with that?
BB: I really think that it’s because most rap/hip-hop/pop music today lacks genuine emotional depth or even simple feeling. I’ve never quite “fit the mold”, generally speaking when compared to others in my age group, and I suppose that my taste in music can be an extension of that. I don’t like to be one of those people who calls all modern day music “garbage” or “stupid”, as there is great music still being made, but I just prefer music made in past times. Out of those artists mentioned, I know some of their songs and like some of them, however those are singers who I don’t “follow”. It’s kind of more like if they have a catchy single out and I like it, then I might notice them a bit more.
RH: How long have you been a Carpenters fan?
BB: I have been a Carpenters fan for almost two years! It’s so weird, because I feel like I’ve heard them all my life.
RH: What gets you about Karen’s voice?
BB: Karen’s voice was a gift sent from above. Really. And what get’s me is that her voice can lock on to your soul and make you feel like she’s singing just for you; that she shares with you an intimacy that’s devastatingly personal. A level of emotion that could only have come from an old soul who felt things much deeper than they could ever possibly understand. It’s a voice textured with innate melancholy and a resonant loneliness, that even the most upbeat of her tunes have a tinge of wistfulness. Her voice taps into and open’s up dimensions of the human soul and spirit that many may not have even seen within themselves. I think Cathey Stamps beautifully underlines the darkness of her voice when she says, “Somehow, Karen Carpenter continued to give voice to the pain of loneliness and the wistfulness of dreams never to be realized…”.
RH: What is the response from your friends and family upon finding out about your love for Carpenters/Karen?
BB: In my family it’s pretty neatly divided, actually. My dad and I love Carpenters and Karen, while my mom and brother have little interest in either. It was though my dad that I was introduced to their music, and though he wasn’t fully versed in their whole catalog I knew I had to be. My brother sometimes teases me about it, but it’s his loss! Though I did find out that he bought Close To You (the song) on iTunes and never told me… My friends generally aren’t really into their sound and mostly prefer newer artists and music. One friend in particular *is* starting to get into them, which I’m of course very happy about! I’m not sure if it’s that they respect the craftsmanship of their stuff and just don’t like the music as a whole or that they just can’t find anything noteworthy at all. But it is what it is. I know one person who is a big fan of many modern female pop singers, but doesn’t get what I find special in Karen…it’s like, “What?!”. Maybe he’s just afraid to admit what he really feels, a common occurrence among listeners who have put down Carpenters since they first started.
RH: At such a young age you already have an extensive knowledge of Carpenters/Karen Carpenter. It has taken me the better part of the last 15 years to accumulate my Carpenters knowledge. You must do a huge amount of reading and research.
BB: I have done much reading on the music, personal lives, cultural impact that Karen and Richard created over the years. In some cases, the word “research” might imply that investigating a topic can be strenuous work, but for me digging and discovering details ranging from the largest to the smallest seemed easy-going! It’s a lot of exploring into a legacy that in some ways has been under appreciated by the public, but once I found my way in, everything was so compelling that it was never a chore and remains fun to this day. You know, there are people who know everything about a particular artist/group and become enamored with them and their music. For me, Carpenters made music and were the kind of people that struck a golden chord in me.
RH: Other than Carpenters what are some other musicians you listen to?
BB: Lately, I’ve been really into what I consider some of the best years for music which is the 1965-1975 era. I’m a big fan of rock music and interested in hearing more of the many varied sub-genres that have evolved over the years. I never knew there could be so many, but I’m still searching out artists, songs, and albums that I can add to my favorites. I also love classic pop, the different sub-genres of jazz, folk, soul, R&B. Some favorite artists are Bob Dylan, The Mamas & The Papas, The Beatles, The Moody Blues, Simon and Garfunkel, The Zombies, Night Ranger, etc. So, yeah, it’s very varied! For (female) vocalists, next to Karen, my favorite has to be Amy Winehouse who is/was the greatest voice of my generation, and quite possibly, the greatest since Karen. Their music (one hard-edged, one soft), vocal styles (one booming, one quiet), and public personas couldn’t have been more different, but there hasn’t been any other female singers who grab my heart and soul like they do. Amy, like Karen, had a completely authentic, refreshing, and unaffected voice that could expertly balance a joyous spirit with a darker, melancholy one.
RH: Just to round things out please give us a short background of yourself. Your interests, schooling and what your future goals include.
BB: Right now, I’m technically going into my third year of college, and I transferred to a night school program after my freshmen year at a state school. I generally just like to spend time with friends, watch movies, spend time on the Internet, read (mostly articles online because I’m not much of a book person), etc. I used to have a stronger interest of getting into screenwriting/film reviewing and pursuing that, as I used to write a blog on film. But within the last year or so I’ve set my sights on film acting. A very tough business, but one that I seriously do want to find a career in. Just gotta build up some kind of resume and make my way to LA…
RH: Thank you Brandon for taking the time to do this short interview with me. I enjoy our conversations.
BB: It’s my pleasure! And I’m always looking forward to the future discussions us Carpenter-philes can passionately relish in.
Now here are a few videos which Brandon put together to celebrate the music of Carpenters:
Carpenters – Desperado (Music Video) by denny-doherty
Just for Fun