Kevin Barker Shares The Family Jams of Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsom and Vetiver
Kevin Barker’s film The Family Jams documents a 2004 U.S. tour by Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsom and Vetiver before each of the acts garnered greater critical acclaim and popularity. The 81-minute documentary finds the musicians playing tiny art galleries and modest rock clubs as well as jamming with like-minded artists on the road including Espers, Jonny Corndawg and Antony and the Johnsons. A musician who has toured and recorded as Currituck County, Barker has crafted a movie as homegrown and idiosyncratic as Banhart, Newsom and Vetiver’s music. The Family Jams just wrapped up a brief run at Brooklyn’s reRun Gastropub Theater. Meanwhile, Barker is doing post-production work on his first feature film titled Last Kind Words, which stars Oscar-nominated actor Brad Dourif of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest fame.
What prompted you to film this tour?
I had become friends with Devendra. I met him through my friend Brooke Stietinsons, who plays in Espers. This is when Devendra lived in Brooklyn. I thought he was incredibly talented and really had a magnetic presence onstage and offstage. I thought he’d make a good subject of a film, and I told him that. I really didn’t push it at the time. When this tour began coming together with all these three groups, Devendra asked me if I wanted to come and film it. I guess he realized that since it was going to be all three of these bands touring together that it would be something more interesting than an ordinary tour. So I immediately jumped on it.
After the tour in The Family Jams, Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom broke through to a larger audience. Did it feel like they were on the verge of something bigger as the tour progressed?
It really did. This was Joanna’s first U.S. tour. She’d only done like a week of shows or something before that. It was really interesting to see how the response to her grew throughout the tour. By the end of the tour, it seemed like people were coming out to see her as much as they were coming out to see Devendra even though Devendra had had albums out for longer and seemed like he was the bigger draw. People were really starting to pick up on Joanna and become interested in her. It definitely felt at the time that all three of these bands were going to have careers that were going to take them places. It was interesting for me to try and put the film together and to decide on how to do it, because in many ways when I first shot it, my plan was never to shoot it, edit it and then put it out right away. I always had the feeling that it would be something that would be more interesting to people down the road after everyone had gone on to other things.
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