With his halo of whitish-grey hair, thick black spectacles framing his face and an SLR slung across his tightly dotted shirt, KK Barrett speaks with the quiet gravity of a creative heavy weight. Simultaneously high brow yet utterly Hollywood, KK Barrett is straight forward and present, if a little imposing; given the nature of his works. His resume name drops directors Spike Jonze and Sofia Coppola as his preferred collaborators and includes some of the most memorable and sometimes slightly controversial Hollywood films in recent times, like: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011), Where the Wild Things Are (2009), Marie Antoinette (2006), I ♥ Huckabees (2004), Lost in Translation (2003), Adaptation. (2002) and Being John Malkovich (1999).
KK’s own vision helped give each of these feature films their context and place; to not only be the eccentric, beautiful, moving and occasionally disturbing works that they are, but to also help them connect and resonate with new generations of film lovers in a deep, yet undeniably pop-tastic and modern way.
To help part the myths and metaphors that drape themselves so dramatically a-top Karen O’s masterpiece Stop The Virgens, in a special Surprise & Delight for Sydney Opera House Insiders, KK Barrett took some time out of soundcheck and prep on Saturday night to give the lucky Insiders a sneak peak at the show he co-created and how it came to be at Sydney Opera House. Here are some photos below – check the full facebook gallery HERE.
A thrilling half hour to listen and speak to a creative such as KK Barrett, particularly in the light of information that a little bird chirped at us; that KK had told some Sydney acquaintances that he wasn’t even in town! That’s how inside Sydney Opera House Insiders are for ya.
An eager and rather well dressed audience filed into the darkened Opera Theatre, to the awaiting echoes of a deep reverberating chant. A lone dark figure keeps vigil on stage, in front of a sheer screen of ghostly skeletal trees. We have entered Karen O’s Stop The Virgens, a ‘psycho’ rock opera seven years in the making and marking its Australian debut at Vivid LIVE.
The screen slowly rises to reveal our hostess for the night, Karen O, wielding a golden horn microphone, dressed in banshee-esque fur and seemingly giving birth to a litter of new ‘virgens’. There are pounding drums, the combined voices of the 28-strong ‘Virgen’ acolyte chorus and a sea of blonde crop wigs. (more…)
Amidst the buzz of Vivid LIVE and Vivid Festival, last night was not only a particularly exciting time for Karen O and Yeah Yeah Yeahs fans; but also for lovers of art, music and creative expression. All of them flocked to Sydney Opera House to witness the perhaps never to be seen again spectacle of Karen O and KK Barrett‘s psycho opera, Stop The Virgens.
As showgoers are flooding the internet today with awestruck and bewildered praise for the epic drama and heartbreaking depth of Karen O’s magnum opus, we collected a few little Instagram snapshots to share with you!
And in case you missed it earlier this week, Karen, bandmate Nick Zinner and Jason Grisell stopped by Triple j to chat a little bit about the show and did a live rendition of ‘Duets’, the second song out the gates during the performance. Amazing.
And #HellYes #KarenO bonus:
P.S. You should also go follow us on Instagram (with the same handle on twitter too) @VividLIVE
Most everyone has some kind of dream. For the majority of us, sitting on that dream makes it turn into part of the fat on our arses that accumulates from not getting up off it and doing something to make that dream happen. But for Karen O, sitting on something she loves so much for seven years without doing anything about it was a very difficult thing to do indeed.
With heavy bangs obscuring her eyes, Karen O sings into the mike during a rehearsal somewhere deep in Brooklyn, quite unaware of anything outside herself; yet she is as equally mesmerising as she is onstage commanding a crowd. The rehearsal is for her magnum opus and her most closely guarded secret – that was, until it was unleashed into the world for the first time in New York in October 2011 with the help of the Glam Team.
“It was the first time I’d made anything so euphoric and so free of suffering, frustration or pain,” she laughs ruefully. “It’s been the ace up my sleeve for the last seven years; and simultaneously, the albatross around my neck.”
Entitled Stop The Virgens, this intensely personal work was kept under lock and key, prior to it’s DUMBO debut late last year. Only a select few in Karen’s inner circle had been privy to it ’til then. It’s obvious from the way each person involved talks of it how fiercely proud and protective they are of this incredibly regarded work. “It was hard because I was so proud of it, and I wanted to get it out into the world, but I knew how precious it was to Karen,” says Sam Spiegel, Stop the Virgen’s co-music director.
It was only for the most special time and opportunity that everything was able to come together to finally be presented to the world at large. Lucky for Sydney this year, Karen O and her crew have deemed Vivid LIVE one such right opportunity, and with news that the New York crew arrived just yesterday led by Karen, the excitement is steadily mounting.
Co-created with KK Barrett (Being john Malkovich, Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette, Where The Wild Things Are), Stop The Virgens is the autobiographical and emotional evolution of Karen O. All the characters originate from outer space, including Karen and the thirty Virgens (locally harvested, watch out for some familiar faces), who can perhaps be interpreted as parts of Karen herself. Karen is the narrator of the Virgens’ story, the walls that they hit in life and the lessons that they learn; mainly from the Cosmic Nuns, who represent older womanhood.
Because when you’re young and wild, you don’t want to hear any of that. Which is really what the show is about more than anything.
Stop The Virgens’ director Adam Rapp describes it as, “An incredibly personal but not necessarily a connected narrative.. It’s an autobiographical, emotional journey for her. It’s very raw and she’s just putting it all out there…”
We already know that Karen O is brilliant. That’s a given. But if you want to take a deeper look at who she is and how she interacts with the world (ultimately a story that every person has a version of) Stop The Virgens is it; a dazzling expression of life magnified through Karen O’s vision.
It’s been a minute since our last STV instalment, we’ve been a little preoccupied taking up space with these announcements… Last time around we discussed Karen O’s evolution from NY Post-Punk chic to a latex-clad rock goddess, courtesy of old friend and collaborator Christian Joy.
This one is for the tech heads out there.
Nick Zinner, guitarist in the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and co-musical director in Karen O’s STOP THE VIRGENS has forged a signature sound – part chiming harmonics, part dizzying squall that has resulted in a cross between revered Australian guitarist Rowland S. Howard (The Birthday Party, Crime & the City Solution, These Immortal Souls) and the pop noise smarts of Sonic Youth.
Giant monster claw. Lotus flower eyes. Lots of latex.
The singular, eccentric vision of New York-based costume designer Christian Joy.
Since forming over a decade ago, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have continually broken preconceptions of what their initial garage rock origins implied, whether experimenting in the studio with acoustic instrumentation (Show Your Bones), raw live recording (Is Is EP) or forays into electronic production (It’s Blitz!). Similarly, the trio’s ferocious performances have continually evolved over the years, anchored by Karen’s theatrical presence and ‘punk-meets-glitter-glam’ look.
Part one of our introduction to the glam team behind STOP THE VIRGENS aimed to shed light on the intimate ties between Karen and her collaborators. This time ’round we felt a special tribute was necessary to Karen’s long term partnership with friend and costume designer Christian Joy. There since her humble beginnings, Joy has grown side-by-side with the YYYs, reflecting their DIY approach to art.
‘I’m influenced by the music and she’s influenced by the costume. It’s very natural. When I started making clothes, I didn’t even know what I was doing, and that reflected the raw energy of the first EP’
Record. Promote. Tour. Record. Promote. Tour. Record. Promote. Tour. Repeat.
Remember the first time you got giddy over this blistering performance or hearing word of that collaboration? Karen O has never failed to surprise us, and we can’t think of a better example than the Psycho Opera STOP THE VIRGENS of her punk-like disregard for the record-promote-tour cycle. Continue below to get our drift…
Karen’s transformation of her would-be solo album into this sensory explosion has floored us, incorporating elements of theatre, dance and of course her trademark indie rock yowl! Perhaps best known for fronting the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Karen’s adventurous collaborations have recently seen her work with provocative legends such as filmmaker David Lynch and Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor, For STV though, Karen has called upon her closest friends to make this seven year project come to life. Meet the ‘glam team’…
This morning we kicked off the program for Vivid LIVE 2012 alongside Vivid Light and Vivid Ideas. It was a long night as we finished up a few confirmations and copy changes but in the end we made it – in one case getting sign off 30 minutes before I went onstage.
At one point this year, our program was so driven by incredible women we actually toyed with the idea of doing an all female event. That would have been really interesting but also would have excluded some amazing projects that we wanted in the season. However, when you have a look at our website you’ll be struck by the remarkably strong spine of work by stridently original iconic and iconoclastic female artists.