An exclusive interview with Tame Impala drummer and avid football fan Julien Barbagallo
Music and football have always gone hand in hand—from terrace chants based on rock and indie hits to established artists name-dropping their favourite players. As it turns out, Julien Barbagallo – the driving force behind Tame Impala and eponymous side project Barbagallo – is the latest luminary to share a love for both the beautiful game and a beautiful tune.
We caught up with Julien to talk his love of football, how it influences his writing, and his side project to capture the beautiful game while touring the world.
Currents was one of Glory’s favourite albums of 2015. What are you working on now – your solo project or Tame Impala? And what can the fans expect this year?
Both! I’ve being working on new solo material at home, recording and mixing. I’m hoping to release an EP before the summer. Also, this will be an exciting year for Tame Impala, with a new album on the way. We are back on the road in April to headline Coachella. After that we’re going to be touring quite a lot for the rest of the year – mainly festivals around the US and Europe. Lots of good stuff for 2019! I can’t wait to catch up with the boys to play the new songs.
Tell us more about your relationship with football. How did you get into it, who do you support and do you get to go to many games?
I was introduced to football when I was young. I remember my first lesson was when I was six. It didn’t take though – I ran straight off the field towards my mum in the car park as she was trying to leave. Still not sure what happened there, but I figure that was my chance to become professional and I blew it!
From there, I warmed to it and I used to play a lot in primary school during lunchtime as a goalkeeper. I loved using my reflexes and I loved throwing myself to the ground, sometimes more focused on the creativity of my stunts than on the efficiency! Everyone at school was crazy about football, especially around the early ‘90s after Marseille had won the European Cup.
Since then I never really stopped playing with mates either outside or indoor 5x5. I always have a pair of goals and a ball in the back of my car. Unfortunately, I can’t really commit to going to watch a club because of all the touring.
I started supporting the Toulouse Football Club more seriously in the mid 2000s and went to a lot of games whatever the weather. I was very dedicated. I went alone quite often. It’s always fun to blend into the crowd and bond with complete strangers for 90 minutes. These days it’s a bit harder with the time difference and the distance, but I always check the results and watch the highlights (when there is any…It’s been a pretty shit season) on the web!
Here in Australia, I went to watch Melbourne Victory play a few times. Fun fact: their striker Ola Toivonen was at the Toulouse Football Club before he signed here. I also remember watching Del Piero play with Sydney. He was so much better than anyone else on the pitch even though he was almost retired!
Obviously you've toured all over the world. Do you try and catch any games if you can?
I wish I could, but it’s pretty rare to spend enough time somewhere to catch a game. My dream is to watch a game in South America. Last November I was in Buenos Aires with my band whilst the first final game of the Copa Libertadores was being played, but it was absolutely impossible to get tickets. We walked along La Bombonera in La Boca – it was really impressive. The stadium is in the heart of the whole neighbourhood – a huge blue-and-yellow building rising high right in the middle of thousands of small houses. I did manage to watch Barcelona last year at the Camp Nou. 7-1 – that was an incredible game! You’ll often see me looking at match schedules and touring itineraries to see if any match up . I wish I could make that happen more often!
We see you've started an Instagram account @goalsoftheworld capturing the beautiful game while on tour. What inspired you to start this project, and what’s the objective?
I love soccer, so it came to me very naturally to document the omnipresence of the sport everywhere I go around the globe. Every time I see a pitch, I just want to run over to it! Every time I see people play with a ball, I feel like a dog. Now even the other guys in Tame Impala yell “Goals of the world!” when they spot goals while travelling. You find football pitches absolutely everywhere in all sorts of forms – from proper grass pitches with goals and nets to random fields with only two bags for goals. There are as many pitches as there are football fans. The variety of pitches and the adaptability of football is fascinating. For me, it’s obvious that along with music, football is the greatest universal language and brings people together despite all their differences. That’s what I want to show with my Goals of the World Instagram account.
What is it about football pitches amongst different landscapes that sparks your imagination?
I find it comforting. It’s a sign of our unity as people – this thing that draws us together. It’s like seeing a familiar face in the crowd of strangers. You can be on the other side of the world in a completely unknown place, but if you see a football pitch, it brings back warm feelings of fun and joy. Kicking a ball for me is the epitome of joy. Plain and simple. I remember a game we played with the Tame guys on the Ipanema beach in Rio against locals. There was no need to understand Portuguese or English for everyone to have the best time. Obviously we got thrashed but still, it was fun! That was actually the first photo of goals I took.
There is definitely something about community. A football pitch is kind of a pagan church. When you fly over a city before landing, that’s actually what you spot first: churches and football pitches.
Does the game inspire your musical process at all?
As a matter of fact, it does! A few years ago, I wrote a book of poetry where I used the “cut-up” method. Every week, I would take the match report of the latest Toulouse game on L’Equipe’s website, pick a few random words and rearrange them in a brand new non-football related small poem. I used a few of these poems as lyrics on my last solo album, Danse dans les Ailleurs.
I also recorded a few semi-serious rap songs about Toulouse Football Club under the name Chevalier de la Bargue. On the last one I was begging Wissam Ben Yedder not to leave the club. Now he’s killing it at Sevilla FC.
Are any other members of Tame Impala into football? If so, do you have any pre-gig kickabouts or FIFA sessions?
Unfortunately, they’re more AFL fans (Australian Football League), which has nothing to do with our European football. It’s great fun to watch though. They’re big Fremantle Dockers supporters. Sometimes they sing some Toulouse Football club chants I taught them. We went through a very intense FIFA gaming phase in the bus during several tours in the past, but eventually we had to stop because there was way too much competition and the trips are so long, we were losing our minds!
Your best footballing moment?
The world cup final last year was a crazy day. We were in London for a festival. I was the only French person along with my mate Antoine who happened to be in town. We started watching the game on a big screen in a pub near the hotel. We were so excited. Around us, no one really cared because of the whole "it's coming home" that never came home. Then we had to run to the hotel during half time to get ready for the festival. France was one goal ahead. We kept watching the game on the TV in my room until we had to leave for the festival. Third goal for France and we were losing our shit! Time to go, we jumped in the mini van and kept watching on my phone, every step of the match the screen would get smaller and our excitement would get bigger. Fourth goal for France, we lost our voices. By the time we got to the festival, we were world champions.
A player you admire/admired?
I’ve got to go with Zidane. As a player he was the last old-school hero before the generation we have now that I find way too calibrated – except for some legends like Messi. He was a perfect mix of technique, instinct and humility with a zest for unpredictability. And today he’s one of the top managers in the world. He’s a national treasure!
Listen to the brand new single Patience from Tame Impala: