The Barbaras were a Memphis-based band whose music was a playful mélange of bubblegum pop, psychedelia, and garage punk.
The group was formed in 2006, with Bennett Foster on guitar and vocals, Alex Gates on guitar and vocals, Will McElroy on guitar and keyboards, Stephen Pope on bass, and Billy Hayes on drums and vocals. All five members were in their early twenties, and the Barbaras developed a reputation for their energetic and imaginative live shows, which often featured props, costumes, and dancers, while each show was set around a specific visual theme. (Stephen Pope once told reporter Michael Donahue, "Holidays are really good for the Barbaras because we don't have to think of a theme.") As the Barbaras made a name for themselves in Memphis, they found a friend and ally in Jay Reatard, who liked their sound and volunteered to help the group in the studio. In 2008, the Barbaras released a single on celebrated local label Goner Records, "Summertime Road" b/w "Day at the Shrine" and "Flow." The single received enthusiastic reviews, the Barbaras played a celebrated set at the 2008 Goner Fest (a track from their show appeared on a collection of performances from the festival), and they struck a deal with In the Red Records to release their first full-length album. However, when Reatard recruited Billy Hayes and Stephen Pope to play in his road band, this caused tensions within the Barbaras, who were already trying to arrange recording sessions for the album around Reatard's increasingly busy schedule and their own commitments. During a tour, Hayes and Pope and McElroy abruptly quit the Reatard's band, and joined Wavves. Foster and McElroy stuck together and formed the Magic Kids. Reatard was said to have been upset with the Barbaras after their sudden collapse, and supposedly told members of the group he had erased the tracks from the uncompleted album shortly before his unexpected death in January 2010. However, years later, the lost Barbaras recordings were discovered on the hard drive of Reatard's recording setup, and the material was remastered for belated release on a collection from Goner, simply called 2006-2008. ~ Mark Deming