CarbonWorks is not your typical band. It’s more a collective of talented session musicians really, headed by its creator and guitarist Neal Barnard – who also happens to be a world-renowned medical doctor. Based in Washington, D.C., the band’s music is a unique fusion of rock, contemporary classical, jazz, blues and avant-garde, giving their sound an uncommon breadth and depth. With delicate melodies over driving rhythms, blues overlying classical strings, and frequent use of non-English lyrics, their songs defy categorization. Regarding the band name, in an interview with the website All Access Music, Barnard explained: “Well, ‘The Beatles’ and ‘The Rolling Stones’ were already taken. And at the base of it all, we are carbon, and these are our works.”
The band released their debut self-titled album CarbonWorks in December 2016 to rave reviews, and have been releasing a new video of one of the album tracks every month or so. Their latest is a stunning video for the equally stunning instrumental track “Monaco.”
Musically, the electrifying song features Barnard playing a Steinberger guitar, an unusual instrument with no head and almost no body, built from a single piece of graphite/carbon fiber. It has a whammy bar which allows him to make the siren-like descending sounds on the track. Also featured on the track is the dan tranh, a traditional Vietnamese instrument that’s similar to a Japanese koto, played by Chau Nguyen. It sits on a stand like a piano and is played sort of like a harp. The other musicians playing on this track include Allegra Havens on violin, Jeff Phelps on cello, Shea Roebuck on bass and Mike Stetina on drums.
Barnard stated he was inspired to write the song while in the Monaco train station, “when over the loudspeaker came a little four-note chime to announce a message about upcoming trains. And those four notes got stuck in my brain and eventually became a song. You’ll hear Chau play them.”
The music video was actually filmed in the beautiful principality of Monaco. Barnard is shown starting on a run before dawn, then the camera films scenes of what he would observe from his own eyes as he runs the course of the Monaco Grand Prix. The video goes back and forth between footage of the race track and scenes of the band performing the song. At the end of his run, he collapses in front of the Chapel of Sainte-Devote—the hazardous corner where many Formula One cars have crashed or spun out.
To learn more about CarbonWorks, check out their website.