Freshly graduated in dentistry from the University of Glasgow, musician Chrissy Barnacle tells VC how much she hates debating over veganism and whether she’ll be ditching her guitar for the rubber gloves.
We meet for a coffee at Meadow Road on a chilled Wednesday morning. Donning one of her finest charity shop ensembles, the 23-year-old greets me with a friendly hug. Hailing from Cambuslang but with an accent influenced by her English mother, Chrissy’s speaking voice doesn’t bear much resemblance to her quirky style of singing – which she is known for around Glasgow’s thriving music scene. So where did it all begin for Ms Barnacle? She admits taking inspiration from a certain Canadian pop-punk artist. “I started writing songs in the park with my friend at 10 because Avril Lavigne’s new album had just dropped and I always knew I liked the idea of writing songs. “When I was about 18 I actually started thinking maybe I could write something, I was really shy and didn’t let anyone hear them until I was about 19 or 20. “I was incredibly nervous but I wanted to build up that confidence, so one summer I went to open mics every week. People started recognising me and I started playing some shows here and there. It’s been a few years later and I’m still doing it!”
A vegetarian at 15, Chrissy walks me through her transition into veganism, and how politics motivated her to make that change. “I thought I was so radical being vegetarian” she says, “Then when I was 18, I met lots of politically active people at uni, who were passionate about human rights. They introduced me to animal rights and the more I spoke about it and read about it, I realised what I had been doing wasn’t good enough. “I couldn’t continue not being vegan” she adds. Chrissy tells me how impressed she is at the evident change in public attitude over the past 5 years she has been vegan. “I was at a wedding recently and there was another vegan there which I found so unexpected. Not long ago, free from sections didn’t even exist! “When I think about those who were vegan in the 90s, I’m just amazed. How did they do it? Did they just eat peanut butter out the jar?”
Apologetically and politely requesting a jug of soy milk for her latte instead “Sorry, I should have said!”, it is clear that Chrissy’s non-confrontational manner doesn’t just exist through her activism. “I hate arguing with people. It really bums me out and I get upset over it.” Chrissy admits she has had a fair amount of scrutiny from people who want to prove her vegan habits wrong. “They’ll go; ah I’ve just invalidated your lifestyle! You can eat a burger now! “Some people enjoy debating and just look at it as an intellectual exercise but when it’s over something you care so much about, it can be upsetting.” Chrissy explains the mental shift she has had over the course of her vegan journey. “I used to jump down people’s throats. “I’d say, well that’s wrong so here’s why you’re wrong! “Maybe I’m a bit burnt out. I used to be very politically active and it stressed me out. “Most people won’t turn vegan after an argument with someone at a party. I think people do it in their own time.”
Now, Chrissy takes a back seat when it comes to conflict between vegans and non-vegans, “I only have so many minutes in my life span and I’m not going to spend them arguing with you” she says, laughing. Despite being a passionate vegan, Chrissy gets nervous to pin animal rights and human rights together, although she does think there is a crossover. “I don’t want to say they’re connected because I don’t really agree when people say that animals are going through a holocaust…I feel very uncomfortable with that. “I am nervous to say they are too close to each other. I’m appalled at what humans do to animals but I do think there is a line to be drawn.” She adds, “I think the reason humans believe we can do what we do to animals is purely based on hierarchical structures and how humans feel we are a group above them. I believe we should all be equal.
“That’s also why institutional hierarchies or human rights abuses take place. The reason I am vegan is the same reason I am passionate about human rights, because I see a destructive hierarchy.” Chrissy tells me she hates the idea that “’you can only ever care about one thing at a time!’ But we’re humans! We have the capacity to care about many things.” We go on to discuss how great humans are at changing and adapting, something Chrissy admits she has done, especially through the clothes she wears. “The concept of wearing old leather has really evolved overtime for me. “When I first transitioned I had a second hand pair of doc martens, in this really nice beetle green colour and I was in love with them. I thought at the time, yeah they’re leather but they’re second hand so making use of the animal.” However, criticism from a friend made Chrissy realise this was something she had to reconsider, “They thought this validated the idea of using an animal.”
“I don’t really buy new stuff, most of my clothes are from charity shops anyway so I tried to be harsh on myself and look at the labels and put things back if they had the slightest bit of wool or whatever. Now I don’t touch it. It was a slow gradual process and I no longer wear anything from an animal. “It’s that element of when you cease to feel the same way you do now. It’s the beautiful thing about life, we all change.”
Coincidentally, some of the most loved music venues around the city are also vegan institutions. “Certain music communities have a high prevalence of vegans – like the DIY music scene” she says. So does the doe-eyed songstress have a favourite spot to gig at? “I really like Nice n Sleazy’s, it has great sound and the bar is really nice. I also like the sound at Mono though, it’s absolutely gorgeous. “I play in a band [Joyce Delaney] with another girl and we live about 10 mins away from each other so she’ll walk to mine and then we’ll walk to hug and pint together, get a massive bowl of food for a fiver and walk home together. It’s a little tradition.” Those familiar with Chrissy’s music will know her song, Hazelnuts. Most -vegan- fans will assume this is about the infamous Vego bar, however, Chrissy informs me we’ve been wrong all along. “It would be, but, here’s the thing, it was in 2013 before Vego ever came to the UK! It was about the Moofree hazelnut bar which you can never get anymore sadly.” Luckily for Chrissy, her local newsagents still stock the old-recipe Jammy Dodgers. “I’m so glad I can still get them but this is not good for my attempt to lose some weight.” Chrissy elaborates on her weight-loss attempts, almost all of which have left her feeling unhappy. “I was trying to do that 5:2 thing last year and was telling myself that maybe if I changed my body I’d feel better. “Then I realised feeling terrible and punishing yourself for eating certain things is a recipe for disaster.” Aiming for a healthier relationship with food, Chrissy wants to get back her love of cooking. “I used to love to cook and do really mad experimental stuff. Now I eat the same stuff every day, I’m very boring and a creature of habit. “My recent discovery is a big box of really cheap tempeh from a Chinese supermarket in town. My flatmate Danny is an amazing cook, and does it in hot oil with paprika, cooks it on both sides, take the heat off and puts soy sauce in the pan. It tastes amazing and is so much cheaper.”
We round up the chat by discussing plans for the future, and which career is the fall back – music or dentistry? “This is a really bizarre point in my life because I’m trained to do one job that I don’t really want to do. “It’s crazy to think how much your life changes through the course of university. I had never played a song to anyone when I chose to study dentistry and now I’m torn between the two. “I’m trying to get an album together. I have all the songs written but I’m just bad at committing to things” she says. “It’s much harder as a solo artist, I’m thinking, how much do I want to build into this? Do I want to collab with people or do I want it to just be me and a guitar? “Ideally I want it out by this winter, or early 2017.” There are not enough hours in the day for Chrissy, who spends the majority of her time gigging around Glasgow. “I had a night off last night and it was really nice, I think I should have a few more of those. My temple is in ruins.”