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Island musician rocks out on drums from rocky heights

Jesse Barnes plays while surrounded by splendor in north Vancouver Island and records for Youtube

The spectacular views of Vancouver Island’s mountains are sometimes enhanced by a little musical accompaniment.

Jesse Barnes, a resident of the Sayward Valley, has been spending his spare time this summer travelling to mountaintop vistas to bang the drums, literally. The songs Barnes plays span a range of musical genres, including rock, reggaeton — and even a little Backstreet Boys — which he records and posts to YouTube, making for an impressive sight.

Barnes played drums growing up and into his teenage years. But his playing fell by the wayside until the pandemic, when like others who either found a new pastime or rekindled an old one, he started again.

Instead of playing in the typical garage or basement, he decided to head to the great outdoors — specifically, the mountainous areas of north Vancouver Island — as a way to both soak it all in and share the splendor.

“The scenery is dope and it just feels really good to play outside,” he said. “Plus people in other places don’t really get to see the scenery that we get to see.”

The location and time of each set is a spur-of-the-moment decision.

“I basically pack everything up in the back of my pickup truck and go do it,” he said. “I might run through the song a couple times before, but generally it’s pretty improvised.”

But they mostly happen on weekends, when his girlfriend, Adriana Gutierrez, is free to film.

While Barnes picks places accessible by his truck, setting up and playing in the elements is no small feat.

“You have to deal with the bugs, weather and just everything that goes with being outdoors,” he said. “We did a couple videos in the heat wave when it was around 37 degrees or something like that.”

Just like an alpine hike, Barnes chooses days when the conditions are best.

“If it’s too windy, you can’t play because of the microphones,” he said.

Barnes’ setup includes a full drum set, mic kit, interface and laptop — plus a generator for power. He records the audio using the computer, then combines the recording with the video using editing software.

He then posts each final version to his Youtube channel, ‘ImjesseAF’ (his middle names are Anastasio Francis).

His videos cannot be monetized because he plays over the artist’s recorded track. But through his channel and sharing his videos on social media, he has been able to connect with other drummers and content creators, at a time when meeting new people can be difficult.

“I’m doing a collaboration with this dude I found through Youtube,” he said. “There’s a whole community of people that just play drums and make videos out there.”

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