Louis Barabbas (born John Louis Shurmer-Smith) is a composer, performer and label director, best known for his caustic love songs and energetic stage shows.
His performance career began in the Captive Audience Theatre Company but eventually made the switch to music as harmonica player for a number of bands spread across the genre spectrum (including members of Freddy & The Dreamers, The Holmes Brothers, The King Blues and The Dole Queue). For two years he was a fifth of rock outfit The Derelicts and earned the moniker "the hairy Bez of blues harp" for his unpredictable onstage antics. After the band split he moved to Philadelphia and recorded with Dr. Dog (credited as Harmonica John on the "Takers & Leavers" EP for Rough Trade) and subsequently returned to the UK with a headful of ideas drawn from the East Coast underground live scene.
In 2006 he turned front-man and formed Louis Barabbas & The Bedlam Six. To this day the group has played all over the world, sharing the stage with such disparate acts as Motorhead, Supergrass, The Blockheads and Sun Ra's Arkestra.
Realising that unfashionable, genre-hopping groups such as his own could achieve success through sheer stubbornness he formed the label Debt Records with bandmate Biff Roxby, producer Dan Watkins and PR-man Chris Mitchell, an enterprise devoted to supporting exceptional artists that didn't suit a traditional marketing approach (or indeed a comfortable lifestyle).
As well as The Bedlam Six, Louis has performed and collaborated with Kirsty Almeida, Liz Green, John Otway and Becca Williams. He is also the co-author (with Richard Barry and Alabaster dePlume) of the musical “Dead At The Cafe Styx” (nominated for a 100star Pick Of The Fringe award in 2008). Away from music he gives lectures about working in the creative industries (including a tour of Mexican schools and universities with Gibraltarian playwright Jon Bonfiglio). He also writes the blog Keyhole Observations about the peculiar balancing act of an independent music practitioner.
Louis passionately believes in the unifying force of music - that good songs have the power to educate, entertain and inspire. One day he hopes to write one that does all three.