Monday, June 22, 2009

2001-??-?? - ZUM Online

Of Montreal by Jeremy Crown

Kevin Barnes has brought back an innocence to indie rock with his jolly band Of Montreal. Their new album, Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse on Kindercore, blends the stripped down pop sound of their first two albums with the theme of story and concept from their previous album, Gay Parade. Athens, Georgia-based Barnes took time to answer some questions about the new album and his creative process.

You seem to have a fascination with concept albums (A Petite Tragedy, Gay Parade, Coquelicot); do you go into writing an album with the idea of creating a concept album or does the concept itself develop in a more organic way?

kevin: The concepts sort of just form on their own. I don't ever start a project by saying I want to make an album about a particular subject. With A Petite Tragedy, it was easy because I was writing all of these songs about my failed romance and so there was a consistent theme. For The Gay Parade I started getting into writing short story type of songs. I was beginning to get into creating characters and putting them into different scenarios. Coquelicot has the most complicated story line of the three. It was more of a collaboration between me and David (my brother). I had all of these story songs and so we decided to connect them together and create a story using the characters from the songs. That helped inspire more songs which in turn created more possibilities for our characters. We sort of got out of hand but it was fun.

Please explain or simplify the concept of Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse.

kevin: Coquelicot is an Efeblum. An Efeblum is a fairy-like creature who is employed by the Efeneties (loving spirits) to place bells inside people's hearts. When a person has a bell in their heart they are able to create works of art, fall in love and feel at peace with the world. Coquelicot, during one of her trips to Earth, decides to discard her bells and experience life as a human. Instead of living in "reality" she decides to experience life in a sleeping unconscious/conscious state. It is in this subconscious world that she meets Claude and Lecithin the inventor. They do all sorts of crazy stuff together like having incredible battles with evergreens and satellites, getting chased by psychotic zombies, playing with Lecithin's inventions and eventually moving away together to a deserted frozen island. In time, Coquelicot feels remorseful about neglecting her responsibilities as an Efeblum and decides to return to her work. She can't bear the thought of leaving her two new best friends so she invites them to come along with her. They happily except and join her as honorary Efeblums.

"I feel as long as David
understands my music
and thinks it's interesting
then I'm doing o.k."

On your first two albums, Cherry Peel and A Petite Tragedy, you were dealing with more depressing themes of a personal nature like loves lost, especially with Petite Tragedy; since Gay Parade, you seem to have concentrated on worlds you create on your own and are generally more uplifting. Is this going to be a continuing theme with Of Montreal or just fit with these particular albums?

kevin: Well, I like writing about personal experiences but if nothing dramatic or noteworthy is happening in my life then I tend to rely more on my imagination and make believe. I do feel that to lose oneself in one's own imagination is a very positive thing. If I have another heartbreaking experience or, better still, get involved in a great loving relationship then I will probably start writing more personal songs again. As for now, I am having a good time inventing characters and watching them interact.

You are noted as saying that "it isn't necessary to know the concept to enjoy (the cd)." Do you think that is the inevitable downfall of most concept albums, or rather, the strength?

kevin: It all depends on the listener. I enjoy concept albums because I like getting lost in someone else's imagination. I like getting carried away to another world. I think some people listen to music in a more recreational fashion and don't want to have to digest too much information. We didn't want to make the album too overwhelming; we wanted it to be enjoyable and fun, not frustrating. I kind of liked the idea of keeping the concept of the album open to interpretation. We sort of just introduced all of these characters and connected them a little bit but then left the rest up to the listener. Hopefully people will try to figure out how all of the characters are related and have fun with it.

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