by mike heiber - Oct 01, 2004
Lead singer and songwriter from Of Montreal, Kevin Barnes, was kind enough to meet with me and answer a few questions before their show here in Champaign at the Cowboy Monkey on 9/28/04.
Mike Heiber: Welcome to Champaign. How was your drive from Chicago?
Kevin Barnes: It was very uneventful.
M: How has the touring been so far?
K: It's been great, probably the best tour I've been on so far.
M: I know bands usually like to play at home, but what are some of your other favorite places to perform?
K: I actually don't like playing at home, I hate playing at home. I like playing anywhere else, but my favorite place is probably New York or San Francisco.
M: What makes those places better?
K: I think it's just because we have a larger fan base there, more people turn out to shows. It's also just cool to be in those cities, you know, even if we weren't playing, to be there. There's always a good vibe there.
M: Have you played in Champaign before?
K: We played the High Dive about four years ago.
M: How do you like it in Champaign?
K: I like it but, I mean we have only spent a small amount of time here, so it's hard to say, but it seems like a nice environment.
M: Your band is based out of Athens, GA. How is it there? You had said you didn't really like playing there?
K: Athens is a cool place just because there are tons of like-minded people who have recording studios in their bedrooms and they are very supportive of each other and help each other out and you don't really feel like there is a status issue. You don't have to feel like, "Oh shit I have a crappy job" or "I don't have health insurance" or "I have a gross car." It doesn't matter. Nobody worries about status. We just feel our music and make sense of the world that way.
M: How does that compare to other places, for example you said you like San Francisco and New York? How does the South compare to other places as far as music goes?
K: I guess it varies from town to town. We have had great shows in Florida, and fun shows all over the place. I think there is a really great indie community spread throughout the whole country.
M: Champaign is also home to your new record label, Polyvinyl Records. How does Polyvinyl Records compare to some of your past labels?
K: By far this is the best experience we've had with a label. They have just been amazing. I mean, I think Bar/None and Kindercore were really awesome to work with too, but Polyvinyl has taken care of us in a really good way and we love everybody there.
M: Myself, a big fan of Polyvinyl, since you guys just signed to Polyvinyl, was exposed to your music, which I had never heard before. So do you think going to a new label also helps give you guys more exposure to fans?
K: Yeah I think so, because with each new label there is that fan base of people that check out everything on the label. Yea, it's cool in that way so that people who haven't heard of you would be exposed to your music. It's definitely a positive thing.
M: Are you familiar with any of the other Polyvinyl bands, and what do you think about them?
K: Yea, there are some great bands, I haven't heard every band on the label, but Volcano, I'm Still Excited is really great. We played a bunch of shows with them. I also like Saturday Looks Good Me, Mates of State, and Rainer Maria, but yea it's definitely a good roster.
M: Over the past 7 years you have been able to produce almost one album per year if not more. How do you continue producing albums at such a high rate? I would say probably higher than a lot of bands usually do.
K: Yea, I guess I don't know. As we're recording, we're also writing, so by the time the record is finished there is half of a record or more that's already written, ready to be recorded.
M: So do you cut back on touring at all for writing? How is your touring schedule affected?
K: It doesn't really interfere so much because we don't tour more than about 4 or 5 months out of the year. So we have plenty of time to work on stuff.
M: Do you think if you toured more it might help give you more exposure?
K: It's hard to say, because you can kind of run it into the ground, you know playing every month in a city. Then people aren't going to come see you every time. So, I think it's good to space it out a bit.
M: Your newest record, Satanic Panic in the Attic on Polyvinyl Records still has a surreal type of style to it, but listeners have found it to be quite a bit different from some of the older singer/songwriter oriented work that you have done in the past. What are you trying to do? What do you think personally is different about this record and what are your reasons for doing so?
K: Well I always like to do something different with each record, so we don't just repeat ourselves. I also was influenced by different things with this record that I had never been turned onto before, like some Afro-Funk from the 70's and Jamaican Dub and Electronic influences. We basically just wanted to do something different and do some genre hoping that we haven't ever really messed with in the past.
M: Yea, I noticed that you used some drums loops and electronic type elements, so how does that transfer over into a live show?
K: Well on the last tour, for the song called "Rapture Rapes the Muses" on Satanic Panic... has programmed drums and we just burned it onto a disc and then we played along with it. It's a little bit more sterile when you do it that way, but on "Disconnect the Dots" which has programmed drums on the record we replaced with live drums. So we try to reproduce it as best we can, but it's kind of a different animal sometimes because back in the studio it sounds a lot different.
M: Also for the new album, I understand that it was mostly written and recorded by you, by yourself. I image it is pretty difficult and time consuming to record all the instruments, do the mixing, and also write all the parts. How was that experience for you?
K: It was fun. It was something I had been wanting to do for a long time, and something that I had done in the past too. A lot of the stuff on the Gay Parade, Cherry Peel, and ...Petite Tragedy I did it that way, just by myself. So for me it's not really a matter of feeling like "Oh this is really time consuming," because it's a labor of love and something I really, really enjoy doing.
M: I heard that you have a new record coming out. Do you know when that is expected? Do you have any comments? Should we expect something new again?
K: It's going to come out in April and it's called the Sunlandic Twins and it's more electronic, there's more programmed drums. It's kind of taking off where "Disconnect the Dots" and "Rapture Rapes the Muses" left off. In a way, there is sort of a disco type element. The first half is like that, really sunny and dance-like, and then the second half gets a lot darker and a little bit strange, for example, the theme become a lot stranger. There's lots of weaving sounds and it's a lot more cinematic as the record progresses.
M: So you are going farther into the electronic type styles and experimenting a little more?
K: Yea, we are just trying to take that genre and Of Montreal-ify it.
M: So you are still going to keep the surreal type style that you have been known for?
K: Yea, (the electronic styles) are just something fun that I just really enjoy working with. For people who are way into electronica, it may just seem like, "Oh this isn't that cutting edge," but for me it's just fun to do.
M: So did you have to learn a lot of software or computer skills for the electronic elements?
K: Yea I did, but its fun. It's a totally different experience working in that way because its not as organic and so you don't have to think as much about playing the guitar a certain way, or playing the cello a certain way, or the piano, or whatever. The main struggle is just getting the sounds you want, and tweaking it the way you want it to be tweaked, and automating all the effects. It's a really fun, strange animal.
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