Group strives for unique sound
by Travis Andrews
Kevin Barnes was still a bit groggy at 11 a.m. in Hawaii as he woke up to talk about his brainchild: Of Montreal, the psychedelic indie pop band he fronts. The band has been playing shows in Hawaii but will play Baton Rouge's Spanish Moon tomorrow.
Of Montreal began in Athens, Ga., where several other bands including Widespread Panic, the B-52's and R.E.M. got their start.
"[Music is] one of those natural things I picked up right away, and it's really fulfilling, so I didn't want to give it up," Barnes said. "It's the only constant fulfilling thing I have in my life."
Though he comes from a place rich with musical background, Barnes said his influences are from across the globe.
"My music is a big blend of tons of bands," Barnes said. "A lot of 60s influences like the Beatles and the Kinks."
Barnes said that while these two bands greatly influenced him, music across the board - including Brazilian music and some contemporary music such as Animal Collective - has had an impact on his own style.
"I just love music so much," Barnes said.
He holds his art to a high standard, putting it before any type of fame or money.
"I wouldn't want to change my music so that it becomes acceptable," Barnes said.
Of Montreal has released nine albums to date - the latest is "The Sunlandic Twins," but Barnes said that the writing process is not slowing down for him.
"I kind of go through phases where I write more lyrics than I do music, and I'll have a burst of musical ideas and the lyrics are already written," Barnes said.
Barnes said the follow-up to "The Sunlandic Twins," which was released in April of last year, is already completely written, and 70 percent of it is already recorded. He continues to write music all the time.
"I just pay attention to my creative voice, so when I am just doing anything, talking to parents or walking down the street, I think of ideas in that daydreamy state of mind," Barnes said.
Of Montreal's records have a large lyrical range, from short-story character sketches to more personal material that Barnes said he recently rediscovered but has avoided because there are some inherent dangers to writing such personal songs.
"I didn't want to make myself vulnerable," Barnes said, "but I rediscovered how cathartic it is to write personal lyrics, because if you are on tour singing every night, and it doesn't mean anything to you, then it does not have any impact on a personal level."
With eight years' worth of music under its collective belt, Of Montreal's music has been reviewed many times, but Barnes said that he tends not to read reviews because they often upset him.
He said he thinks that his fans are smart enough not to take too much from one person's opinion.
"Even if there is a glowing review, there will be one line that is offensive," Barnes said. "There will be one line that says, you know, he missed the mark on this song, and I'll be like, 'Shit! I missed the mark.'"
Barnes said that when he does read reviews, he generally does not let them affect him.
"Though one thing that bothers me is when they totally misrepresent the band," Barnes said.
The band's album title choice "The Sunlandic Twins" is no misrepresentation of its warm beats and caring atmosphere.
Barnes said the title came from an idea that he and his estranged wife, Nina, had: they were twins because they were so close. He said he has always thought Iceland was a cool place and changed the name to the cheerier Sunland.
Nina then had a dream about it.
"The two of us were genitalless, hairless creatures who lived on this really sunny planet," Barnes said. "Everything was boiling hot and suns exploding and lava flowing and we were really comfortable in that environment," Barnes said.
Barnes finished by summing up his feelings about music.
"Better than drugs," said Barnes, "Better than love, I'm sure."