Since 1997, Of Montreal has been a music-making powerhouse. In 2005, they put out their latest record, "The Sunlandic Twins." With quirky beats, bloops and intriguing cover art of two alien twins in Sunlandia, singer/guitarist Kevin Barnes has created a psychedelic pop composition. Of Montreal has emerged as a mainstay in psychedelic pop and will continue to gain acclaim as long as Barnes is given license to showcase his creative mind. Luckily, I had a few minutes to speak with Barnes about the band's current tour and how his thoughts make it on record.
Cadenza: How is your current tour in support of "The Sunlandic Twins" going, and how is it different from tours of the past?
Kevin Barnes: It's been really great. The big fundamental difference is the amount of community we're discovering in our shows.
C: Can you describe your sound a bit? What was it originally, and what is it now?
KB: Very intimate. Now it has evolved to be more technicolor; it was psychedelic for a while. Now it is more earthy, but earthy in the sort of alien way. I didn't want there to be generic masculine attributes that I could perceive in other forms of music. I didn't want any posturing or phoniness or too much pretentiousness. Over the years I've gotten over that a little bit, because I find it fun to try on different personas. So there is bound to be a bit of phoniness or pretentiousness when trying on different personas. But I guess if you have no true sense of self then there is no phoniness, anyways.
C: How does the personality compare between "The Sunlandic Twins" and "Satanic Panic in the Attic"?
KB: "The Sundlandic Twins" is more electronic, but both are pretty funky and both are influenced by the same kind of stuff. They feature African rhythms, and I approached the recording process in the same way.
C: Are you still recording all your albums in your bedroom?
KB: Yes. Basically, I'm not on any sort of clock. I can do what I want when I want. That way I have total freedom to experiment and explore different ideas. I'm also extremely comfortable, because I'm in a good place emotionally.
C: What is your songwriting process like? How does a song orchestrate itself through the band and come to fruition?
KB: It's a pretty organic process. Start with something simple like a guitar part or piano part, and then build on that. As I'm building, I'm mixing at the same time and thinking about how I want the sound to finish. Sometimes I'll have to spend a couple of weeks with the sound and sometimes a couple of months.
C: How do you keep on coming out with so many albums, year after year?
KB: I keep getting pregnant.
C: Oh, wow. How many months are you right now?
C: Your brother has done the band's album art for years. Has your brother's art influenced the band musically?
KB: Musically he doesn't have too much of an influence, besides my playing him songs for feedback. Usually the album is nearly completed before the artwork is done, so it doesn't influence the sound.
C: Next month you are playing in SXSW. Has SXSW helped you get to where you are now? What does SXSW bring to other bands each year?
KB: I can't see that it accomplishes anything for anyone, to be honest. It's one of those weird lies that gets spread. It's like,"Oh, you play this festival, you are going to meet all these important people and all of a sudden have a career." It's not that simple; you have to work really hard for a long time to create any sort of following. Most bands kind of do it and leave feeling kind of empty. The bands are the prostitutes of the whole thing; you feel kind of used in a way. But you also get to hang out with someone you respect and hang out with new people and make a new connection.
Of Montreal performs as part of KWUR Week 2006 on Friday night, Feb. 24, at the Gargoyle. Free with WU ID and $10 for the public. Doors open at 8 p.m.