Wednesday, June 24, 2009

2007-01-25 - Sign On San Diego

Tips to create: Be 'confused and freaked out'

January 25, 2007

A cold dark winter in a small Oslo apartment might not fit neatly into most people's vacation plans, but for singer/multi-instrumentalist Kevin Barnes, the unpleasantness of Norway's stark, dark wintry landscape turned out to be a pleasant place to create art.

Under the moniker Of Montreal, the 32-year-old Barnes spent his winter of discontent writing the 12 songs on his eighth full-length disc “Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?”

Tiptoeing between the vocal symphonics of Queen and the early nu-wave pop of Flock of Seagulls or Gary Numan, “Hissing Fauna” is a gorgeously crafted album of pretty pop songs. But take a closer look and the lyrics reveal the pain behind the process: I spent the winter on the verge of a total breakdown while living in Norway / I felt the darkness of the black metal bands / But being such a faun of a man / I didn't burn down any old churches / Just slept way too much, just slept.


Of Montreal, with Enon
7 p.m. Tuesday; Soma, 3350 Sports Arena Blvd., Suite I, Midway area; $15; (619) 226-7662

With the release of “Hissing Fauna” on the horizon, Barnes now sits in his cozy living room in his home in Athens, Ga. He's playing with his daughter, Alabee, before embarking on an extensive tour to support the album, including a stop at Soma Tuesday night in San Diego, talking openly about the winters in Norway and his career in music.

“Quality of life is obviously important,” said Barnes. “But the more comfortable and at peace you are, probably the less desire you have to be creative. It's always good from an artistic standpoint to be confused and freaked out.”

Playing almost all the instruments on “Hissing Fauna,” Barnes sequestered himself to piece the album together: “The first half was done in Oslo on a laptop and a MIDI keyboard, just me in a tiny little room working on stuff by myself. Then, I came home to Athens and I had more instruments lying around so I was able to flush things out and do some more interesting stuff.”

The solitude resulted in a stunning pastiche of humming synths and layered vocal harmonies, making “Hissing Fauna” Of Montreal's best effort to date.

You may have heard Of Montreal without knowing it. A few tunes from his 2005 album “Sunlandic Twins” ended up in TV ads for Outback Steakhouse, NASDAQ and Garmin GPS. The album was also a critical success, giving Barnes a broader stage to stand on and a wider audience.

“We definitely reached a larger audience with 'Sunlandic Twins,' but hopefully it will continue to progress,” said Barnes. “I don't really have ambitions to become the next David Bowie or anything, to become a superstar. I just want to make interesting music and be able to support myself that way.”

Chris Nixon is a San Diego music writer.

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