Athens' of Montreal brings 'something sort of exceptional' to Abbey Road
For a long time, no one noticed the band called of Montreal.
The group toiled for years in relative obscurity, releasing album after album, starting with 1997's lo-fi tour de force, "Cherry Peel."
Nine albums followed, garnering the band a cult following, but not much else.
Until one finally caught on.
2004's breakthrough album, "Satanic Panic in the Attic," might as well have been the work of a brand new band, as far as pop culture was concerned. And, except for the fact that of Montreal already had 10 albums under its belt, it was.With "Satanic Panic," singer/guitarist Kevin Barnes took complete creative control; writing, playing and recording all the instruments himself, save some strings and a flute.
This January, 10 years after their first effort, Barnes and company released "Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?" to critical acclaim and the biggest audience of their career.
Musically, "Hissing Fauna" is the logical next step, perhaps even a perfection of the style staked out in the last two albums. It is insanely poppy and catchier than the plague - like being punched in the face with cotton candy.
In a way, there are really two albums in "Hissing Fauna." One is full of thumping Indie-dance-hall beats, maudlin synthesizers and soaring falsetto harmonies. But underneath the shiny veneer lurks a man in personal hell.
The songs are confessional and sometimes cringingly direct, dealing with Barnes' split from his wife (they eventually got back together) and his isolation in Norway, where he lived while making some of the album.
Barnes recently took some time away from his breakneck touring schedule to talk about the new album and his winter of discontent.
Q:At this point in your career, you're playing to the biggest audience that you've had. Is it weird to be putting out something so personal to such a large number of people?
A:All my life, my songs have been to varying degrees about my personal life, but this record is more personal and is kind of more confessional. I'm really proud of the fact that it's very genuine and it's not phony at all.
Q:"A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger" is one of the catchiest songs on the album, but the lyrics are very dark. Was that intentional?
A:Musically, I was trying to create something that would lift my spirits. Rather than just revel in this melancholy or this anxiety that I was experiencing, I wanted to create something that was more positive and upbeat to pull myself out of that downward spiral.
Q:You've been doing a lot more with the show in terms of theatrics. Was that inspired by anything in particular?
A:We want to do something more visual, so we have some big projection screens and we have some different photographic moments where someone puts on some crazy outfit or does something theatrical. We just want to make something that is sort of exceptional, that's not just the usual Indie rock performance.
Q:I talked to you after the release of 2005's "The Sunlandic Twins," and you said you had already started "Hissing Fauna." Do you always have the next one in the works whenever an album gets released?
A:Yeah. It could be like four or five months from when I turn in a record until it's put out. During that time, I'm working on other things.
Q:So, do you have the next one started?