Friday, June 26, 2009

2008-11-04 - The Line Of Best Fit

TLOBF Interview :: Of Montreal

Posted on 04 November 2008 by John Brainlove

(L-R:  Dottie Alexander, Bryan Poole, Jamey Huggins, Davey Pierce, Kevin Barnes)

(L-R: Dottie Alexander, Bryan Poole, Jamey Huggins, Davey Pierce, Kevin Barnes)



John Brainlove met Kevin Barnes after a packed out Of Montreal Rough Trade instore to talk about life on the road, inspiration, the differences between dreams and reality, and the fantastical world Of Montreal…

John Brainlove: So, I was googling Airwaves and I got really excited to see you were playing, but it turned out to be a lineup from last year… how was that?
Kevin Barnes: It was great. It’s always a bit scary when you’re playing a festival, and there’s like so many bands and you never get time to set up your stuff, and you get thrown out onstage and it’s chaos, and inevitably something sets on fire or breaks… in this instance my amp was making a horrible sound, so I kinda freaked out for the first four or five songs, then I kinda got into it and it was fun, and then the next thing I know I’m being pulled offstage…

JB: Have you been to Iceland before?

KB: No, that was a first…

JB: Do you find when touring that you get a chance to see places? Or is it just like, hotel, bus, plane, show…

KB: Every once in a while you do, yeah, if you get in early enough and the promoters are enthusiastic, a lot of times we’ll be playing smaller stages in like Italy or Spain and the promoters feel like they have to fill this role of a cultural liaison and show you a good time, and that’s always great. But if you get into a place sometimes, you’re just left on your own and wander around a little bit and find stuff out…

JB: Which I guess is never that nice, just a few alleyways and caf├ęs around a venue…

KB: Yeah totally. To be honest, this is my first really really good experience of London. I’ve never had a bad experience, but I’ve never had a trip where I went to a whole bunch of different parts of the city and really got a good sense. It’s always been in more run down parts of London, whereas this area is like super-hip and young, and where we’re staying is kinda ritzy. I really like that the city has so much diversity, and I hadn’t seen the good side of London before. And I was like “shit man, London’s awesome”.

JB: Yeah, in some parts it’s like a different world, you go around in the day and all you see are decorators and nannies…

KB: … and no artists live there, sure. What’s this area like?

JB: Well I guess we’re right in Shoreditch and Old Street, the first time I came here it was mostly just factories and closed up shops, but it’s really buzzing now, the artists landed here like regeneration locusts and then got priced out…

KB: Yeah, it’s like that in New York, and I guess everywhere. We were in Barcelona and we were like, we wanna move here, and they were like “no, don’t do it! You’ll raise the rent” and all the reporters will come…

JB: So tonight you’re playing in Rough Trade in happening Brick Lane… I think the last time I saw you was ATP playing the Hissing Fauna show. That’s obviously a very personal album. You’ve said that this one is a step away from the autobiographical approach, more fictionalized or written around characters…

KB: No, I didn’t mean to say it like that. I don’t want to propagate the idea that was writing from the point of view of a persona… I hope I didn’t…

JB: (laughs) Maybe I missed some sarcasm or something…

KB: I better go back and read it! There was this character I created called Georgie Fruit, and now I wish I never did, because people are like, “is that a Kevin Barnes song, or a Georgie Fruit song?”… and really there’s no difference. They’re all Kevin Barnes songs, and I don’t like that idea of people seeing a division. I think people would see that as less genuine, but it seems like it’s not based in reality, like you’re writing from the point of view of a fictional character. That’s too much like a defense mechanism. I want all my songs to be like, really coming from the heart and maybe if they’re not about something that’s physically happened, like a physical experience that I’ve had, I don’t really make a division between the physical and the dream state or the emotional state. I don’t really make the division. If you fantasize about something that’s just as real as if you really did it.

JB: I was interested in your ideas about identity, the idea of identity as a malleable construction, does that relate back to that fluid idea of characters and points of view… about your own self being a construction that you consciously work on changing or building. And in that sense having a character is presenting a front…

KB: I don’t really think of it as a front… I don’t think you can ever contradict yourself, even if you contradict what you said yesterday… it’s just as real as it was yesterday. I don’t think you have a really fixed identity. When people say “you’re being phony” I don’t agree with that because you can only be yourself. It’s impossible to be phony. Whoever you feel you are at that moment… it’s real. And whoever you want to be… I don’t believe there’s one true identity that’s the fixed you. It’s obviously fluid, and it’s effected by your mood, your experiences, your dreams, what you ate… it’s constantly changing. Nobody should believe that they only have one fixed persona or character or identity or whatever that’s the real them.

JB: Do you think that’s a scary thought, to have no sense of permanence? Everything as transitory..?

KB: I find it very liberating. You don’t have to worry about being consistent. You just feel what you feel and act how you want to act, without having to worry “is this appropriate for who I am? Is this outfit appropriate for who I am?” … it’s more fun to have that malleable aspect to your character and be free to do whatever. And it’s all real.

JB: Did you make a conscious decision about the change of musical direction? Skeletal Lamping seems like quite a deliberate swerve…

KB: I think I really wanted to make something that was constantly shifting, constantly changing, with no rules and no limitations, no structure really… it still has structure. Some songs have do have repeating parts, but repetition seems to me like laziness. A lot of people always repeat things…

JB: Do you think that’s in contrast to Hissing Fauna, which had quite tight cycles repeating for a long time?

KB: Well, this time I was in the mindset that it’s laziness to write a part, then do it again. It’s a very common thing in pop music to verse / chorus / repeat. It’s more creative that way.

JB: Yeah it’s at the very heart of pop music… if you hear a song again and again and it has repeating parts, you just end up liking on some level through exposure…

KB: Yeah, that’s something that’s very powerful about pop music, and I think in a way I’m depriving them of that relationship with the songs. On this record it’s hard to tell where one song ends and another begins, I wanted to make it flow, and it’s kind of random where I placed the track markers. Tonight when we played, the stop and start parts are random without the context of the album…

JB: After Hissing Fauna, which was so intensely and nakedly personal, Skeletal Lamping does seem more stylized or cryptic, even though it’s just as lyrically dense…

KB: I think it’s just as autobiographical. I mean, Hissing Fauna was like pain. And pain is the great equalizer. Everyone can appreciate pain, confusion, anxiety… these things are universal and easily relatable. But when you talk about more abstract things… Skeletal Lamping is definitely more abstract. I don’t think it’s less emotional or less autobiographical. Maybe it’s a bit less accessible, but it’s all about sexuality, gender roles, the politics of sexuality… the complexity of society and finding your way through it… navigating through it… getting through your childhood, your teenage years, your twenties, and then finding yourself in this place where you’re like… “what the fuck happened? what’s going on?”. But I do think it’s still a very introspective record, and where something is introspective it has to be autobiographical. It’s deeply rooted in my experience, my fantasy world, my dream world… it’s everything.

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