Saturday, September 19, 2009
2009-07-28 - Supersweet
"I felt like I had been in a sexually hibernated state of mind all through my twenties. In my early thirties, I started waking up to sexuality and exploring it, thinking about it a bit more."
Trying to pin down psychedelic pop act of Montreal in their brief British summer tour has been as tricky as a slippery eel, yet we wrestled like a bitch on heat and finally spoke to them on their US turf. Their evasion hasn’t been without precedent, with touring injuries, back to back shows and broken down vehicles but still the band still are fighting fit. Even twelve years later, face painted enthusiast and front man Kevin Barnes is wonderfully meticulous about sloppy spelling, reminding SUPERSWEET “of Montreal, is with lowercase “o””, just in case we get it wrong (as if we would...)
It’s tempting to imagine that Barnes is completely eccentric in his personal life in reflection of the obscure directions fulfilled within his music. Blissfully as normal as the rest of us, he tones down off-beat motivations to watch Sports Center, host cocktail parties, play volleyball and take part in "pretty conventional stuff". Admitting that people usually are surprised by his homely activities, simply reveals how much a distinct mark of Montreal’s illustrious affair with music has left over the past twelve years.
Long before he established himself as the genius behind the ecstatic pop experiments in Georgian sensation of Montreal, Barnes spent every day working on music. "All I really did when I was in high school was go home, hide in my bedroom and just make four-track recordings all day," he says. The intimate bedroom demos eventually saw the light of day on the 2001 compilation The Early Four-Track Recordings. Every song is named after the actor Dustin Hoffman from hilarious track ‘Dustin Hoffman Does Not Resist Temptation to Eat the Bathtub’ to the incontinence song ‘Dustin Hoffman Becomes Indignant and Wets Himself'.
Revealing the reason for homage to the Marathon Man, Barnes concedes that "It was a funny, kooky idea to pretend like it was a concept album, even though the songs had nothing to do with the titles, and nothing to do with Dustin Hoffman. It was just a spontaneous thing the band created over lunch one day." Placing jovial stints aside, Barnes has progressed a long way since high school recordings, releasing eight studio albums of diverse pop music, all leading up to the climax of 2008's Skeletal Lamping.
Skeletal Lamping is of Montreal's most overtly sexual record, both musically and lyrically. Each track is a none-too-subtle exploration of lust which just as much about getting you off, as making you ferociously dance. Lyrical vivid, of Montreal explicitly boast with words "I want to make you come / 200 times a day" and "I took her in the kitchen / ass against the sink" making the band's previous work look downright innocent by comparison. In fact, it was Barnes's shifting attitude towards sex that inspired him to take the record to a more provocative place: "I think I was just going through a sexual awakening," he says, "I felt like I had been in a sexually hibernated state of mind all through my twenties. In my early thirties, I started waking up to sexuality and exploring it, thinking about it a bit more. It was kind of natural that it also came through in my art."
Although Skeletal Lamping differs from of Montreal's previous records in numerous ways, it maintains the sense of humor that runs through their songwriting and notoriously decadent stage performance. While Barnes performed an actual a comedy tour in 2005, called ‘A Pollinaire Rave’, the front man confirms that he now expresses his comedic impulses through of Montreal. Telling SUPERSWEET that "there's always a sense of humor involved in the theatrics” Barnes answers “I think it's just incorporating that into what of Montreal is now, whereas before, ‘A Pollinaire Rave’ was sort of a separate thing. Now it's all together as one."
Always challenging dance-pop conventions, Barnes comments on the problems of adhering to such structures today: "Sometimes I think that people follow the pop template too much.”. Barnes observes how “There's a pressure that if you want to have a commercially successful song, it has to fit into these parameters, and I think that's definitely unhealthy for the art of music". To combat this anxiety, the singer welcomes song structures as a challenge and a creative liability all because "It's kind of fun to fit as many ideas as you can into three and a half minutes!"
Ready for the artistic exertion, work on of Montreal's anticipated next album False Priest is already in motion, with approximately six songs completed, yet Barnes is still writing and experimenting before deciding what will be on the new record. The creative kook describes the new album as “very funky dance music” complimented with "a lot of strange lyrical imagery”, sneakily hinting that the record will feature some longer songs than we're used to hearing from him.
Continuing the of Montreal legacy, Barnes adds False Priest to their self-produced selection of albums, yet the singer is always open to working with other producers under the right circumstances: "It all depends on what sort of chemistry there is between me and the other producer, and I don't know if I could get to that place," Evidently, producer Jon Brion recently released an EP of remixes from Skeletal Lamping, swaying Barnes’s ideas of collaborative production. With little opposition to possible Brion-produced of Montreal record, the singer ponders the idea, thinking it "could definitely be good. It could definitely be interesting."
After the exciting change of direction that was Skeletal Lamping, it will be fascinating to follow of Montreal in their rapid ascent to giddy new heights of dance-pop.