Saturday, December 11, 2010

2010-09-13 - Express Night Out

Of Montreal's Kevin Barnes Photo by Cory Schwartz/Getty Images

"The Past Is a Grotesque Animal," the 12-minute gamechanger on Of Montreal's 2007 album "Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?," documents founding member Kevin Barnes' transformation into his gender-bending alter ego, Georgie Fruit.

Fruit, is a 40-something, black, former funk singer who was a man, then became a women, but eventually decided he was better off as God made him. The 36-year-old Barnes channels the character on "Hissing Fauna's" second half, singing, "I've got my Georgie Fruit on/ He's my dark mutation/ For my demented past time," in "Labyrinthian Pomp."

"Skeletal Lamping" followed in 2008 and further merged Barnes with Fruit. The fragmented, ADD style of the album allowed him to jump in and out of character with ease as songs morphed every couple of minutes, segueing together into one 58-minute piece.

With Of Montreal's 10th album, "False Priest" the distinction between Barnes and Fruit is even narrower.

"At first I think it was a foreign entity in a way, or it felt like I was role-playing," Barnes said of Fruit. "But now I've been absorbed by it. I think it's a good device for artists to have, where they're able to explore different parts of their personality that just sort of gives them the freedom to do what they want to do, but maybe they're a little bit insecure about doing."

Easily Of Montreal's funkiest album, "False Priest" continues the hyper-sexual songwriting of "Skeletal Lamping," but distills the concept into distinct songs, rather than fragmented pieces. It also marks the first album Barnes recorded with an outside producer, the acclaimed Jon Brion. Barnes, who's recorded most Of Montreal albums almost entirely by himself, left the comfort of his home studio and brought Brion a finished version of the album to rethink.

Of Montreal's False Priest"By Of Montreal standards, [the record] was basically done, and then I went out to California just to see what we could do to make it better," Barnes said. "I always had that in the back pocket, like OK, if this sucks and is just a waste of time, I'll just cut my losses and put out this other record."

Brion ended up adding to nearly every song on "False Priest," incorporating a booming bottom end and playing nearly as many instruments as Barnes. He also gives the album a fidelity unheard of for a band that prides itself on lo-fi productions.

"It was very educational and very inspiring," Barnes said. "It wouldn't have worked with any other producer, I don't think. But he's so gifted musically and technically and he understands music in a way that most people don't."

"False Priest" is also notable for two female guest artists: futuristic neo-soul vixen Janelle Monae and Beyonce's little sister, Solange Knowles. Monae will open most shows on Of Montreal's fall tour, including Monday and Tuesday nights at 9:30 Club. The two friends and frequent collaborators (Monae is in two "False Priest" songs, Of Montreal appears on her album "The ArchAndroid" in a song Barnes wrote) are planning a multimedia experience. Typical Of Montreal shows are high on art and chaos — with frequent costume changes, revolving set pieces and a supporting cast — sort of like the indie version of a Lady Gaga performance.

"With this tour, for the first time, we're really going to collaborate completely for every moment in the show," Barnes said. "We still want both artists to have their own personality, but we also want it to feel more seamless; the transitions aren't really obvious or really abrupt where the houselights come on, now all the crew's on changing equipment. We never want to break the illusion that you're being transported into this other reality.

Express asked Barnes to guide us through the funky, sexual, futuristic world of "False Priest" track-by-track.

"I Feel Ya' Strutter"
Pretty much on every song on the record I was trying to emote as much as possible and listening to Marvin Gaye. Marvin Gaye has been my primary vocal influence as of late, and seeing what he does with his voice, how he puts so much heart and emotion and life into ever song, every vocal take. And songs are different and they require different things from the vocalist and so, on this record with every song — or even within the song — I was trying to have different moments convey different emotions and really — I know it sounds cheesy — sing from the heart.

"Our Riotous Defects" (with Janelle Monae)
There's truth to everything. It's definitely a bit of a fantasy song. But yeah, there's definitely moments from my life that I put into it.

It's also like Stevie Wonder — there's moments in Steve Wonder songs that just crack me up, where he'd start talking and saying crazy things about sweet, sweet love. George Clinton, too. It's definitely taking the baton from those artists in a way.

"Coquet Coquette"
[The "Coquet Coquette" video, see: above] was very collaborative. I originally got the idea at a museum in Chicago. I was hanging out with the Wondaland Arts Society — Janelle Monae and Chuck Lightning, Nate Wonder — and I saw this painting, I don't even remember who the artist was, but it showed these ghoulish figures that were in the water out on this boat, and it sort of clicked in my head that it'd be cool to make a battle on the beach. It's sort of is a reference to the absurdity of war and the absurdity of how violent we are as a race.

That's why I like the ending scene — it's like these two brothers, who actually are me and my brother, we are side-by-side the whole time and we are slaying our enemies together. At the end my brother goes to give me a congratulatory handshake, and instead I just stab him. I look around and I survey the beach and I see that everyone's dead and I'm just depressed because there's no one left to kill.

"Godly Intersex"
I originally got that idea [for the chorus] from a Wreckless Eric song, I think it's called "Whole Wide World," but I thought he said "Because nobody's stoned about you." But I think he actually said, "Because nobody knows about you." I actually get a lot of ideas from mishearing things and thinking, "I thought he said that, no, he didn't say that. OK, good, I'm going to say that then." But it's sort of a song about my childhood. And it's fairly autobiographical, and it's the idea that everybody's stoned about you, everybody's thrown about you, it's just sort of confusion. That sort of feeling of being misconstrued and people aren't really understanding what you're about, and you don't really understand what you're about. You know, that state of confusion that you're in when you're 17 or whatever.

"Enemy Gene" (with Janelle Monae)
I really think that without [Monae and Wondaland Arts Society] this record would be a completely different animal. The main things I can point to are they're very much into sci-fi of course, anyone can see that. And also extremely into funk, but mainly Chuck Lightning. He's one of Janelle's collaborators and one of the main songwriters in Deep Cotton, another Wondaland Project. He turned me on to Philip K. Dick. I'd never really read sci-fi before, so it was definitely a big moment for me. There are a few moments lyrically that you might be able to see the sci-fi influence.

It just seemed so natural to have [Monae] sing on it. It seemed to totally capture that same spirit.

"Hydra Fancies"
That one actually has more of [Jon Brion's] stamp on it than any of the other ones, just because originally I was thinking it wouldn't be on the record and he was campaigning to get it on the record, so he spent a couple of nights creating other synthesizer solos and adding a lot of the stuff that really makes the song special. And then he presented it to me, and I was like, "OK, this is insane. Yes, let's put it on the record."

"Like a Tourist"
That was one of the songs I recorded and it was done, and the things that we added were just little subtle things, like some synth bass and this Mighty Wurlitzer that we played at this church. Jon was doing a film score and the director wanted some really ghostly organ sounds and he found this Mighty Wurlitzer; there's only like a handful of them in the world.

It's like a gigantic pipe organ. It's absolutely massive. And it was in this church that was pretty cool. The mighty Wurlitzer shows up in a bunch of songs. We're like "Oh, well we got all the mics set up, we might as well go through as many songs as we can." He and I both played it.

"Sex Karma" (with Solange)
[Solange and I] met through Janelle. We were hanging out backstage and Solange was there. Janelle introduced us. At that time I didn't know Solange very well, and I wasn't really that familiar with her music, but after I met her and got her record, I realized we had a lot in common. You know, she's just an amazing music lover. She turned me on to a bunch of things. She's an amazing performer, amazing vocalist. We just bonded right away. We've written songs together.

"Sex Karma" was the first song I wrote for "False Priest;" I wrote it pretty much right after "Skeletal Lamping." So that one has been around for a while, and I always felt it would be weird for me to sing or to say "playa," but when I originally wrote it, I thought it should be for a female vocalist, so it worked out perfect.

"Girl Named Hello"
At the end of "Sex Karma," you know the whole — "you look like a playground to me" sort of gospel-ly thing? — I had this drum loop that I connected to the end that had a Cuban sort of Latin groove to it, and then I was like "Whoa, I should extend that, that would be cool." And then I just made this funky vamp. In a way it's a proper funk vamp — it just repeats and it's the same. I did a lot of guitar layering so there's a lot of subtlety to the guitar part; it's not just one riff over and over and over again. That's actually one of my favorite moments on the record.

"Famine Affair"
I'm definitely a big Cure fan. I don't think they get enough credit, but there's definitely that sort of [vibe], there's even a bit of a Cars element to it, that sort of muted guitar thing, and then it changes in the middle section to something a bit different.

"Casualty of You"
I think it's good to have an emotional balance so it's not all just sunny upbeat songs, because it can get kind of static. It's exciting because everything is upbeat and danceable, but I always try to fight that static situation. So it's good to have a counterbalance of something that's heavier, and it's also more representative of who I am or just the human experience. It's not always going to be happy. There's going to be dark moments as well. It has sort of vampire-ish qualities.

"Around the Way"
I learned that there should be nothing embarrassing about expressing a genuine feeling and that's actually the thing that most people identify the most with: the vulnerability, and we need that from our artists. I definitely connect more; that's why I love Marvin Gaye so much. There's so much heart on his sleeve, you can really feel what he's going through. Or John Lennon, for example; "Plastic Ono Band" is one of my favorite albums because of the primal scream therapy he was going through and incorporating into his songs and into his vocals. I love pop songs, but often they can be sort of disposable. And then there are these few moments in pop music where you can always go back to them, and always be touched by them and always be healed in a way.

"You Do Mutilate?"
A lot of my ideas, I don't second-guess them. They just sort of happen, like, "What am I going to call this one? How about this?" And then it just sort of sticks. For a while "Hydra Fancies" was called "Chaotic Ancient Rift." I just love coming up with strange combinations of words. I love the idea of adding a question mark for no reason.

2010-10-01 - Drowned In Sound

"If I make sense, I fail". DiS meets Of Montreal

According to the full version of the above photo, there are potentially a full 13 people in the ever-evolving Of Montreal's current incarnation. As you know, just one of them really matters: Kevin L Barnes, the genius/fruitloop behind all ten of their albums to date, including last month's funky/fucked up False Priest. On the eve of a walloping great three date UK tour, DiS caught up with Mr Barnes to talk about fish slaughtering ex-girlfriends, the futility of religion, and why you can't change the world via the medium of lampshades.

DiS: Did you have any particular plan for False Priest? It’s clearly a different mode of songwriting to the fragmentary approach you adopted for Skeletal Lamping...

Kevin Barnes: I think because I’d done that collage style writing on the last record I didn’t want to do that again, I felt like a change, so, um I leaned it more towards slightly more linear arrangement with the songs. I also wanted to create longer vamps within the songs. Skeletal Lamping was very jarring, with this one we wanted to bring out the rhythm element more. But I was still very much under the influence of Skeletal Lamping, it’s still very funky and still a fairly sexy record. But I started getting into, I guess, the heavier end of funk music.

DiS: Why did you decide to cut the entire record with live instruments this time? Was it because you had more money?

KB: Well I actually made this record at home, and by my standards it was basically done. But I’d been sending rough mixes to [producer] Jon Brion and I guess he had sort of gotten it into his head that he would like to help me realise a fuller sound. So he invited me out to California and I went in with a session drummer called Matt Chamberlain who came in and drummed on every single song. So once we’d improved the fidelity of the drum I was like ‘maybe I should recut the bass too’ so I just went through song by song and redid all the bass lines and then we sort of realised ‘well, why don’t we replace a couple of these digital pianos with real pianos’ and we kind of got carried away and sort of replaced everything.

DiS: So what you’re basically saying is that you technically made the same album twice?

KB: Yeah... it all just happened organically, I found myself out there working with this wizard of a producer and a musician and transforming my record, it’s been such a great education for me.

DiS: False Priest seems a bit more playful than your last few records; do I take it that not so many of the songs are biographical this time?

KB: Everything is based at least loosely on true stories...

DiS: So ‘Our Riotous Defects’... that actually happened to you?

KB: Yeah.

DiS: Wow. So you had a girlfriend who killed your fish?

KB: Yeah, she killed my Betta fish over some really small shit...

DiS: Wow. On the second date?

KB: Er, no, it was later, well into the relationship...

DiS: It’s not your wife is it?

KB: No, previous relationship.

DiS: How does the subject feel about the song?

KB: Um... well, they’re not really a huge Of Montreal fan, they might hear it on the radio at some point... but I don’t care, she deserves it.

DiS: Yeah, it, er, sounds like it! Does it get harder finding stories like that now you’re settled down..?

KB: It’s pretty easy I guess – when I’m feeling inspired I just let whatever happens happen and I don’t really edit myself or second guess it I just let it flow... it’s funny, a lot of songs I can’t explain the inspiration or influence behind it, I can’t remember writing or even recording them. I just have a really bad memory I guess.

DiS: Skeletal Lamping, False Priest and your upcoming The Controller Sphere EP all take their titles from a single line of the song ‘Faberge Falls For Shuggie’... is there any meaning to them beyond that? Bar the anti-religious monologue at the end of the ‘Do You Mutilate?’, False Priest wouldn’t seem to be much to do with religion...

KB: I think that maybe it has some connection to the part before it, the ‘try to connect XX infinite pleasure’, but it is abstract, that’s the only way I can really write. If I try and make sense than I just fail. I might be failing anyways, but at least I’m doing it in a way that works with my normal brain function.

But I don’t really have any strong agenda. I mean, I was raised a Catholic, I did go to church for 18 years, went to Sunday school for 18 years, my mum is very involved in the church, but I don’t think that much about it or care about it... I don’t feel like the Catholic church is bringing about the end of the world or anything. But what I was trying to say with that very frank lyric at the end, which is something that my brother and I talk about a lot, is that we should put humanity first, that we shouldn’t put god above humanity, we shouldn’t think of a religious prophet as more important than just day to day helping people. I think people get carried away by the mythology of these things, the mysticism of it, that if you don’t on the surface act a certain way they you’ll be punished and if you act another way then you’ll be rewarded in the afterlife... but who cares about the afterlife? I can’t really understand that obsession. We can do better without God, because we can do away with all the uncertainties, leaving just the certainties. If we got rid of religion and just concentrated on trying to empower each other then I’m sure that would help us a lot more.

DiS: It sounds to me like you’ve been pushing your vocals a lot more on this album, not technically, but in terms of a few more vocal personas. Is that something you were aiming for?

KB: Yeah, definitely, and I think listening to people I really like live David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, Sly Stone, Prince, a lot of people have different vocal personas and with an album they go through four or five different personas. I’m just trying to be very expressive and experimental with what potential I have on this record, really trying to put my heart into every vocal performance and just make it more unconscious, sort of natural expression. It’s a cool thing because on this tour I’m not actually playing an instrument I’m just singing.

DiS: I can imagine you’ve wanted to do that for a while.

KB: Yeah, I’m sure I’ll miss playing a guitar but it's an interesting challenge and it will allow me to put all my energy into my singing. And of course there’s the dance moves, which are really tricky.

DiS: [laughs, unsure if he is joking] Speaking of Bowie: he always took pains to point out the inauthenticity in his dabbling with black American music, referring to it as ‘plastic soul’. Do you feel similar with what you’re doing?

KB: I’m not really TRYING to make soul music, but I don’t believe in that thing that if you’re white you can only make ‘white’ music authentically and if you make music that was created by black people then it’s obviously phoney. Maybe it was at one point, but I think now there’s so much cross pollination and intermingling of ideas and releases and cultures, I don’t feel any more of a phoney doing this than when I was making Coquelicot... which was influenced by the Gershwin brothers... now it’s just a sort of different obsession, but it's emotionally and intellectually connected to me, it doesn’t feel like I’m putting on a persona or anything.

I think that it goes both ways too – I think there are a lot of R&B producers seeking influence from outside sources, it’s not as homogenous as it once was, people are starting to nod to each other... it’s kind of similar to what was happening in the Sixties, Otis Redding covering Rolling Stones songs and Aretha Franklin covering Beatles songs... I don’t really know what happened in the Seventies to make it all so segregated again...

DiS: Do you ever feel at all self-conscious about the music you make? Like, does it require a special effort to psyche yourself up to do a vocal as OTT as the one on ‘I Feel Ya Strutter’?

KB: Er, no, when I’m recording I work on my own and just forget about the world. I don’t think about playing the music live or anybody else ever hearing it, I just want to make it exceptional, powerful, and not question myself. So much of funk music and soul music is so much about swagger, about attitude and confidence and you know I think I’ve reached this point, I know I’ve accepted my flaws, I’ve accepted that I’m not a perfect person, that I’m a total fuck up and I don’t really care, because everybody’s the same way, you know? I think self-forgiveness has really allowed me to go out there and not feel vulnerable, I don’t feel like anyone can take anything from me. It’s not like a cocky thing... I’ve just been down so low that I’ve got a new understanding about myself, what can be taken and what can’t.

DiS: ‘Enemy Gene’ and ‘Sex Karma’, the tracks on False Priest with guest appearances by Janelle Monae and Solange Knowles, are very explicitly duets, it’s not just a chorus hook or whatever; is that a mode you’d been interested in writing in previously?

KB: I’ve been a big fan of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s stuff for a while and I became sort of really obsessed with it while I was working on False Priest, so it was something that I was excited about. But I felt so privileged and so honoured to be able to work with Solange and Janelle, I think they're two of the most exceptional singers and artists and performers and human beings that we have among us on the Earth right now.

DiS: There are no novelty editions of False Priest, whereas Skeletal Lamping had all these special editions that were just a download and a fancy object; did that not pan out how you’d hoped?

KB: Um, it was kind of a funny thing, because we thought it was going to completely revolutionise the music industry. And that kind of didn’t happen, it didn’t even seem to be that big of a deal. And then you see other people who came out with similar things afterwards and we didn’t get any props for it. But we’re just some underground indie band... and maybe somebody had come up with the idea before us and I just didn’t know it. But we were all a little bit deflated because we thought it was going to be this big event, you know, abandoning the conventional product that goes along with the record and doing something totally far out.

DiS: I bought a lampshade.

KB: Maybe it was because the things that we were able to make on our budget weren’t that outrageously commercial... we were just crazy, now I think about it. We thought that this elaborate lantern or wall decal was somehow going to replace the TV or the microwave or something. But for The Controller Sphere we do have plans for some really cool packaging, something that we’ve been working on for a while.

DiS: Should we expect anything different from this tour?

KB: I think the same spirit but we’ve expanded out line-up so that we’re now an eight piece band, so this with the exception of a few samples everything is live. We’re trying to just get completely away from any sort of oppressive backing track, just try and create spontaneous energy, like we did it back in the day. We just want to be a real band, follow the spirit of Parliament. But there’s definitely going to be a theatrical element to it, we have a lot of new props that we’re very excited about bringing over to Europe.

DiS: Do you have a mental cut off point over how far into your back catalogue you’ll go?

KB: I’m weird about my back catalogue and my past in general, it’s almost like another person wrote those songs and I’d be covering some other artist if I played anything before Satanic Panic in the Attic. I think the False Priest tour will be very False Priest heavy with a few Hissing Fauna... and Skeletal Lamping songs thrown in. Luckily we don’t really have any major hits, so it’s not like anyone can go ‘they didn’t even play that’.

DiS: What about ‘The Past is a Grotesque Animal’?

KB: Yeah... that one’s hard though, it’s like a ten minute journey into hell... but I guess we’ll probably play it a couple of times. We’ve never done it with this line up, with a violinist, I think we could definitely create an interesting version of it. Maybe we’ll do it in London.

2010-10-06 - The Quietus

Performance Breakdown: Of Montreal's Kevin Barnes Interviewed

Alex Denney , October 6th, 2010 03:56

As Of Montreal hit the UK, Al Denney talks to Kevin Barnes about the influence of Parliament on False Priest and the history of 'The Past Is A Grotesque Animal', one of our favourite songs of the last decade
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Athens, GA’s Of Montreal were a pleasant fixture on the indie-pop firmament for more than a decade before depression, divorce and a well-documented bit of madness involving a fortysomething, transsexual alter-ego collided with frontman Kevin Barnes’ world and sent the band spinning off in ever wilder trajectories.

Quietus ed John Doran reckons Barnes might be some kind of genius, but that feels like too premeditated a word, somehow – he’s more a compulsive truth-teller; a keenly perceptive fellow whose desire to take a magnifying glass to the fine print of his soul leads him just as often to moments of pathological ugliness as it does pockets of transcendence.

Whatever the semantics, Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? was quite simply one of the most beautiful meltdowns ever set to wax, with ‘The Past Is A Grotesque Animal’ the darkly circling eye of the storm. A twelve-minute, depressive’s tract written from a cabin in the Norwegian countryside, it’s a little like Bergman’s Hour Of The Wolf set to a krautrock groove, and as such completely unfuckwithable. To celebrate the track’s rerecording for a forthcoming Spike Jonze short film, we asked Barnes about its genesis, aftermath and exactly how much his missus minds him taking a hammer to his id in public.

Since Kev is exactly the kind of stand-up Southern gent we always like to hear more from at The Quietus, we also found time to ask him about the latest full-length dispatch from his band’s salty canon, the campily brilliant False Priest.

You’re releasing a new version of ‘The Past Is A Grotesque Animal’ featuring Nick Zinner and members of The Moonrats, can you tell us how that came about?

Kevin Barnes: I guess it was Spike Jonze’s idea, he contacted me and said he wanted to have a special cover version. He’s really good friends with Nick (Zinner) so he put us in touch with each other, and Nick and some of his friends created a track and sent it to me. Then I cut my vocals and sent it back to them.
I wasn’t involved in the musical production of it. I have a lot of respect for the people involved so I knew they’d do something cool with it, they had carte blanche really. I was just really excited to hear what they would do with it. The only direction Spike gave was that he took out certain lyrics he didn’t want to be there, just because it’s such a long track. I mean the song is basically a four-chord vamp on a loop, you can pick out any of the lyrics and it’ll be fine.
It was kinda cool ‘cos I wrote and recorded the song almost at the same time and when I did the lyrics I just happened to throw them together that way. I’ve played that song hundreds of times, but with the new version when I cut the vocal track I could incorporate things I’d done in live performances of the song. So the re-recording is impacted by all the times I’ve played it over the years; I sang it differently.

That must be a difficult song to play live on a regular basis.

KB: Definitely. I always feel sort of emotionally spent afterwards, but at the same time it feels very exciting and empowering. It’s just this really massive emotional workout, and at the end of the song you just kind of fall to the ground.

The song feels like a centrepiece for Hissing Fauna. How much of album did you have written at that point?

KB: It’s weird with that record ‘cos the way the tracks are arranged is basically the order I wrote them in. After I wrote that I was able to exorcise my demons or whatever and felt able to write poppier stuff. I actually edited it down, the real version is like sixteen or seventeen minutes long. But I had to cut it to make it more palatable.

Amazing! I’d be curious to know what got left out.

KB: It was really just more of the same. I could have written a whole album out of that song because of what it’s about – my wife Nina and I’s relationship dissolving and all the pressure I was feeling, the chaos, anxieties and all of that. It was a very insane period in my life. I’d been writing and writing and I had so much material I could have put into that song, but at a certain point I felt like people would just want to eject the CD and throw it out of the window.

Artistically the record was hailed as a breakthrough, did it feel that way at the time?

KB: I think it has a weight to it, an emotional strength to it that a lot of other records don’t have, a lot of our records are more abstract and poppy and fun. There was no primal scream element to them, they’re fairly balanced or whatever. And Hissing Fauna’s the first one that deals with a lot of psychological issues, just because of what I was going through at the time. It has more of an emotional impact than previous records and it definitely helped to establish us in a way. I actually was using the creative process as a form of therapy but it wasn’t really working, I was hoping if I wrote these songs I would get healthy again.

Does that seem like wishful thinking in hindsight?

KB: It’s the same thing that always drives me to create art, to create a world that’s better than the one I’m living in physically or mentally. So I mean the same source of inspiration is always there regardless of how I’m feeling. It’s always trying to create this secondary world that I have more control of or is more romantic or poetic or funny or whatever it is.

Just coming back to ‘The Past...’ specifically, were you surprised at all by the violence of the imagery in that song?

KB: Well I felt like a trapped animal, and I think that when that happens you’re capable of things you wouldn’t be if you were just skipping through some flowery garden or whatever.

Were you prepared for the interest that record sparked in your private life?

KB: I’m not sure it did. I can understand if people are curious, it doesn’t bother me. I performed naked on stage. I’m not too concerned about privacy or keeping things secret for myself.

What about some of the literary allusions in there? There’s that line, “I fell in love with the first cute girl that I saw/ who could appreciate Georges Bataille/ standing at a Swedish festival, discussing Story Of The Eye." Is Bataille a big influence on your work generally?

KB: Definitely. It really is true though, that lyric... I had this idea about a fantasy woman who’s really into Bataille and can understand him or not be freaked out by him. When I met Nina that was the first thing that impressed me about her. I was always looking for someone who could teach me things and stimulate me at all levels, and I hadn’t met anyone like that. So it’s true that we were at a Swedish festival, we were hanging out and talking about George Bataille so that’s highly autobiographical.

It’s quite the opening gambit, as chat-up lines go.

KB: That’s just how I roll, ha-ha. When you first meet someone you test the waters, I wasn’t trying to impress or anything, I was just hoping to be impressed. But when you’re meeting someone... sometimes I’ll act really idiotic just to see if they can take it. Then if they can you think, well, this person’s cool or whatever, and then if they look at you like you’re crazy it’s like "I don’t wanna have anything to do with this person anyway..."

What about the reference to Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf (“The mousey girl screams 'Violence! Violence!’/ She gets hysterical, because they’re both so mean/ and it’s my favourite scene/ but the cruelty’s so predictable/ and it’s my favourite scene.”)

KB: I always loved that play and I always loved that movie, just the dynamic between the two of them and imagining a relationship which can go through such an incredible tumultuous rollercoaster emotionally. Just the shared fantasy life that the two of them have in that play - the hysterical pregnancy and everything - it makes you realise how complex relationships can be when you put these highly intelligent human beings together. We have so many devices that we use to hurt each other and help each other and I just think that’s really interesting.

But you and Nina were reconciled by the time of Hissing Fauna’s release?

KB: We got back together just before it was came out and Nina was extremely embarrassed – well maybe not embarrassed but just like, "Oh this all our dirty laundry you’re sharing with the world, and that’s just your side of the story so it’s not really fair." So she felt a little bit awkward but also she really loved it, and was really touched by the emotion behind it and so she was extremely supportive.
She never asked me to change a certain lyric and I wouldn’t have anyways. She’s an artist as well, she’s a crazy woman so she’s not afraid to expose her inner-life with the world and I think she can appreciate that aspects of art will make you uncomfortable. Especially if you’re speaking from personal experiences and sharing your actual thoughts with the world, so it’s not all just fantasy-based. There’s always a danger that someone’s gonna make fun of you for it or you might feel overexposed but in a way I think the best art comes from that place. People can identify with it more; if it’s too skilfully managed you lose a bit of the rawness that makes art great.

With the follow-up album (Skeletal Lamping) did you worry that your alter-ego Georgie Fruit would be seen as just such a ‘skilfully managed’ contrivance?

KB: Definitely, I mean at first I had the Georgie Fruit character as a songwriting device but it was such a strong pull. Somehow there was this force that was just pushing me to write these songs and they seemed so different from anything I’d done before. So it helped me to have this device where I could say well, it’s not really me it’s Georgie Fruit. But then I realised no, it’s completely me, I couldn’t possibly do it if it wasn’t me.
I don’t really believe in personas being somehow disconnected or different from the artist. The art’s completely that person, there’s no escaping it. You’re not capable of producing something that doesn’t come from your psyche. So I kind of realised Georgie was just another part of me, I stopped thinking about him like that. It’s all just part of Kevin Barnes, whatever that is.

I like the way you’ve run with the funk and R&B vibe on the last few records – psychedelia seems to be such a white preserve nowadays, which is weird given how it was kind of joined at the hip with funk in the late ‘60s.

KB: When I first started getting into music it was total R&B stuff that I was listening to and then I started getting really into The Beatles, and then via The Beatles, The Pretty Things, White Noise, Os Mutantes and stuff like that. And then of late I’ve been way more interested in ‘70s soul and R&B. Parliament was a great discovery for me, they were taking stuff like ‘60s doo-wop and ‘70s funk and psychedelia, acid rock and blending it all together into this crazy collage, and having so much fun theatrically with all the visuals and stuff. So they’ve been a real guiding light for us, because it’s not just superficially interesting, there’s also a great emotional depth to the songs as well because it’s coming from those soul roots. George [Clinton] was a member of a doo-wop group in his early days. So what we’re doing now is taking a lot of inspiration from those guys.

The Janelle Monae thing has been cool [she features on the track ‘Enemy Gene’ from False Priest] – I feel like you guys are aiming at similar things, albeit from quite different starting points...

KB: I think we’re very much the same creature in a lot of ways. We’re on tour right now together, we’re combining our shows. We still want both artists to have a really strong identity, but it’s amazing how much we have in common, there’s this desire to kind of cross-pollinate and it’s exciting ‘cos you never know what’ll happen from night to night. There are just so many ideas bouncing back and forth. We do a thing where a member of Janelle’s art collective, Roman John Arthur, is coming onstage and singing a couple of verses of my songs. What happens is I pretend I’m about to sing a song and then the performance artists come and grab me and hold me back. Then Roman comes from backstage and sings the song while I’m pretending to be really upset, like, "What’s going on?"
We’re incorporating all these crazy ideas into the show and having a laid-back fun attitude towards everything, it’s not like an ego-trip or anything. In a way it’s very much like when I watch the old Parliament shows, Clinton was an important part of it but he wasn’t a lead singer, rock-star archetype you know, he was more like a director. And he realised he had all the insanely gifted people around him so they all should have their moment in the sun. That’s the way performances should be. It’s kind of funny because most performances you go see a show and it’s so scripted in a way, you know what’s gonna happen, the artists know what’s gonna happen, the lighting guy knows what’s gonna happen, it’s almost set up like a Broadway play. But we’re trying to keep that spontaneous element of just doing what you feel like doing on any given night. Just keeping things alive.

It’s also good to hear an artist sing about sex in such frank and bizarre fashion. We’re bombarded with sexual imagery nowadays but beyond the surface raunch people don’t seem to have an awful lot to say on the subject.

KB: Well I mean a lot of it is very clichéd. It’s all ‘I love you baby’ but there’s no intellectual involvement, it’s just very physical or visceral or whatever. There’s no thought about sexual politics. It’s like people are on autopilot when they’re writing pop songs, they’re just like, "Well I want people to feel sexy" or whatever and then they go from there. It’s rare that people actually spend time with lyrics.

Do you feel like Lady Gaga offers something ‘other’ in that sense, or is she just an insanely ambitious hack?

KB: I think she does a lot of things really, really well. Visually she’s amazing, superficially she’s great. And also the people she’s trying to speak to are the underdogs, she’s trying to give her voice to the awkward people of the world in a way and I think that’s beautiful. But musically she’s definitely hitting on a very mainstream level, it doesn’t match her persona at all. When I first heard her I thought it was like Pet Shop Boys song or something – I mean I like Pet Shop Boys, but it wasn’t really what I was expecting, I was expecting something more artsy, something a bit more Grace Jones at least. But it comes across as too safe, but you know that’s why she’s so popular, she can appeal to Jersey Shore people and teenage art kids at the same time so you know, she’s obviously doing something right.

How would you say Georgie Fruit’s role has shifted on the new record?

KB: I think he’s just kind of immersed into my head, I don’t even think about him anymore. It’s like he doesn’t exist. He’s just melted into it, he’s a part of the collage.

And the title, False Priest, you’re on record as saying has to do with a kind of "false policing of the self"?

KB: It’s a funny thing; with a lot of conceptual or fine artists, so much of the creative process is connected to explanation, you know it looks just like canvas with a red dot on it, but it’s actually it’s something completely different. But for me, somehow an idea gets in my head and I don’t really even question it or even think about. I had this thing when I was making song titles for Hissing Fauna, and I was reading these Dylan Thomas poems just to get into a creative frame of mind. I think he has an amazing way of structuring sentences together, so after I’d read a poem I’d just close my eyes and let that influence my own consciousness.

I came up with ‘Skeletal Lamping’, ‘The Controller Sphere’ and ‘False Priest’ during that writing session and for some reason those three didn’t seem like song titles, they had this weird aura about them.

Do you feel with the new record you’ve been able to engage more with the outside world after the introspection of the last two?

KB: I’m always trying to be creative, I’m always trying to pay attention to ideas and be observant. So I don’t really think about whether I’m more or less connected to reality. It sounds really pretentious but I don’t really remember writing or recording the songs especially, because you get so absorbed in the process.

But there is a bit of anticlerical sentiment in there, for example...

KB: I was raised Catholic, it’s my mom’s religion and like any good mother she said, "That’s your religion as well"... I’m joking. But you know how it is with mothers, like, "You’re my child, you were baptised so this is your religion, this is your faith." How ironic. It’s a strange world for sure, but kind of fascinating as well. It’s like a comic book in a way, it’s hard to believe it actually exists and that people actually believe in this stuff, all the superheroes in there like the Pope. It’s hilarious to me, that the Pope is the voice of God and has these powers, he’s not just a man who takes shits every day like anyone else. He’s just a man, he’s not anything! It makes me realise how much we have to mature intellectually, spiritually, emotionally to get to a point where we’re really just focused on reality and not mysticism. I mean as an artist I can appreciate mysticism, but I’m a realist and I’m not about to go believing in my fantasies.

If you were to set up your own religion Alan Moore-style what would it be like?

KB: I guess it would be something in line with progressive humanism, where we just realise that we don’t have any divinity looking out for us so we have to look out for each other. In a way that is God, by caring for each other we’re able to create God amongst ourselves.

2010-10-01 - Baeblemusic

  • This week's guest, Davey Pierce, is a member of the eclectic rock act of Montreal. He also works under the guise of Yip Deceiver his side-project. It makes sense that such a prolific musician would also have such a varied mixtape... touching on hip-hop, old surf-rock, hipster-kid dance parties, and even Motown. A playlist after my own terribly indecisive heart. -joe puglisi

    Scroll Through The Player To Listen To All The Songs On the Mixtape

    Embed the mp3 player!

    1. "Stuck On Broke" - BLCTXT (Ft. Life the Great) - Acknowledgment

    I randomly met BLCTXT in the Atlanta airport when I missed my flight and he is quickly becoming on of my favorite rappers. He is a perfect example of the limitless talent ATL has to offer.

    2. "All My Friends" - LCD Soundsystem - Sound Of Silver

    LCD Soundsystem has been a huge influence on me since the first time I heard them and this song has always been one of my favorites, It's so beautiful and simple and undeniable.

    3. "If I Could Build My Whole World Around You" - Marvin Gaye - Number 1's

    This is one of the most beautiful songs ever written, it makes happy every time I hear it.

    4. "Dear John" - Loney, Dear - Dear John

    I had the pleasure of touring with Loney, Dear a couple of years ago and I was completely blown away. buy everything, you won't be disappointed.

    5. "Det Snurrar I Min Skalle" - Familjen - Det Snurrar I Min Skalle

    A friend showed this to me a couple of years ago and I loved it. I actually just recently rediscovered it in the depths of a box of cds. He hails from sweden and I guess never really made it over here, which is too bad because he's great.

    6. "Reasons" - Built To Spill - There's Nothing Wrong With Love

    This is my go to song to when I can't decide what to listen to.

    7. "Into The Shadows Of My Embrace" - WHY? - Eskimo Snow

    I first listened to why? After reading the worst review possible for their album "Alopecia". I just figured "there's no way anyone is that bad", and I was right, it wasn't bad at all. in fact it rules. this track is from their newest record, Eskimo Snow, which also rules.

    8. "O' Katrina!" - The Black Lips - Good Bad Not Evil

    Great song from a great band who may or may not be pretty bad at basketball. Possibly. Maybe.

    9. "If We Can Land A Man On The Moon, Surely I Can Win Your Heart" - Beulah - When Your Heartstrings Break

    When I first came across this I was in the decline of a very long punk phase and it was so refreshing to hear. No loud guitars or screamy angry dudes, just honest, pretty pop music.

    10. "Animal" - Miike Snow - Miike Snow

    Such an awesome song, I cant stop listening to this record.

    -Davey Pierce

Read more: t.g.i. mixtape 79 curated by of montreal's davey pierce - 10/1/2010
Live Music, Right Now

2010-08-31 - The Fly

Free Speech: American Identity Crisis

of Montreal frontman Kevin Barnes asks, “If I wasn’t so brown, would you let me play too?”

“There is a depressing movement afoot in the U.S.A. Whitey is becoming increasingly paranoid of Mexican immigration. Laws are being written to suppress and abuse the Mexican population in this country. Police officers are being encouraged to harass people who _ t the racial pro_ le of a potential illegal Mexican immigrant. Basically, anyone who is not overtly Caucasian, African or Asian-looking is in for trouble. The goal of these policies are to make this country less desirable and less hospitable to broke-ass people attempting to live here illegally. Most middle class people lack the necessary amount of imagination required to visualize themselves as anything other than what they are now. To imagine themselves as a human living in an impoverished land, born into an indigent family is impossible. They never realize how close they came to being born into that situation. It’s absolutely random chance that places us inside this or that womb, in this or that country during this or that time in history. None of us are to blame or celebrated for the vagina we emerged from. It’s all luck. Some of us have had better luck than others. There are fortuitous vaginas, I suppose. If we would all accept the fact that we either got lucky, or fucked, by the situation we were born into and that, since it was not a result of anything we can take credit for, we shouldn’t really feel proud of who we are or where we come from or which flag we cheer for during the Olympics. We all need to realize that, aside from the handful of truly terribly evil humans, we all are actually pretty much the same creature. That we all deserve the same rights and deserve the same privileges and opportunities. That we shouldn’t have to carry the burden of our original earth placement ‘til death just because that’s where we initially arrived. On a strictly human value level, there is no difference between the Governor of Arizona Jan Brewer and the Mexican woman trying to sneak into this country to establish a better life. If the tables were turned, I don’t see Jan encouraging racism and exclusionary legislation. Someday Jan, you might find yourself sneaking into her country. It’s not that farfetched. Every empire crumbles and one doesn’t always find oneself on the winning side.”

2010-10-18 - Seattle Weekly

Q&A: Of Montreal's Kevin Barnes on Janelle Monae, Athens, Elephant 6, and False Priest

Of Montreal is playing the Paramount Theatre on Wednesday, October 27.

Next week, Seattle's getting hit with not one but two Elephant 6 Collective alumni -- The Apples in Stereo will be at the Crocodile on Tuesday, October 26, and Of Montreal will be at the Paramount on Wednesday, October 27, co-headlining with Janelle Monae. I just got off the phone with Kevin Barnes, Of Montreal's colorful and charismatic frontman. Here's what he had to say about Janelle, his old Elephant 6 friends, Athens, and his band's latest effort, False Priest:

On collaborating and touring with Janelle Monae:
I really love her songs, I love her as a human being and an artist. And she has an equal respect for what I do, so it just worked out.

On the proliferation of artists in Athens, Georgia:
There's nothing else really to do. It gives you plenty of freedom. And it's easy to get lost in this bubble, where the eyes of the world aren't on you at all. You can do whatever you want. There's no feeling of self-consciousness.

On meeting the Elephant 6 Collective:
I just exhausted my resources down there [in Florida, where he was living]. There wasn't any sort of scene. I felt like if I ever wanted to play with other people and not just be a solo artist, I'd have to move. I moved around to a bunch of different places and eventually settled on Athens because that whole Elephant 6 scene was slowly starting to build up there.

I had been doing a lot of cassette 4-track recordings. The kind of music that I was really into was the Beatles, the Kinks, stuff that really wasn't that popular at the time with people my own age. So I was really excited when I met all the people in the Elephant 6 collective, because they were all doing the same thing, they were all recording in their bedrooms on these cassette 4-tracks and listening to the Beach Boys' Smile, trying to find the most obscure 60s psychedelic records. We'd just hang out and have potluck dinners and play each others' records. It was great for me, to come from this totally alienated place, where I didn't know anybody and couldn't find anybody to play with, and then come up to Athens and meet all these awesome people that were doing a similar thing that I was doing.

A lot of those records like In the Aeroplane Over the Sea and Dusk at Cubic Castle, all those Apples records and Elf Power records and Olivia Tremor Control records, I still think those are some of the best records that were made during that time period.

On False Priest's influences:
I was listening to a lot of soul music. A lot of Parliament and Curtis Mayfield, Sly and the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder, stuff like that. I was in that frame of mind. When I first discovered music, one of the first artists I really connected with was Prince. And through Prince, I found out who his influences were, and I started listening to different things like Kool & the Gang or Isaac Hayes or Ohio Players, you know all those bands that he was listening to when he was coming up.

On False Priest's theme:
I can't really say. I just made it. It's always difficult for me to comment on things like that because I'm not really that kind of artist. I just do what feels natural. I'm not a fine artist with explanation of why it's supposed to be valuable. I just kind of make it and hopefully people like it.

On his favorite songs on False Priest:
"Around the Way," I really like the arrangement of that song. It's kind of special, it's different from anything I've ever done. As far as performing songs live, I really like to play the last song, "You Do Mutilate?"

On Of Montreal's upcoming tour:
It's very theatrical. We have performance artists and video projections and lots of lighting stuff happening. It's very visual. It's a bit of comedy, a bit of abstract art. It's a combination of all the things we really like.

2010-10-27 - Tammies

Solo No More: On the new of Montreal album, Kevin Barnes gets a little help from his friends

From the first jangle and piano runs of its opening track, “I Feel Ya’ Strutter,” False Priest suggests a new of Montreal. Since 1997, Kevin Barnes has been of Montreal, as a revolving cast came and went. Although False Priest began as another solo endeavor, its overhauls by sui generis producer Jon Brion and additional vocal contributions from Janelle Monáe and Solange Knowles transformed it into an undeniably collective work.
False Priest
is also a hell of a good time. If 2007’s Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? found Barnes working out his personal depression and demons, and 2008’s Skeletal Lamping was a salacious declaration, than False Priest is a party. With more cooks in the kitchen, the album plays like a Parliament-Funkadelic mix tape; in fact, one could be forgiven for mistaking the intergalactic glam-funk “Like a Tourist” for a cover.
Granted, False Priest still bears the marks of its predecessors: “Around the Way” is an anxious techno vamp with pitch-black frustration (“I wanna die again”; “I’m crashing in the waves / getting fucked up, trying to cure you / it’s so draining”), while “Sex Karma,” a playful duet with Knowles, drips with lust (“You look like a playground to me”).
During a recent tour stop, Barnes was resting his vocals, but bassist Davey Pierce was available for a phone chat. Pierce and Kevin’s brother, David, are the two-man team responsible for bringing to life all of the various props and puppets that constitute the band’s now-legendary live performances. ”Dave Barnes designs them all, and I try to make them all,” Pierce said of the props. “I just try to make whatever he sees in his head come to life.”
Of Montreal’s stage shows are constantly evolving spectacles that are part Brechtian theater of alienation, and part vaudevillian gimmickry. Kevin Barnes takes a backseat regarding this aspect of the band’s presentation; instead, David Barnes, who is also responsible for the band’s album artwork since 1999’s The Gay Parade, takes charge of the group’s live theatrics. Like with the construction of an of Montreal album, the process is fluid. ”Kevin has input, obviously, but it’s more in David’s hands of what it’s going to look like,” Pierce said. “And then where I come in, I just facilitate and make Dave’s dreams happen in real life. Sometimes, it works; sometimes, it doesn’t. We had a couple of characters that we had made that didn’t really work out how we planned, so we quit using them. It’s a constantly evolving process, because right when we’re done making something, Dave will say, ‘No, actually I want it to do this,’ so we’ll have to start all over again.”
Musically, however, of Montreal is Kevin Barnes’ domain. Although Kevin is responsible for the lion’s share of an album’s construction, he will actively seek advice from Pierce and others. ”He’ll give us demos a long time before the album’s even close to coming out, just to see what we think,” Pierce said. “We give him input, and sometimes, he takes it to heart; sometimes, he doesn’t really agree with it. It’s a weird situation in that way, because I don’t really feel too comfortable giving him input. It’s his thing; he hears it all in his head, and I feel weird about giving my take on a song, because I would obviously do things totally different.” Thankfully, when Kevin ceded some control to Brion for False Priest, the producer was not afraid to re-imagine Barnes’ songs.
Instead of the tinny glitz or lo-fi rock of previous albums, Brion—who has worked with everyone from Kanye West to filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson—went widescreen, turning False Priest into a richly layered listening experience. ”False Priest started off the same way all the other albums have started off, which is pretty much Kevin recording these songs in his house,” Pierce said. “He decided he wanted it to be a more hi-fi record, which he’s never been able to capture before. And that’s where Jon Brion came in, because he’s obviously a genius with this stuff. ... It just sounds so much better, bigger and fuller.” From the Cure-esque synth blasts and guitar trills of “Famine Affair,” to the swirling, psychedelic throbs at the conclusion of “Our Riotous Defects,” to the driving, early-’60s garage-rock chug of “Coquet Coquette,” Brion’s deft ear is on display throughout False Priest. Then there are the soulful vocals of Beyoncé’s sister, Solange, and Janelle Monáe. ”Solange, we met through Janelle in New York one day,” Pierce said. “She came out and saw a show we played ... and we all met and just kind of became friends with her. Kevin’s been a huge fan of Beyoncé and Solange ... and it just so happens she’s a huge fan of indie rock, so it worked out really well.” Meanwhile, Monáe has become nearly inseparable from of Montreal, with Barnes contributing a track to her ambitious debut, The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III), and Monáe opening for of Montreal on this tour.
Janelle, however, will not be performing in Tucson. Pierce, who said he does not know the exact reasons, thought her absence has more to do with a “prior engagement” than the passage of SB 1070. Pierce did admit the law has made this stop bittersweet, but that will not prevent the group from bringing its cosmic funk to town on Halloween.
”We love playing Tucson, and we love the Rialto and Congress, but it’s hard for us to get over (SB 1070),” Pierce said. “At the same time, it’s hard for me to boycott an entire city. All the people who are there, who are equally against it, seem like they’re going to lose out in the long run because of where they live, which doesn’t seem really fair to me.”

2010-10-29 - LA Times

Of Montreal's new direction

With band visionary Kevin Barnes sensing a staleness creeping in, he and his creative team devised their most free-form stage show yet to support the soulful new album 'False Priest.'

Of Montreal

Top row, from left: Jerrod Porter, Dottie Alexander, Davey Pierce, Matt Wheeler, Dan Korn, Pual Nunn, Nick Gould and Kevin Barnes; Bottom row, from left: Clayton Rychlik, Nicholas Dobbratz, Nikki Martin, Thayer Sarrano, Michael Wheeler and Brian Poole. (Patrick Heagney)

"Alabee Barnes, this is your lucky day. Your father is going to sing Michael Jackson's 'Thriller'!" announced Kevin Barnes as that song's instantly recognizable opening rang out behind him. It was the end of a long dress rehearsal for the indie- pop band Of Montreal, and Barnes and his mates were a little punch-drunk.

Props and costume pieces — sequined fish claws, flame-trimmed monster masks, a massive stuffed golem everyone called "God" — lay scattered around the stiflingly hot warehouse where Of Montreal had been camped for the past few weeks.

Five-year-old Alabee was actually at home with her grandparents, but Barnes' wife and artistic partner, Nina, stood behind the soundboard taking mental notes. His brother David, wearing a Lycra body sock, huddled in conversation with three other dancers; he's the concept artist for Of Montreal, responsible for the abstract narrative reminiscent of both the fine artist Matthew Barney and the glam-rock of Alice Cooper that had just unfolded onstage.

As the band continued its King of Pop jam — which will serve as an occasion to collaborate with tour mate Janelle Monae when Of Montreal plays the Palladium on Saturday — it left "Thriller" behind for "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" and "P.Y.T." Kevin jumped on a nearby bicycle. Singing, he slowly circled the space. He was tired, but he knew that this particular trip was just beginning.

Most indie-rock bands don't need dress rehearsals, but Of Montreal isn't your normal anything. For more than a decade, Barnes has used the name to describe his musical outpouring, which he has mostly recorded as a computer-assisted one-man operation. As the band's sound evolved from fey pop to psychedelic dance-rock to slippery R&B, Barnes enlisted a core of musicians to realize his visions onstage. Recent years have seen the addition of those costumed, free-form dancers, now a troupe of four members who embody and expand upon Of Montreal's music in ways matched by few other performers on the indie music scene.

The band, whose dress rehearsal I witnessed in September, is promoting its 10th album, "False Priest." That recording took Of Montreal in yet another direction. Barnes crafted the songs by himself, then worked with the famed producer Jon Brion (an old hand working with prickly auteurs such as Fiona Apple and Kanye West) to make the sound more open and adaptable during live performance.

"I was hitting a wall the way we were doing things," said Barnes during a chat after the rehearsal. "I hated being totally trapped by the computer. The computer would dictate what the tempo was, how long the song could be. It felt oppressive."

Barnes also felt that the band was losing steam. "We just got lazy in a way," he said. "After a while there was no fulfillment. Even if we had a perfect show, it didn't give me anything. That's why I wanted to expand the lineup and do as many things live as possible. There is room for improvisation and to change things. To make it more energetic and exciting."

Brion and top studio drummer Matt Chamberlain worked together to enhance the version of "False Priest" that Barnes had completed.

"What he was looking for from me was to enhance his programming, which meant to try and match the sonics, but with acoustic drums," Chamberlain wrote in an e-mail interview. "I would say 95% of what I played was what he had programmed. Of course, I tried other ideas to see what would work around his programming, and there were many tracks that fused things he programmed with what I came up with at the studio. He is very open to experimentation and Jon is a master at recording and mangling drums, so we tried tons of things."

Working quickly, Brion, Chamberlain and Barnes rebuilt "False Priest" as what R&B futurist Monae, a close friend of Barnes and co-headliner on the current tour, would happily identify as an android. Old-fashioned musicianship coexists with bedroom-auteur innovations.

Barnes cites classic soul music as his inspiration. "It's easier now to seem like you're good. Back then you had no Auto-Tune, no MIDI, no sampling," he said. "We want to combine the two worlds, using some of the technology they didn't have then, but also following the spirit of that."

On songs such as the hysterically soulful "I Feel Ya' Strutter" and the lush "Enemy Gene" (a duet with Monae), rhythms pulsing with blood balance out the chrome sounds of Barnes' alien-lover vocals and keyboard hooks. At first listen, it sounds a lot like early Prince. But Barnes hopes fans hear the artists who inspired the Purple auteur.

"People hear a high-pitched scream, and they think Prince," said Barnes. "They don't think Sly Stone or James Brown. I'm a huge Prince fan but also a huge fan of those earlier artists. Sly's a great influence too just because of what he can do with his voice."

In the past, Barnes has worked with alter egos — notably the African American transgender funk musician Georgie Fruit, who took full form on Of Montreal's 2008 album "Skeletal Lamping." That record was idiosyncratic to the point of illegibility; with "False Priest," Barnes has come back to himself, recognizing that any persona is simply an aspect of his own sometimes feverish dreams.

"There are all these different kinds of people inside me," said Barnes. "Everyone has that. And so you can never be phony. You can never put something on. You're just bringing something to the surface that already existed. I could name these characters, but that takes me out of it emotionally and seems to make it more of a fiction. I don't want that. I want it to be very connected to my heart."

As for the show's intense visual side, David Barnes, whose expressionistic artwork adorns most of the group's album packaging, has encouraged his brother's innate theatricality by building a truly mind-boggling stage show. He oversaw the construction of myriad life-sized puppets and costumes, worked with Nina Barnes and wrote a script, which he then put aside in favor of spontaneity.

"It's designed to change," said David, sitting in with Kevin. "After every show someone's going to be like, 'Why don't we do this instead?' The puppets will be the same, but what they do won't be the same."

The current production has made its way across the country to mixed reviews. At first, Kevin Barnes said in an e-mail after a month on the road, the production lacked humor. "We quickly realized that having an element of playfulness and fun was essential," wrote Barnes. "Now I feel that we've struck a good balance between 'serious art' and slapstick."

Touring with Monae and trying this new level of theatrical excess has made Barnes even more eager to try new things. "This has been, without question, the most fulfilling tour I've ever been a part of," he wrote. "Every day I feel born again. I think that's because both bands are trying new things every night. The tour feels like a work in progress or like a celebration of the imagination."

2010-10-09 - NME

2010-11-18 -

Of Montreal Talks Southern Gourmet and Tacos in Mexico


Of Montreal. Top - Jerrod Porter, Dottie Alexander, Davey Pierce, Matt Wheeler, Dan Korn, Pual Nunn, Nick Gould, Kevin Barnes. Bottom - Clayton Rychlik, Nicholas Dobbratz, Nikki Martin, Thayer Sarrano, Michael Wheeler, Brian Poole. [Photo: Patrick Heagney]

Of Montreal's sound is shaped by an ever-changing cast of characters and love for the whimsical community of Athens, GA. When frontman Kevin Barnes moved to Athens in the late 90s, the band morphed from a pop solo project to a sort of psychedelic collective, with dramatic stage shows, and elaborate costumes. Flash-forward to today and the band is a regular on MTV and Late Night, has performed on SNL, and even had their song used in an Outback Steakhouse commercial! I caught up with one of the group's core members and keyboard player, Dottie Alexander, to talk hometown eats and mystery meat.

Having lived in Athens, GA for over a decade - have you cultivated a Southern food bias? Any Southern dishes you feel pretty strongly about?
Definitely. Athens has really cultivated the "Southern Gourmet" aesthetic over the last decade, and I find myself missing that kind of food when I'm away. Shrimp and grits and collards are two of my favorites.

What are your favorite restaurants in Athens and what are your regular dishes there?
I'm a big fan of The National, which has a revolving seasonal menu, and the Diner Burgers at The Globe are amazing!

You recently got married. I heard the celebration was a blast with a killer after party to boot. Can you tell us a little bit about the grub at the big event?
We wanted the entire event to be a celebration of Athens, as well as the two of us, so we went local on everything. White Tiger catered with amazing yummy barbecue. We did our rehearsal dinner at Big City Bread, and they really pulled out all the stops!

Of Montreal is notorious for its bigger-than-life stage shows and massive entourage. How do you handle dining requirements with such a big group?
We have a few vegetarians, and some... "choosy" folks, but the rest of us are pretty adventurous. We just had an amazing trip to Mexico where we tried everything from upscale seafood to street tacos.

Do you usually eat together or does everyone fend for themselves?
It really depends. We like to have a few "family dinners" while we're on the road, but everyone's schedules (the crew and the band) are different, so we usually split into smaller groups.

Any special requirements you have on tour yourself?
I avoid fast food, but other than that, I'm pretty open. I like to try regional things when I can.

What has been your best food-experience on tour?
Well, like I said, we just got back from Mexico, where there wasn't a bad meal to be found. Japan was pretty amazing too. We had a meal in Osaka that consisted of a bunch of chopped up mystery ingredients (Maybe octopus? Maybe duck?) which were grilled in a barfy-looking blob on a hibachi in front of us. We were each given tiny spatulas to shovel the goo into our mouths. Turns out, it's delish!

Do you guys ever treat yourselves to high-end dining?
Sometimes. I like to try and get away with my husband when I can, and we'll Yelp a fancy place from time to time. There are a string of amazing Italian places on Thompson Street in Soho in New York City that we love. Sushi is also a favorite for everyone.

How do you guys feel about fast food? Any favorite chains?
We avoid fast food like the plague. This does not apply to certain members of our crew, some of whom have found McDonald's on the four corners of the globe. Personally, I will go for street food (kebabs, tacos, etc) over fast food every time. If we are somewhere remote with no other options, we'll stomach Subway as a last resort.

What is your favorite city in the US to tour in because of the food?
It has to be New York, right? The "slow food" trend is everywhere in the City now. A new favorite of mine is a place called The Farm on Adderley in Brooklyn. Craft is also amazing.

What is the one food item you can't live without when you're on tour - your rider staples?
Fresh veggies and cookies.

You guys play a lot of festivals, which ones in the US have the best food?
Coachella wins. Hands down. Filet mignon and crab legs.

And now for your top picks in the US!
Best burger: The Farm on Adderley, NYC
Best taco/burrito: La Super Rica, Santa Barbara, CA
Best barbecue: Anywhere in Georgia
Best diner: Brunswick Diner, Brunswick, ME
Best coffee/tea shop: Anywhere in Seattle
Best bakery/sweets shop: Sees Chocolates, San Francisco, CA
Best pizza: (and best sandwich!) Amato's, Portland, ME

2010-10-00 - Supersweet

Kevin is channeling the spirit of Dumbledore

With song titles like ‘Godly Intersex’ and ‘Famine Affair’ on their new album, an interview with of Montreal was never going to be easy, but somehow we managed to find out Kevin‘s views on sports coaches’ uniforms(?!), how he feels about the ‘Harry Potter Dumbledore conspiracy’ (“that’s fucked-up!”) and the fact that, if he was Santa, good kids would get a “non-descript pair of white pumps” and bad kids would simply “go to Siberia”. We even got brief listen to the new of Montreal ‘ringtone’. Sadly, we were unable to reproduce it here due to ‘copyright laws’…

SS: Today I’m feeling _____ because _______
Today I’m feeling red, because of a dream I had last night.

SS: First thing you do backstage after a gig?
Take off my sweaty pants and look in the mirror to see if I lost any weight.

SS: Sexy. When Skeletal Lamping came out as an LP, paper lantern and button set, you said you only want to produce objects that are functional. What’s your most functional object?
Toothbrush. It works well and does what I want.

SS: of Montreal is procrastinating. What are you doing?
Watching sports. A lot of people don’t know I’m a sports fan, but I am. I love watching it and I love doing it.

European football coaches, they can wear what ever they want, you know, they can wear nice looking suits. But in the United States the baseball coaches have to wear uniforms, just like the players. They are never gonna play, they are the coach, but for some reason they are expected to wear the same outfit that the players wear, which I think is pretty cool.

I think it would be good for soccer coaches to wear the shorts and what ever else that the team has to wear – it’s good for morale.

SS: If your album wasn’t a False Priest but a real one, what would of Montreal tell him at confession?
I guess it would be like a Santa Claus sort of situation, like [whether] you’ve been naughty or nice. And if you’ve been naughty, then you’ll have to go to Siberia. But if you’ve been nice, then you get to go to Walmart and buy your choice of faded glory denim skirt, or a very inexpensive Chinese manufactured pair of nondescript, white tennis shoes.

But you don’t call them tennis shoes, what do you call them? Trainers? Pumps? So you get a nice, inexpensive, nondescript pair of white pumps or trainers. And maybe some snackmates. But it’s not gonna taste very good.

SS: What does of Montreal find at the end of the rainbow?
We find the ‘Black Lion Massacre’ (a song from False Priest), which I think takes place in North Korea.

SS: What’s the strangest compliment you ever received?
Kevin: ”
You look like my mother”, that was the strangest compliment. And sort of [like] my father, actually. (Picking up a mask with long white hair and a beard) This is a crazy man’s mask. (Holding the mask in his hand, facing it at K Ishibashi [violin/guitar/synths] and yelling in a deep, husky voice) “You’re to blame!”

K: This is more like (with a husky voice, imitating Dumbledore) “Harry Potter”.

Kevin: I don’t know that Harry Potter. I’ve never seen Harry Potter.

K: Really? Well one man, Dumbledore, he’s always like (with the same husky voice) “Harry Potter, your mother gave her life, she gave her life for you”. The guy is dead, right?

Kevin: Dead in Harry Potter world or in real life?

K: Real life. Actor. He died, that’s why they changed Dumbledore in the middle. He is only in two movies and then the actor died. It’s just really weird - it’s a totally different guy and you’re supposed to believe he’s the same way.

Kevin: That’s fucked-up.

SS: Could you improvise a new ringtone?
Yeah. I got one right now: (28 seconds of throat growling) That’s actually my ringtone.

K: Copyrighted?

Kevin: Yes.

2002-10-17 - Broward Palm Beach New Times

Is Of Montreal leader Kevin Barnes happy to revisit South Florida? Not exactly.

By Jeff Stratton Thursday, Oct 17 2002

Kevin Barnes isn't from Montreal, nor is he from the Florida subtropics, although he did move from Michigan to Palm Beach Gardens at age 15. But he left when he was 21 and never even glanced back.

9 p.m. Saturday, October 19. Call 561-832-0706.
Respectable Street Cafe, 518 Clematis St., West Palm Beach

"I don't look fondly on those years. I blocked them out of my memory," says the acclaimed psychedelic poptician from his home in -- where else? -- Athens, Georgia. "I didn't like living in Florida. I never really met anyone else who was on the same wavelength I was on. It was always a struggle to try to make things better, but eventually I just gave up and moved. I'm definitely much happier in Athens than I was down there in West Palm."

That comes as no surprise, since Athens is where Barnes found his current bandmates and fell into the same circles as Jeff Mangum (of Neutral Milk Hotel) and Will Cullen and Bill Doss (Olivia Tremor Control), even becoming their housemate. "It was a little strange," Barnes says about shacking up with the noted Elephant 6 affiliates. "We already felt like a little brother to Olivia Tremor Control and Neutral Milk Hotel and Apples in Stereo. Those were the three godheads, and we were kind of underneath them."

Barnes, 28, probably doesn't see it that way anymore. Of Montreal has taken the same totems sacred to the psychedelic pop crowd -- Sgt. Pepper, Pet Sounds -- and elevated them to outrageously ambitious heights. Each Of Montreal album has been a novella jacketed with a distinct personality, with the new Aldhils Arboretumexploring the sensation of disconnect from one's own community set to colorful little romps ("A Question for Emily Foreman," "Pancakes for One") and fun, hurried pop gems ("Natalie and Effie in the Park," "Predictably Sulking Sara") popped out of a pocket, displayed, and hidden again. The slightly '60s arrangements are weighted with toots and honks and a tambourine's silly shake. An oboe doesn't even sound out of place as lead instrument by the time you've traveled all the way to the arborescent "Kissing in the Grass."

Beyond the obvious influences, Barnes cites early King Crimson, South American crazies Os Mutantes, Kevin Ayers, Robert Wyatt, and Philip Glass. Certainly a far cry from his first musical aspirations, attempted while at Cardinal Newman High School in West Palm Beach, where he began the seeds of a band called Soulcraft (!), known for Metallica, Fugazi, and Jane's Addiction covers. Barnes was the singer. "I had this Jim Morrison complex," he groans. "I thought I was a poet. It was very, very embarrassing. I don't know if anyone has any film documentation, but if they do, I hope they burn it. Those were awkward years. I was very impressionable."

Actually, videotape does exist of the acoustic-oriented songs Barnes was writing and performing just before he headed north in 1994. At the Wormhole, a small record store in downtown West Palm Beach, Barnes introduced some of his first compositions [see "The Caucasian Rock Circle," December 13, 2001]. At Soundsplash, another local CD store, he located copies of two current touchstones -- the Kinks' Village Green Preservation Society ("that changed my life forever") and Brian Wilson's long-lost Smile.

Luckily for Barnes, by the time he'd left Florida, he was recording four-tracks in his bedroom (sound familiar?), sending one to the Bar/None label, which snatched Barnes for a three-album deal. He called his first project Trucker's Wife and spent the next few years traveling around the Midwest. During a trip to Montreal, he suffered and subsequently became utterly consumed by a horrific heartbreak, the echoes of which still color his work and gave his band its name. Of Montreal's first record, 1997's Cherry Peel, introduced Barnes' lo-fi, confessional navel-gazing. "Rather than focusing on the negative or even becoming active and changing reality, we were just becoming more introverted, trying to change our reality that way," Barnes explains. The next year's follow-up, The Bedside Drama: A Petite Tragedy, was a virtual role-play of Barnes' Canadian heart-shatter. The songs were barren and painfully personal but as melodically complex as Cole Porter classics. Therapeutic, no doubt, for Barnes but still bidding a warm welcome to the rest of the world, the mini-symphonies of Bedside Dramasolidified Of Montreal's capable charms.

By 1999's The Gay Parade, Of Montreal began creating strange lands with weird characters. Staring at traffic one day, Barnes rearranged the images in his mind into a sort of abstract parade, each passing vehicle becoming a float and each float symbolizing a brightly colored song. The next year, the band released Horse and Elephant Eatery (No Elephants Allowed): The Singles and Songles Album, capturing stray fairy-tale fragments sans the expected thematic thread but still remaining innocently engaging.

Almost too grand to be believed (and certainly a lot to absorb all at once), 2001's honestly subtitled Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse explodes with untethered creativity. The concept and story line are impossibly intricate, as evinced by titles like "The Events Leading Up to the Collapse of Detective Dullight" and "The Hopeless Opus or the Battle of the Unfriendly Ridiculous." The accompanying booklet features bizarre anthropomorphic cartoon characters like the kind Robyn Hitchcock is known for, but rendered in the style of National Lampoon's M.K. Brown. The results -- festooned with theremin, horns, marimba, even kazoo, earned Coquelicot comparisons to Syd Barrett on Sesame Street.

"It feels dismissive when people say 'very childlike,' because it has this connotation of being frivolous," Barnes complains. "I never want to make something pretentious and too serious. I'm into surrealism and dadaism and absurdism, and the fundamental elements of those movements was a playfulness and a libertine attitude."

Barnes doubts he would have ever found the inspiration for this lysergic imagery if he'd stayed in the land of Jimmy Buffett cover bands. "Everybody in Palm Beach Gardens was into surfing and, oddly enough, country music.

"I really don't feel like Florida is my home -- it's just where my parents happen to live," continues Barnes, who plans to keep his visit low-key. "I'll probably bum around the house, go to the beach, and pray to God I don't see anybody from high school."

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

2010-09-28 - LimeWire

Q&A with Kevin Barnes:

So you just started the False Priest tour — I understand you've got an ambitious stage setup. How's it been going so far?

Kevin Barnes: It's been great. We're doing a lot of really theatrical things, visually, which should be interesting. We're having a good time, and that's the most important thing, I guess.

Is there a specific visual moment in the live show that you're excited about?

We built this dragon prop that requires four people inside of it to make it work, and then we have a saddle on top of it, so I'm riding this dragon across the stage while I sing a song.

And there's a line early into the new album about dragon rape.

It all connects together in some strange way.

Is it true that you titled your last three albums, (False Priest, Skeletal Lamping, and Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?), before any music was written?

Yeah, when I was writing songs for Hissing Fauna, those two titles came to me, but they didn't seem like song titles, they seemed more like album titles, so I named the next records from those two.

Does that help you conceptually, when you write, to have the borders of the album titles?

It gives a little bit more focus, so I know what I'm working on. It helps to communicate better when you can create a sort of cosmology for [the albums].

You collaborated with über-producer Jon Brion on False Priest. How was it working with him?

It was great on so many different levels. I learned a lot, and he contributed something amazing to the overall production. It definitely wouldn't be the album it is without him.

The bass line on "Famine Affair" is killer. I keep wondering about the lyric, what the "bad thing" is — seems like it could be any number of toxic influences.

It could be interpreted any number of ways: it could be someone in your life, a crush of some kind, or just a negative influence that's sabotaging you and making your life a bit more fucked up.

You're going to Europe after a couple weeks in the States. Do you find that crowds react differently to Of Montreal overseas?

No, it's pretty similar. We definitely attract a specific kind of human being no matter where we play, so you realize the world isn't that different whether you're in Denmark or Ohio — the same kind of people are interested in Of Montreal. It feels like a global family.

You recently added Janelle Monae to that family, who's on tour with you. How did you come together?

We met backstage at a show in Atlanta. She got turned on to our music through the Wondaland Arts Society [collective], and she'd just filmed this video where she was riding a horse, around the time we'd just had a show in New York where I rode a horse onstage, so we bonded over that initially, and then realized how much we had in common. Our two art collectives [WAS and Of Montreal] have done a lot of collaborating, and we're definitely following the same spirit, artistically and emotionally, so it's cool that we're all on the same page, and we just love to hang out with each other.

Collectives these days are few and far between in the States — they can be so powerful, but also require so much coordination, juggling many moving parts and people. Do you think you'll keep growing the Of Montreal collective?

Definitely. From a live performance standpoint, there's no way I could accomplish what we do by myself. Having everyone contribute all their talent to things that I can't do, and me contributing things that they can't do, that's what a collective should be, all these people coming together who can contribute something special and exceptional, and then you've created something that no one person could create by themselves.

Your brother David has done your album artwork since the early days, and you both have such attention to detail. Were you encouraged artistically, growing up? When did you start working together?

We weren't discouraged, but my mom and dad weren't that involved in the arts. They were encouraging on many levels, though, as far as buying me instruments and letting my early bands practice in the garage, so they definitely supported us from the beginning.

David and I started working together when we were in high school. I was making these little four-track cassette recordings, and would take some of his art work and put it together and give it to my friends, like these little self-releases. And when we started putting records on labels, he was the only person I wanted to create the art.

You're really prolific as a songwriter. Is there a constant creative flow, or are you just super disciplined?

I'm always trying to think about new ideas, and keep my ears open and my mind open to any new inspiration, but I don't really have a writing routine where I wake up every day and from this time to this time, write. I have to, in a more organic way, just let the ideas happen when they happen.