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.

2010-11-00 - EQ Magazine

The November 2010 issue of EQ profiles of Montreal’s False Priest, which is built around a hybrid mix of vintage instruments and soft synths. Here, of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes and engineer Greg Koller share additional insights on musical references, arranging and mastering.

Kevin Barnes on clicking with producer Jon Brion:
The whole thing about finding the right producer is having someone who understands your references. If I said, “James Brown drums” or “Marvin Gaye drums” or “Al Green drums” or whatever it would be, [Jon] would know. Jon is an absolute music fanatic, and he has the most incredible music memory of anyone I ever met. In a way, people can take advantage of him because he’s so much fun…he’s the ultimate party favor because you put him in front of a piano and you have the best sing-along ever, because he can play every song you ever want to hear. There were a lot of times where we would start talking about something, something we both really love and both were kind of passionate about, and he’d go to the piano and we’d talk about the arrangements. We’re both chord-progression weirdos; we’re both freaks about chord progressions. It’s something that most people who write songs don’t seem to care that much about. We were talking about the obvious, Brian Wilson, and the way he would structure his songs. He would have little twists that made the thing special. Or some of the Motown songs. We'd be talking about something like “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing,” and talking about the verse, and be almost in tears talking about how beautiful it was; what a sophisticated and beautiful chord progression it had.

Kevin Barnes discusses string arrangements:
The string arrangements were done by a friend of mine, K. Ishibashi. We were on tour in Europe doing some summer festivals and we happened to play a show with Regina Spektor, and he was playing violin with her. We were talking backstage, and found out he was an of Montreal fan. He was like, “If you ever need strings on anything, I have a little home studio back in New York. It’s not super-slick production or anything, but I have pretty good results.” I was like, “Cool.” The first thing we did together was "Casualty of You." I just sent him the piano and the voice and the bass and the drums, whatever I had done, and just said, “Go to town. Do whatever you want.” He’s amazing, because he’s not going to do something generic. He’s extremely excited and interested in composing as well, and coming from a different place than myself, because he’s classically trained and understands music theory backwards and forwards. He understands why these certain composers are exciting and great. I might hear it and think, “Oh, cool, I like this one thing this certain person does,” but I wouldn’t really be able to put it in words and say why it’s special or cutting-edge. He was able to, with a little bit of direction, create something so far beyond my wildest imagination. I never would have been able to do that myself with any number of vintage strings plug-ins. "Casualty of You" and "Around the Way" are just amazing to me. He has totally transformed them and brought them to this magical place that I would really want them to go but wouldn’t have been able to bring them there myself.

Engineer Greg Koller on working at Oean Way and mastering with Alan Yoshida:
John and I are very fond of Studio B at Ocean Way; it’s probably our favorite room in town, because it’s a [Bill] Putnam [designed] room. We love it particularly for the incredible live room, and the control room monitoring system mains sound very good. Also there are the classic echo chambers; we make a lot of use of those. And having our mastering engineer, Alan Yoshida, across the hall from Studio B doesn’t hurt. He’s a big part of the sound of the [of Montreal] record, too.
He likes to get the flow of the record, to master it all together, still doing all his his level rides by hand. He built a custom console, with custom JVC convertors. He can make things loud, but he only does it when someone requests it, and he does it tastefully. He’ll listen, he likes to hear a record all the way down, what the sequencing is, what the spacing and levels are, because he tries to preserve dynamics. He definitely can open up stuff and make it sound bigger and better than what’s given to him. And if he doesn’t like the mix, he’ll be very vocal about it.

WHOLE ARTICLE : http://www.eqmag.com/article/of-montreal/November-2010/122513

00305_nrKevin Barnes and producer Jon Brion build organic textures by layering soft synths with vintage instruments on the band’s 10th album, False Priest

On stage, Athens, GA-based octet of Montreal is a kaleidoscopic menagerie, a polymorphous vaudeville performance set to an avant ADD electro-disco-glamfunk beat. In the studio, of Montreal is historically the project of songwriter Kevin Barnes, a Beatles enthusiast who has indulged some inner Camille-era Prince through a series of psychosexual lysergic mood shifts. Like Os Mutantes, Eno-era David Bowie, Sly Stone and P-Funk cavorting around in Todd Rundgren’s I/Os, Barnes’ songs exhibit prog-sleaze and rhythmic moxie.

Recording since 1997, Barnes transitioned his influences from the straightforward, prismatic retro-pop of bands like The Kinks to a far more coltish, just-plain-kinky R&B synth-pop. Along the way, he progressed from oldschool, 8-track, 1/4-inch tape-based recording to programming synths and mixing “in the box” in Apple Logic. Now, with False Priest, of Montreal’s 10th album, Barnes collaborated with producer Jon Brion on a hybrid production approach that resulted in the most accessible and most theatrical of Montreal work to date.

Sessions for False Priest, like those of the past four of Montreal albums, began in Barnes’ Apollinaire Rave home studio in Athens. Barnes recorded the majority of the album parts as he composed them: “I ran pretty much everything through Logic Pro 9.1.1, an Apogee Rosetta 800 A/D interface, an Apogee Big Ben master clock, a Tube-Tech MP 1A two-channel tube mic preamp, a Tube-Tech CL 1B compressor, a Lawson L251 tube mic, and a Toft Audio ATB24 mixing console,” Barnes recounts of the preliminary recordings. “For the most part, I only use one channel and just build things up an instrument at a time.”

Despite having a wealth of multi-instrumentalists in his live ensemble, Barnes has been programming drums and soft synths since 2004’s Satanic Panic in the Attic. Initially, he worked in Propellerheads Reason slaved to Steinberg’s Cubase, but around 2007 Barnes abandoned both and made the move to Logic to facilitate making his own percussion maps and sampler instruments (augmented by a drum library from Atlanta-based Ben H. Allen, engineer for Gnarls Barkley, among other projects). While Barnes praises Logic’s EXS24 sampler, Ultrabeat drum synthesizer, and Delay Designer and Space Designer effects, he especially appreciates Logic’s composition features such as drag-and-drop patterns and arrangements, as well as efficient workflow features such as the marquee tools. (A crash course in integrating Logic’s editing shortcuts would become a theme for False Priest; Barnes credits the SFLogicNinja’s YouTube channel as invaluable for shortening his learning curve.)

00296_2000_nrof Montreal (top, left to right)—Nicolas Dobbratz, Thayer Sarrano, Matt Wheeler, Dan Korn, Paul Nunn, Nick Gould, Clayton Rychlik, and Jerrod Porter. Seated—Bryan Poole and Kevin Barnes. Front—Michael Wheeler, Davey Pierce, Dottie Alexander, and Nikki Martin.

When he played a show with songwriter/ producer Jon Brion (Fiona Apple, Kanye West, Spoon), Brion asked to hear some tracks, and then suggested Barnes come out to Los Angeles for a few weeks to use his vintage gear trove to supplement virtually modeled instruments.

The pair convened in Studio B at Ocean Way Recording in Hollywood. Brion, engineer Greg Koller, and crew are Pro Tools-based, and making mix stems to swap from Logic was proving too timeconsuming and sound-compromising, so Apogee provided a Symphony I/O and Mac rig, which allowed Koller to integrate newly-recorded tracks as he quickly came up to speed within Logic. “I feel [Logic isn’t] built for an engineer; it’s built for people who write,” says Koller. “When I started looking at it like that, I really grasped it.”

With all systems patched in, tracking commenced. In the live room, Brion and Barnes set about tracking enhancements to the primary, mid-fi home recordings. For example, where Barnes had recorded with emulations of the LinnDrum or the Yamaha CS-80 polyphonic synthesizer, Brion would draw from vintage units to lead him through reseating the parts while preserving the original arrangements. “I really like the idea of this foreign . . . weird, ‘wrong’ element being there,” says Barnes of layering sequences with the analog synths’ sometimes unpredictable harmonic signatures. “It makes it seem more exciting to me . . . when it’s not just this homogeneous landscape.” With the overdub process proceeding quickly, editor Eric Caudieux performed pitch correction when needed.

Brion used a Moog Modular synth to add subsonics to Barnes’ Rickenbacker bass parts (many of which he re-recorded for consistency). “My bass lines are really more baritone guitar parts,” says Barnes. “It’s not just low, it’s more noodle-ly and almost percussive . . . I’m usually doing a lot of stuff on the G string, way up by the 12th fret. It really worked well having the synthesizers filling in the gaps.”

The weight of some tracks, such as “Like a Tourist” and “Our Riotous Defects,” was augmented by recordings of a Mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ, miked in surround sound (it was also being tracked for a film project) with Shure SM50s and Neumann KM53s through an Inward Connections 820 sidecar.

Standout session drummer Matt Chamberlain contributed on many tracks, such as False Priest lead single “Coquet Coquette”; for drum sessions, Koller would typically set up an AKG D12 on the kick, Neumann U67s on snares, plus an overhead mono (either a Neumann U47, AKG Elam or D19), with Neumann M50s and sometimes RCA 44 ribbon mics in the room for ambiance. However, for the song “Black Lion Massacre” (on the upcoming Controller’s Sphere, an EP of additional songs written during the False Priest period), the team created a tight, ringing, highly effected groove by placing contact mics on each piece of the drum kit, having Brion and Barnes mute parts as Chamberlain played, and running the result through guitar amps, which he then miked and recorded.

On the same track, as well as ones such as “Sex Karma” (a duet with Solange Knowles), Brion applied what Barnes jokingly calls “the most expensive fuzz pedal in the world”—an EMI TG 12345 portable console that served as the Abbey Road mobile unit in the ’70s. “You can overdrive it in a specific way, because John has a special relationship with the gain structure,” says Koller. “We’d push channels in the group master at different levels for effect, and even for parts we didn’t re-track, I’d run them out of Logic through the EMI to open them up, drive them with that sonic character.”

When recording, the team used the EMI board and/or what they dubbed “the God chain”—the best-sounding outboard modules for each application, pulled from tube preamps, a rare pair of Pultec shelving EQs, a Fairchild limiter, Altec RS124 compressors, a boutique Overstayer stereo compressor, and Sontec parametric mastering EQs.

The same outboard gear was used to detail out and fatten up pre-recorded material in the mix, as Koller dealt with a lot of “mid-range build-up . . . I find a lot of modern gear and recording compounds [frequencies] in the 3–5kHz range.” Other processors included the Sonnox Oxford SuprEsser, the SofTube FET Compressor, and Trident A-Range EQ.

“I used a lot of synth filters to take off nasty high end, make mids more aggressive, and add low end,” says Koller. “Some were plug-ins, such as the UAD Moog Multimode Filter, and others were outboard filters like the Schippmann EBBE und Flut and the Moogerfooger pedals.” Koller, however, avoided using main bus compression before mastering, which gave him more opportunities to preserve dynamics in the complex mixes. (By the time the sessions were completed, each of the 13 songs contained 30–50 tracks.)

Reflecting on what was the most technically complex recording process of his career to date, Barnes has nothing but glowing things to say about what Brion and his team brought to the punchy soul-punk of False Priest. “Jon’s a beautiful person, an amazing musician; he has a great ear, he has soul, and he has technical proficiency to top it all,” he says. “Next to him, I felt almost like how Brian Eno describes himself, like a ‘non-musician.’ I’m more about quickly getting the ideas out and having the excitement come through in the texture, rather than playing or engineering with perfect tone. He really helped bring out all the body I’d heard before and imagined and wondered how to fully incorporate, but I’d never seen the real gear. And no one ever did anything generic through any of it.”

Sunday, September 5, 2010

2010-02-18 - The Vanderbilt Hustler

By Alex Daly
Published Feb. 18, 2010. 921 views

Versus Magazine: How are you? You look tired …
James Huggins: Good, I woke up this afternoon and immediately was whisked away to play this Grimey’s in-store thing.

VM: And how did that go?

JH: It went really well, considering that I hadn’t even had half a cup of coffee let alone breakfast. And [one of our instruments] broke within the first five minutes, so we had to improvise ... but it’s a really cool little venue.

VM: How is the tour going so far?
JH: It’s almost over, actually. Tonight is the last night, and it’s disappointing, really, because I want to keep going. It’s been so short — it’s only been like, ten shows, and it kind of came out of nowhere. We had planned to take the whole winter off and then suddenly these dates popped up in January and we just kind of threw it together. It’s been short but it’s been really fun and super exhausting.

VM: Where were you guys before Nashville?

JH: This is honestly one of those embarrassing moments where I can’t remember.

It’s probably a huge blur by now …
JH: I am totally ashamed to say that I can’t remember.

VM: Were there any gigs that come to mind as favorites so far?
JH: New York was incredible. We played the Hi-Line Ballroom. I hadn’t been there before and it’s relatively new.

How is it doing two projects now [of Montreal and solo opening act James Husband]?
JH: It’s not something that I’m not comfortable with, because I’ve done it before. It’s just different this time because it’s the first real push of my new band, so I’ve had a lot of responsibility there. In addition to that, what used to be a sort of easy job for me has now been redefined, so I’m doing ten times the physical effort during the of Montreal shows, and it’s been physically exhausting me. I used to play the drums in the band for most of the songs for six of seven years, but for the last five years I’ve also been playing guitar, bass, keyboards, trumpet and only touching the drum set for like, four songs out of the set.
And on this thing I turn all of the last four albums which [consists of] electronic, dance-pop, very much drum-machine oriented music into straight up rock tunes. So the only things we have on stage are two guitarists, the bassist and a drum kit, so I’m playing for 90 minutes. And this makes me sound like some kind of light eight, but I’m just not used to doing that ... I have an hour of cerebral, emotional performance, and then I have to switch off my brain and just bash the drums for an hour and a half, so the physical end of it is what’s really killing me. But every night we’ve done it, and I’m still kicking, so we’ll do it again tonight.

VM: What inspired you to do the solo act?
JH: Well it’s not really a new thing; it’s just newly officially billed. I’ve been doing it for, like, over ten years. I guess things are starting to finally slow down for of Montreal, because in the last few years we haven’t had more than a couple weeks off at a time in a year. We did something like 267 shows in 2007 and roughly the same in 2008, so I just haven’t had time.

But now [I] have time. I went to a couple of different studios, I was living overseas in Sweden, and I had time and I had access to a studio and [went for] it. It was just kind of long overdue, so the time came and I decided to just stick it out there.

VM: Listening to your music, it’s a very dynamic sound and ranges so much from the first song to the last. And it doesn’t sound anything like of Montreal. What inspired you?
JH: Well, it had very little to do with of Montreal. It’s more [about] the timetable and the places where the songs were recorded, because this is very much a collection of scattered recording from all over the place and from different times. So if they sound all over the place, it’s because one might have been recorded in my bedroom in 2002 and another might have been recorded in a proper studio in Stockholm in 2008. It depends on who I might have had with me to record with, or what I had written earlier in the year.

The whole point of it is that it’s not just meant to be an album. Many people have the misconception that it’s a new album and that I just went in with ten hot songs and I recorded them all in a week, but it’s much more like a collection of snapshots, like a scrapbook — like, “Here’s me at summer camp with my parents in 1983,” and “Here’s me at my college graduation” … it’s like that, but with songs.

VM: I was reading about that, about how you crafted this as just a huge collection of snapshots from different moments. And this style really brings diversity to the album.

JH: I’m all about diversity.

VM: Have you guys ever played here in Nashville before?

JH: Oh yeah, many many times.

What do you think of the city?
JH: We love Nashville! Nashville has always been a wild place for us. People love to meet us up here and we tend to get whisked away. We have done probably six or seven other shows with [this promoter] both in two other small venues and twice in this venue. And I have performed once solo at the Ryman, but that was during tour when they just let me stand up there and play. It’s like a dream to play there. Nashville has a million other venues, but they don’t all cater to the kind of show we do. We have gone to very small rooms, as well, and played in Nashville at least 15 times over the last 11 years.

I have personally never seen you perform before, so what are your shows like? What are they like for you?
JH: Well that’s the trouble with people who see us for the first time and people who saw us once even three, five or seven years ago, or even people who saw us once only three, five or seven months ago. We try to do a completely different show every time. And that doesn’t just mean in terms of a set list, I mean in terms of members in the band, different people on our performance crew, different video projects, different stage lighting … and for the past several years we have building our own stages to put on top of the venue’s stage.

And we have been getting bigger and bigger, and now we have these video projection things, because we have these groups of, well, I wouldn’t call them actors, I definitely don’t like to call them performance artists and I certainly wouldn’t call them dancers … but they kind of do something resembling all three. And for the last couple of years, [the show] has gotten really elaborate — we have 19 people on the road and only six in the band. We have tried to blow it out as big as we can get it for the bigger venues and festivals, but now we are doing these smaller shows and doing, like I said, rock ‘n’ roll versions of the grandeur of the past several years.

So in some ways I hope that someone like yourself wouldn’t feel gypped, because there is this legend looming out there that we are always going to put on this outrageous stage show. And we still are, to some degree, but I think it’s more interesting for us to focus on the music and do it in a different way. So if you look at the last four or five albums, what we do tonight will not sonically represent the album very well, but the songs are presented in a very live way.

We haven’t heard any complaints, but in the past it’s always been about totally recreating the record exactly. And we’d have two different computers, two different electronic brains that would control sound effects and drum patterns, and loops that go to our ears, so we’d all be playing along with the grid — it was all very robotic and complex, and it was all about blowing out as much sound and as much of the album as possible. But tonight it’s a much more minimalist approach [than] that.

It’s not some new thing we’re doing, but we decided that since we’re doing a small tour in the winter we might as well do it in a way that’s fun for us. So we’re going to try to play like we’re a live band again.

VM: Is it a collaborative thing, this creative side to the performances? Is it even the band that takes care of that or is there a side team?
JH: It’s all-inclusive — everyone in the band and on the crew has equal say and tends to get equal ideas rejected and accepted. It’s sort of compartmentalized, in a way. I mean, David Barnes, Kevin’s brother, who has always been kind of the sixth member of the band, doesn’t play any instruments, but he’s an artist and does all the artwork (well, most of the artwork — Kevin’s wife started doing some of the late stuff). But all of the imagery and artwork and videos that feature things that have to do with our band are done by David. He also kind of directs the performance bits and is responsible for most of the costumes and one-act plays that take place, so he pretty much gets free reign when it comes to that department.

But as far as the set and stage design, I have had a lot to do with that, and also our sound engineer and video engineer have hand-built everything together. Everything we use is hand-made, and those guys are the carpenters/electrical-engineers. And input for the video screens comes from Nick and also Dottie, the keyboard player’s fiance. We’ve been planning a big wedding party for them in the spring.

And then you’ve got everyone from our tour manager, who is onstage in costume every night, to various road managers and workers who are in costume doing their thing each night. But it’s like I said — I don’t think we have ever done the same show twice.

VM: Do you have any background in art or design? Or did you just figure this all out as the years went by?

I grew up in a very musical but also very church-oriented, Southern Baptist family in Georgia, and my father is the musical director [of our church]. So not only did he make sing in the church choir and all that crap, but he would always put on the Christmas pageant and the school play etc. and my mom would always design the props, make backdrops and make costumes by hand and stuff. I had this very home-spun, “Waiting for Guffman”-style, tiny town theater experience, and I have always been acting in little plays. So I pretty much started out doing that stuff before we had any money.

In fact, five or six years ago, I had borrowed these huge slide projection screens from my uncle (I had used them for these church productions in the ‘80s). I set up three screens with old-school clips and slides of carousels and projected the whole slideshow behind the band. And then we started to get some money and decided to buy a bunch of new, high-tech electronics, so I turned things over to Nick. I was running this crap while playing drums in the middle of the show … Now, I have less of a hands-on approach and more just suggestions.

VM: You definitely have to come back and play at the Ryman with this theatrical aspect!

We could do at least the most visually stunning show there, but certainly not the best musically, since every legend in the world has played there. Unless The Flaming Lips have played there — they are our one big competitor. It seems like everything we do, they end up doing bigger. But we’re close on their heels, and we’re doing it in a similar spirit but a different way.

VM: What do you foresee happening in the future with both James Husband? Do you see yourself continuing with your solo project?

JH: Absolutely. It’s not like it’s some kind of whim. It’s just a long overdue beginning of something that will be the focus of my attention from this point on. And that’s not to say that I’m going to stop playing with of Montreal — in fact, I think for the rest of this year [I’m] continuing to do both. I think we are going to do another leg or two this way.

But this whole temporary diversion of being a straight up rock band is not going to last very long. I think the plan for the next record, which is not going to come out until the end of the summer, is to totally revamp the whole thing, bring in additional musicians, and expand the band so the musicians are able to more closely recreate the record but without all the previous sampling technology that we were using. The idea is to have about ten or twelve [musicians] and multiple percussionists so we can do complex rhythms, because it’s just impossible for me to do as one man, especially since I’m not using any drum pads or anything. We want to bring in a couple of extra string players and horn players and make it more of a big-band sound, really a ’70s kind of band that would have that sort of instrumentation. But that all depends on us finding all of the right people — we are going to start auditioning people, talking to all of our friends in various bands and seeing their availability.

If we can pull it off it would be something of like a super group and much more focused on the music. I’m sure there will still be some sort of elaborate stage production, but the idea is to sort of scrap everything we have been doing for the last year and a half and create some new characters. We also want to get rid of the more colorful things and instead create some darker settings and lighting.

VM: Do you opt for the same kind of stage shows for James Husband?

JH: No, with that, it’s just about the music. I mean we already have all the [of Montreal stuff] set up there, so we sometimes will throw some of that on for the colors, but I think most of that would just distract you. The point of the James Husband project is for me to feel comfortable singing the songs. We tried doing it like a big rock band to make it more exciting, but the truth of the matter is, you listen to the album and it’s all pretty mellow — it’s all just about my singing. And I can’t sing very loudly or very well when a lot is going on, so I tried to make it a very soft band. I have a cellist and a clarinet player and I play mostly acoustic guitar … so it’s very, very much the opposite of a [loud rock show].

VM: You mentioned that tonight is your last show on this tour. Any idea when you’ll start up again?
JH: Well, I’m doing another run by myself, which is obviously not as easy because everything falls to my own resources. I don’t have the tour bus, I don’t have the crew of ten people … which is why it’s so nice to tour with of Montreal because, sure, I’m a member of the band, and it’s all my equipment and my money in a way (at least a fifth of it), but at the same time I’m looking at it like I’m a new artist and I got an opportunity to play with a band like of Montreal. So you remove the obvious conflict of interest, and it makes things a whole lot easier [to look at].

But, that being said, the five or six of us will jump in a van and do a small club tour in March, and then of Montreal will [start touring again] in June, so I’m doing both worlds for the next few months. Then we have Dottie’s wedding, which we are all taking a month off for, and then ... who knows. Maybe we’ll play some festivals, or something.

2010-05-20 - Vox Magazine

of Montreal kicks off Summerfest

Georgia band of Montreal plays in CoMo for the third time in four years

Photo courtesy of of Montreal

of Montreal is known for its colorful stage performances. The band is playing the first 9th Street Summerfest of the year. All fests are free and located at Ninth and Broadway.

May 20, 2010 | 12:00 a.m. CST

Follow VoxMag on Twitter for live coverage of Summerfest. Click here for photos of the concert.
Last April when of Montreal played The Blue Note, the energetic rockers came bearing feather-spraying tubes, actors dressed as pigs and lead singer Kevin Barnes’ cross- dressing stage persona, Georgie Fruit. Transforming the venue into a psychedelic circus fit for Andy Warhol, the band left the feather-coated audience begging for an encore. Now of Montreal is granting the crowd’s wish with a free outdoor concert as part of the 9th Street Summerfest series. Call it a stroll down Memory Lane — or maybe just Ninth Street.

This will be of Montreal’s third time to play Columbia in the past four years, and due to an ever-increasing audience, the band has played a larger stage each time. “We have a long history with of Montreal,” says The Blue Note’s talent buyer Peter McDevitt. “They’ve played both Mojo’s and The Blue Note, and it’s always a great and very entertaining show.”

9th Street Summerfest featuring of Montreal
Where: Ninth and Broadway
When: Wednesday, May 26. Gates open at 6 p.m., concert at 7 p.m.
Cost: Free
Call: 573-874-1944

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The band’s style of music is almost as adventurous as its onstage antics. “I wouldn’t try to put us in one genre or spot,” lead guitarist Bryan Poole says. “If you start doing that, you limit how creative you can be. You can say we are electro-dance pop, indie-pop, or you can say we’re a funk band or a psychedelic band or an annoying band — I don’t know, hopefully not.” As for the band’s quirky stage wardrobe, Poole describes it in one word: fiasco.

“There’s a lot of bands that dress up in their indie-rock T-shirts,” Poole says. “Or you can be like Neil Young or whatever, which is totally cool, but we like to add a theatrical element to it and make it a surreal experience.”

Mesmerized by this unique stage presence and distinctive sound, Zak Littrell, a student at Webster University in St. Louis, will be traveling to Columbia to see of Montreal for the third time. After seeing the band at Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza, Littrell is eager for another concert. “For the show in Chicago, I was kind of close, and I was able to take a lot of pictures and video,” Littrell says. “They just put on a really good theatrical performance.”

Fans aren’t the only ones anticipating the free show — Poole says the band is looking forward to it, too. “The Blue Note is a great club,” he says. “It’s got a lot of big history. There are only so many clubs around the country that still have a good independent streak. The Blue Note seems to be one of those places.”

Although the event will be held on a large outdoor stage, the intimacy that accompanies an indoor club will not be lost. For Littrell, the Ninth Street stage will be the closest he’s been to the band. “I’m most excited for the fact that it’s going to be a smaller venue,” Littrell says. “I’ve only seen them at a festival setting with a very large crowd each time.”

The Columbia concert will be one of the group’s last performances before it releases its forthcoming album, False Priest, in September. Poole says Barnes, who creates all of Montreal’s music, is currently at work on the album in L.A., but in the meantime the band figures it might as well play some shows.

“As long as the weather is nice, then playing outside is a lot of fun,” Poole says. “The show in Columbia is going to be great.”

2010-05-19 - QuickDFW

original article.

Of Montreal goes live

Guitarist talks upcoming album and latest tour, which hits Granada on Monday
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
By Hunter Hauk, hhauk@quickdfw.com

Of Montreal/230 Publicity

Of Montreal frontman and songwriter Kevin Barnes could perform his hook-heavy, sexually charged electro-pop on stage alone, since that's the way he records it. But that wouldn't be much fun. Over the past decade, the Athens, Ga., act's live shows have become a celebration of freakiness, thanks not only to Barnes' on-stage vamping but also his live band's commitment to the experience.

One of the longtime members, guitarist Bryan Poole, granted us a phone chat while Barnes was off finishing work on the band's next album with respected producer Jon Brion.

Poole says that he gets regular updates from Barnes on the upcoming record, reportedly titled False Priest.

"Generally, any time he writes a new song – and it's common for him to stay up until 6 or 7 in the morning doing that – I will wake up and see that he sent me a new song at 5:52 a.m. or something," Poole told us. "And I will listen and find that it's pretty amazing. ... Jon Brion has all the greatest vintage gear. So the new album will be sonically fantastic, I think."

As for Monday's show, Poole says the setlist will come from past albums such as Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer and Skeletal Lamping, but new material won't be learned or performed until the fall. This stop might also seem a bit more scaled back, set-wise, than past Of Montreal outings – we're referring specifically to the Fauna show a few years ago that featured a multilevel stage setup.

"This tour won't be as extravagant," said Poole. "For the band, it's a little more back to basics. There are still trademark Of Montreal theatrical elements, though. People won't be disappointed."

The band's also taking steps toward using more live elements on stage, such as a real drummer.

"We're not playing with backing tracks anymore, so that's a branch into a new phase. Not to take away from what we did before, but I've always thought having a full-time drummer is a better visual experience. It's very visceral. There's so much energy coming from a drummer."

And what advice would Poole give the new drummer, Clayton Rychlik, about getting along with the group's provocative, androgynous frontman?

"It's hard to say. I'd say that we're pretty good, as far as relationships. There's ups and downs, of course. But until you're around him, you don't really know. Kevin's a weird guy, you know? A lot of artists are. We're weirdos."

The talent, Poole

When he's not playing with Of Montreal, Bryan Poole works on a few side projects, the most notable being his alter-ego, the Late B.P. Helium. "I've been working on stuff on my own, but I need kind of an editor," says Poole. "My friend Jason, a.k.a. Casper Fandango from Casper and the Cookies, has a lot better ear as an engineer, so I've been getting together with him and layering." The music? "It's leaning to early '80s like Afrika Bambaataa. I won't say they are dance-y tracks, but there are rhythmically fun songs." One of Poole's other side bands is Hi Hi Hi, a just-for-fun cover band that plays only Wings tunes. Says Poole in describing it, "I'm not trying to say we are awesome, but ... [Laughs.]"

Of Montreal, with opening act Noot D'Noot, Monday at 8 p.m. at the Granada Theater. 3524 Greenville Ave. $22. 214-824-9933. granadatheater.com.

2010-05-20 - Columbia Tribune

original article.

Of Montreal shares sweet view from top of the heap

Of Montreal brings the carnival-like atmosphere of their shows to the Ninth Street Summerfest next Wednesday.

Of Montreal brings the carnival-like atmosphere of their shows to the Ninth Street Summerfest next Wednesday.

“We want our film to beautiful, not realistic,” Kevin Barnes once yelped in a song from the 2007 album “Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?” Within the context of the whirring 11-minute track “The Past is a Grotesque Animal,” the proclamation from Of Montreal’s peacockish frontman is an evocative one, adding layers of meaning to emotionally exposed verse about romantic turmoil. But, set against the context of the band’s entire career, that sentence could serve as an all-encompassing mission statement.


Who: Of Montreal with Noot D’Noot

Where: Ninth Street between Broadway and Walnut

When: Wednesday, gates open at 6 p.m.

Tickets: Free

Over their career, Of Montreal have existed as purveyors of extraordinary musical beauty and a band likely never mistaken for strict realists. The carnival-like atmosphere of their live show has been well-documented: colorful, lavish costumes, an occasionally naked Barnes, video projection, random cover songs and celebrity cameos — such as the recent appearance of Susan Sarandon, who came on stage and paddled men dressed like pigs — are but a few elements that have shown up in a shows often compared to performance art.

Reviewing a 2008 gig, L.A. Weekly’s Jeff Weiss wrote, “If you were a 17-year-old, sexually confused kid on ecstasy, it stands within reason that Saturday night’s show … would’ve ranked as one of the greatest moments of your entire life.” In another review, Buzzine’s Nicole Pope said, “Just when The Flaming Lips thought they had the market cornered on acid-friendly performances, … Of Montreal has stepped up the glamour, the sex, the strange.”

Yet, for a band with much to remark about, perhaps the most remarkable feature about Of Montreal is that all the pomp and circumstance has rarely, if ever, distracted from their sound, the performance art never overshadowing what’s being performed. For more than a decade, the band has established themselves as renegades of psychedelic funk, honing a style that ingeniously sounds randomly cobbled even as it’s the product of Barnes and his bandmates’ careful, clever intentionality. No matter what styles or sounds bleed together in an Of Montreal song, their work features constants: breakneck beats, subversive grooves, shimmering synths, gliding guitars and melodies that reference The Beatles, Bowie and Prince, tunneling between the ears and setting up residence in the brain’s pleasure center. In other words, Of Montreal brings pure sonic bliss.

Based out of Athens, Ga. — which, at least for indie and college rock fans, has supplanted Nashville as Music City, U.S.A. — Of Montreal sprouted from the Elephant 6 collective, a record label and mutual admiration society that aided the rise of bands like The Apples in Stereo, Elf Power and Neutral Milk Hotel. Their debut, “Cherry Peel,” hit record stores in 1997, but of late, Barnes and company have dwelled at an especially sweet spot in the public consciousness, a spot solidified by the strength of their four most recent LP’s: 2004’s “Satanic Panic in the Attic,” 2005’s “The Sunlandic Twins,” the previously aforementioned “Hissing Fauna” and 2008’s “Skeletal Lamping,” in which Barnes sang as the character Georgie Fruit, a sexually ambiguous black performer.

The band has inspired a host of younger bands and helped pave paths for them — Weiss wrote, for example, that “MGMT would never have been promoted in the first place” without the release of “The Sunlandic Twins” — all while maintaining a premium on innovation. “Skeletal Lamping” was perhaps the most chaotic and challenging release of the band’s career, a recording that is less immediately accessible — and lyrically shocking at times — but holds its worth over repeated listens. “Family Noveau,” a documentary chronicling the band’s 2009 European tour, was released earlier this year, a film sure to be beautiful and, by its nature, somewhat realistic.

According to published reports, the band is working on a new release with a working title, “False Priest.” It will be fascinating to see where they find themselves on this record and in resulting shows because Barnes has long held the notion that success will not pigeonhole or pin down Of Montreal. “It’s really important because I feel like once it starts going downhill, it’ll be time to reassess things and change the game plan,” he told Paste magazine’s Steve LaBate in an especially candid 2008 interview. “I’ll probably still want to put out records, but I won’t be spending as much money and time on the performance. We probably won’t even perform anymore.

“No one can stay at the top forever, or else it’ll get boring,” he added. “It’s important for people to come up, do their thing and then be surpassed by someone new. And that’s how the scene stays fresh and exciting. I feel like right now, on an indie level, we’re up kinda close to the top, and we can’t stay there for very long. So now that we’re up there, we have a great opportunity to do something fantastic.”

Whatever values, visuals and vibe Of Montreal bring to bear on their Summerfest performance, the show is sure to be fantastical, the music fantastic, the experience one-of-a-kind.

2010-05-23 - Tulsa World

original article.

Of Montreal still fresh after 15 years

Published: 5/23/2010 2:20 AM
Last Modified: 5/23/2010 9:21 AM

Of Montreal formed in Athens, Ga., in the mid-1990s from a loose collective of musicians at Elephant Six Recording Co. The quirky, funky, indie-pop act returns to the Sooner state for one show.

Here are five (or so) questions with the band's founder, Kevin Barnes, on its live shows, fans, makeup, music and upcoming album release, among other things.

What's the biggest difference in your sound compared with when you formed nearly 15 years ago?
When we first started, we were 1960s analog purists, and the thought of using programmed drums or backing tracks of any kind would have been unthinkable. I was very militant in my thinking about what was "real" or "authentic" art. I've since mellowed on that and have become more open-minded regarding different compositional and performance techniques.

Of Montreal is pretty well-known for its live shows. What drives you to keep concerts fresh and unique?
Just the desire to create something exceptional and multidimensional. What reason is there to go see a band perform multiple times in a year, if they don't really do anything differently from one tour to the next? We always try to add some new element to the performance and try to avoid repetition as much as possible — not only for the audience's sakes but for ours, as well. It gets boring doing the same thing again and again.

When is your next album, "False Priest," due? What does the title mean? Will it be another concept album?
It's gonna come out this fall. The title is open to interpretation. I can't really say exactly if there is a concept floating around in there somewhere. There always seems to be, at least upon later reflection.

Why the funky dress and offbeat makeup when performing live?
It's just a part of making something exceptional out of the live presentation of the songs. We could just go on stage in our street clothes, but that's too mundane for us. I don't really see the point of going on stage in front of people and not doing something out of the ordinary, I mean, to paraphrase Shakespeare, the whole world is a stage, so when one is on the stage at a venue, one is really on two stages, like a double stage. So man, you'd better do something spectacular if you're gonna be that high up! Ha ha, of course I'm just joking — but not really.

Of Montreal's been around for close to 15 years now and seems to be building momentum like never before. Why do you think that is?
I'd like to say it's because of all of the hard work we've put into it, but I know that's only half of the reason. The real reason probably has something to do with Bryan's wild guitar playing or Davey's boyish good looks.

What's your typical set (if there is such a thing) like? Lots of new music, a combination of new and old or primarily previously released material? Are no two sets the same?
We're gonna be playing mostly songs from the past four albums, as well as some "False Priest" songs and maybe a few covers, as well. We're going to be trying out some new theatrical and visual ideas. I'm looking forward to getting out of the studio for a few weeks and performing again.

with Noot D’Noot and James Husband
8 p.m. Tuesday
Cain’s Ballroom, 423 N. Main St.
$20, plus fees, Cain’s box office, reasor’s grocery stores, Ida red, Starship records & Tapes, by phone at (866) 977- 6849, tulsaworld.com/protix

2010-05-?? - Kentucky.com

Of Montreal is really one man's band

Of Montreal follows its leader in all things musical

By Walter Tunis Contributing Music Writer

It is perhaps the antithesis of the everyday rock band design.

Onstage, the Athens, Ga., collective known as Of Montreal revels in a vibrant indie sound rich in retro pop, '80s flavored pop-soul and a touch of dance-happy funk with songs that think nothing of shifting rhythmic and/or stylistic course multiple times.

On record, though, Of Montreal is a band of one. Its albums are the self-fulfilled vision of Kevin Barnes. He writes, records and produces (at least, until now) all of the music the rest of the band enacts onstage.

If you happen to be one of those mercenary musicians, as guitarist Bryan Poole has been on and off since Barnes formed Of Montreal in 1996, you learn to live with the separation that comes from being involved in only half of a band's creative function. That doesn't necessarily mean you like the situation. But you accept it.

"It's Kevin's thing," said Poole, who joins Of Montreal's onstage incarnation Thursday at Buster's Billiards & Backroom. "It's his band as far as the creativity end of it goes, which I have to say I'm not exactly all that excited about sometimes. But he has his way of working.

"You really could describe Kevin as somebody like Prince. He can play everything and view everything all on his own. I mean, I will get an e-mail with a song from him at 5:30 in the morning sometimes. I'll listen to it, and it will just be amazing. It will be so fully formed. So I kind of understand where he's coming from. There's a kind of magic when you've done it all yourself."

One might think such a recording process would shift when Jon Brion was recruited to produce Of Montreal's forthcoming album False Priest. Brion's previous clients include Spoon, Rhett Miller, Fiona Apple, Brad Mehldau, Rufus Wainwright and Robyn Hitchcock. So bringing in the big production brass meant Of Montreal became more of a band project when recording sessions began in Los Angeles, right?

Well, no.

"Kevin still recorded the whole thing himself," Poole said. "He is basically mixing it with Jon Brion. Jon has been going through and helping create more space in the recordings and has been kind of livening up the songs by putting them through some amazing analog gear. That helps hone the songs, too, because Kevin can come up with a million ideas for them."

Poole said the basic musical ingredients aren't that different on False Priest than on past Of Montreal recordings such as 2008's Skeletal Lamping. There, Barnes references the sleek vocal swell that was a calling card of the Beach Boys (on Jimmy), Prince's one-man-band party soul (Gallery Piece) and even a touch of Rolling Stones swagger filtered through post-grunge pop (And I've Seen a Bloody Shadow). Yet the very singular assembly of such inspirations can't help but create a hybrid sound of Barnes' own design.

"The new record continues on the same arc as Kevin's past songwriting," Poole said. "It's still full of soulful, funky kinds of things. It might lean a little more to R&B-type soul than Prince. But it's all mixed together. Early influences like The Beach Boys, The Kinks and psychedelic bands like The Pretty Things are still there, especially in the harmonies. I mean, if it weren't for the Beach Boys, Kevin would never have found the kinds of harmonies we have."

But what of the next step, the one that calls on Poole, keyboardist Dottie Alexander, drummer Davey Pierce and multiinstrumentalist James Huggins so Of Montreal can become a living, breathing touring band? How do four other musicians key into a recorded vision they had little or nothing to do with in order to bring the music to the stage?

"Because Kevin has so many ideas crammed into his recordings, it's our job to break them down into something we can pull off live," Poole said. "We used to use a lot of computer backing. But that kind of locked us into this grid of basically playing to a prerecorded backing track. Since the first of this year, we jettisoned that, which is a big relief for me.

"We feel more like a real band now. I know Kevin just wants us to be a band that can express itself in a lot of different contexts rather than getting locked into the same thing. There are spaces for our expression now, room for the rest of us to put our imprint on the music."

2010-05-24 - The Hook

Interview: Of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes

by Administrator
published 10:04am Monday May 24, 2010

Of Montreal
No sprinkles, astonishingly. Photo by Patrick Heagney.

Exploring the roots of involuntary head-bop squadron Of Montreal’s robotic funk-pop is actually pretty easy. At least in the sense that songwriter Kevin Barnes is pretty open about his creative process, and he more or less runs the whole show on his own. Unfortunately, this also leaves him without the moderating effect of other presumably-less-zany band members, whichs how we end up with songs titled “Wraith Pinned To The Mist and Other Games” and “Heimdalsgate Like A Promethean Curse.” (And, for that matter: “Dirty Dustin Hoffman Needs A Bath,” “Dustin Hoffman Thinks About Eating The Soap,” “Dustin Hoffman Does Not Resist Temptation To Eat the Bathtub,” and “Dustin Hoffman’s Wife Makes A Sarcastic Remark, Cuts The Head Off A Duck, Places It Where The Tub Was, And Begins To Groan.”)

But he doesn’t like to talk about those days anymore. You might say he writes his riffs the same way he writes words: in bizarre, idiosyncratic, torrential blasts.

“It’s almost like Stevie Wonder’s in the room with me or George Clinton’s in the room with me, and I’m trying to make them laugh and trying to make them dance or whatever.”

More from the interview below.

The Hook: What can you tell me about your upcoming album, False Priest?
Kevin Barnes: It’s not as fragmented as Skeletal Lamping — more conventional songwriting, it doesn’t change every minute. We’re trying to create a really good headphone record that can transport you to these different places and sort of scatter your brain in a cool way.

The Hook: Does less jumping around between riffs leave you with more material for another album?
Kevin Barnes: Sometimes I will actually write a full song on the piano before I start recording it, but typically I’ll just start recording and just start layering ideas on top of each other. With False Priest I wanted to make something where there was a pocket that you could kind of lose yourself in.

The Hook: How do you think this change will go over?
Kevin Barnes: It gets ruined if I imagine someone listening to it. There are very few people whose opinion I would take to heart.

The Hook: Producer Jon Brion is one of them, I assume?
Kevin Barnes: He has an amazing understanding of how instruments work together. This record actually has a lot of trunk-rattling bass. We’re really trying to push that side of things that normally I never had before. That’s what comes out in the club.

The Hook: I’m having trouble picturing Of Montreal as a club thing.
Kevin Barnes: Not like I want to come on after Lady Gaga or whatever; we’re not really trying to compete in that way. But it will be the sort of record that you will have a different experience if you listen on a really great sound system, whereas in the past it really wouldn’t make that much of a difference.

The Hook: This seems to run counter to the “headphone album” approach.
Kevin Barnes: That’s kind of the balance we’re trying to strike.

The Hook: So, trunk-rattling bass in the live show too, then?
Kevin Barnes: Well, we’ll be at the mercy of the clubs we’re playing. But I’ve decided that I wanted to just get rid of the backing tracks completely and just have live instrumentation.

The Hook: Given how dense your songs can get, that must require a lot of musicians.
Kevin Barnes: I would love it if we could be like a fifteen-piece band or something, but it’s just kind of cost-prohibitive.

The Hook: So did that decision affect the way you wrote the new material?
Kevin Barnes: No. To me, the recording is something that will last a lot longer, and hopefully people— just like I listen to records that were made forty years ago or whatever, hopefully people will listen to Of Montreal records decades from now. The live show is fleeting.

The Hook: Wait, suddenly you’re not as into the dancing?
Kevin Barnes: Well, in addition to making you want to dance.

Of Montreal performs at the Jefferson Theater on May 31. $35-$27 unless you win the free tickets in our contest prize package, 7pm.

2010-06-17 - Pitchfork

original article.

Thursday, June 17 : Of Montreal's Kevin Barnes Talks New Album, Tour With Janelle Monáe

"I've always had a suspicion of the Catholic Church, even as a kid."

False Priest, the new album from Athens glam-funk freaks of Montreal, is coming this fall. Frontman Kevin Barnes recorded much of it in Los Angeles, working with the producer and composer Jon Brion (Fiona Apple, Kanye West). The album will feature collaborations with like-minded R&B sirens Solange Knowles and Janelle Monáe. And according to Barnes, it'll also feature a ton of trunk-rattling bass, a first for an of Montreal album.

We recently caught up with Barnes as he was finishing work on the album. We talked about the Catholic Church, what False Priest will tell you about your car stereo, and the touring extravaganza of Montreal is planning with Janelle Monáe.

Pitchfork: The new album is called False Priest. What does the title mean?

Kevin Barnes: It's open to interpretation. At first-- just as with most things I do-- I didn't really think it had a meaning. But the meaning I've grown to attach to it is sort of a sense of a false policing of yourself, or your psyche-- creating false limitations for yourself, as if there was a false priest inside of all of us that controls us.

Pitchfork: Do you mean inhibitions?

KB: On some level. But inhibitions can stem from so many different sources. We all have our sense of right or wrong, or acceptable or unacceptable thinking or behavior. Especially for me, growing up Catholic, the word priest has more significance than it would for someone who didn't go through that. I've always had a suspicion of the Catholic Church, even as a kid. My brother [artist David Barnes] and I, in our theatrical performances, address that a lot as well: the hypocrisy and the negative aspects of the Church.

Pitchfork: A lot of artists who grew up Catholic and are conflicted about it seem to end up creating work informed by their experiences with the Church.

KB: Yeah, I guess there's something to it. A lot of people take a lot from it. It gives them a sense of balance. It gives them a sense of control, as if they don't feel like there's total chaos. It gives their life meaning on some level. But it never really worked for me. My two sisters go to Church every Sunday. My parents go to Church every Sunday still. It's just my brother and I, for some reason, who didn't connect with it.

Pitchfork: How much did you work with Jon Brion on this one? Did he produce the whole album?

KB: No, he didn't produce it. Basically, I made a record in my home studio. By of Montreal standards, by the previous records' standards, I made a record; it was basically done. And then I came out to L.A., to Ocean Way studios with Jon. He basically showed me how I could make it sound a lot better, improve the fidelity, get more low end, expand the audio spectrum. And so we cut live drums on top of my programmed drumming, and we recut all the bass guitars and added a whole bunch of synthesizers. I basically came to Jon with a finished record, and we improved upon it.

Pitchfork: Is this the first time you've done a really high-fi recording?

KB: It's not even really that hi-fi. It's definitely more hi-fi than anything I've ever done. If I were to have done the whole thing with Jon, then that would have been a different story. But just from my own limitations as a non-engineer-- basically just working by myself and not really concerning myself too much about fidelity-- it's just about getting the ideas out, not worrying about mic placement or EQ or compression or anything like that. It's more about writing all the compositional elements and then dealing with whatever fidelity it has after the fact. But we've definitely accomplished a lot since I've been out here, improving the sound of it.

Pitchfork: What genres did you play around with on this album? And did the improved sound inform the music?

KB: There's a thick R&B influence, so it's cool that we have a lot of deep low end. Basically, every song has a lot more low-end information than I've ever used before. We're trying to make a record that has similar low end to records like The Low End Theory by A Tribe Called Quest and even, to some degree, stuff like Dr. Dre. That was the goal: To make something that had that low end but also was my thing, an of Montreal record. So it's different. Most indie-pop records don't have that low end.

Pitchfork: So will this be trunk music, then?

KB: That was definitely the thinking: People all of a sudden realize what kind of car stereos they have. It's one of those things where if you listen to it on your laptop, you're not going to hear it, but if you listen to it in the club, then you're really going to hear it; you're really going to feel it. Most cars have pretty decent sound systems nowadays, so you'd hear it there, too. That's the funny thing about when you're mixing, trying to make it sound good in every situation. But there's certain limitations, especially with laptop speakers or something coming out of your iPhone; that's not going to sound that great.

Pitchfork: Are you hoping this one gets some action in the club?

KB: Yeah! I mean there's definitely a lot of candidates there. There's a lot of very dancey, very funky songs. Jon and I were talking about what we really love about music: The physical connection that you can have, besides an intellectual connection. If the music can go through you, and not just make you want to dance, but give you a physical charge as well.

Pitchfork: Jon Brion co-produced Kanye West's Late Registration. There's not too much club music on there, but it's a really widescreen experience. Are you going for something similarly huge like that?

KB: Yeah. That was the thing when we were adding instruments out here and looking at what I had done already, trying to bring that out even more. The thing I really love about music is an unpredictability; that's essential for me. If I'm going to appreciate or connect with something, it can't be predictable. So we try to have these "holy fuck" moments where you're really having your mind blown, especially if you're listening to it on headphones. There's a lot of different records where I'm like, "Oh my god! That's so cool! I can't believe they did that!"

Pitchfork: What are some of your favorite examples of records that do that?

KB: Probably the biggest and most obvious example is the Beatles' "A Day in the Life", when those strings are ascending up and it's getting all chaotic and crazy, and then there's the big ending. That was the first moment when I realized the power of music. That song is so brilliant on so many levels, and in addition to that, there's that moment that just makes you go, "Oh my god!" When it's over, you're breathless.

Pitchfork: You've been doing of Montreal for so long and for so much of the time it's basically been a home-recording project. Is it a big adjustment to come out to L.A. and work the way you've been working on this one?

KB: Yeah. I can't imagine that I would have been able to do it with anyone else, but somehow I just felt so relaxed with Jon. I just really love hanging out with him, even if we're not working. A lot of the time, we're just hanging out, talking and trading stories. We talk about music and playing songs together; he's amazing in that way. He has this head full of songs. He remembers everything and can figure it out instantly. So we spent a lot of time sitting on the piano. We'd talk about some Marvin Gaye song, and he'd be like, "Oh yeah! It's like this! And then this chord changes; it's so beautiful!" We were falling down over these things. We both just love music so much, and we're just so excited about the creative process. He's an exceptional human, and I can't imagine that I would have had as wonderful of an experience with anyone else.

Pitchfork: You've got Janelle Monáe and Solange on this album, and they're both fans of your band. Is it a charge for you to reach across these aisles and connect with people who work in genres that are so far outside where you've been situated?

KB: It's funny. I listen to so much soul music and R&B music. I never really felt like we were a part of any genre. I know that other people would group us in with certain other bands or whatever, but in my heart I didn't really belong there. So it wasn't really strange at all for me, at least, to think of myself on the same wavelength with [Monáe's collective] the Wondaland Arts Society and with Solange. But it was definitely exciting. It's always exciting when you meet someone that is insanely gifted, who you respect so much. And if you get the sense that they respect you too, that's the greatest feeling.

Pitchfork: What are Janelle and Solange like to work with?

KB: Fantastic. I mean, they're my good friends, so we just have fun together. I wrote a song on Janelle's record, and we sang it together. I'm super-close friends with everybody at the Wondaland Arts Society, and we trade songs back and forth all of the time; they're like my best friends. And Solange is fantastic. Her son and my daughter are best buddies, and I think we're going to have an arranged marriage for the two of them.

Pitchfork: The song that you've got on the Janelle Monáe album is really interesting; it's basically an of Montreal song with her singing on it, rather than with you guys playing on her song. It's interesting how it fits into the fabric of that album, and also how it stands out from it. Whose idea was it to put your song on her album?

KB: I guess it just happened organically. I can't really remember a conversation or anything. I think I was just sending them songs. After I met Janelle and [collaborators] Chuck Lightning and Nate Wonder and everybody from the Wondaland Arts Society, it was almost like this romance began. I still feel that excitement. Like, we're in the honeymoon period. It was just super exciting to know each other and to collaborate together, so I can't even really remember how it came about. It just happened organically and now it's there. I haven't really thought about it.

Pitchfork: It's cool how it comes up like that. I like how that album is just left turn after left turn.

KB: For me, it's the album of the last five or 10 years. It's fantastic because it's not just one thing. Like you said, it's constantly changing, and it's almost a through-composition. You never really know where one song is ending and another song is starting. And there's so much cool stuff happening on every fadeout of every song as well. You're like, "Where's that going? That thing was so great! I wish they would have developed it more, but oh, another amazing thing is just popping up!" I can't say enough good things about that record.

Pitchfork: When you're putting music together for a record, do you think about how it's going to come off onstage, with all the theatrics of your live show? Do you develop ideas for the show as you're working on the music?

KB: No, the live show usually comes after the fact. Usually, I write without thinking too much about how we're going to pull it off, just sort of getting excited about what's inspiring me at the moment. We just did this two-week tour, and basically every night on that tour, we would all have a meeting and talk about different ideas that we want to try out for the False Priest tour. We were really excited about production and getting that in motion. Right now, I'm still in L.A. mixing stuff, but my brother and Davey [Pierce] and everybody in the band is back in Athens, building props and creating costumes and thinking up ideas. So we're super excited.

The initial tour that we do to support a record, we'll invest a lot of money and a lot of time and energy and try to make it this giant production. We don't necessarily make money on those tours, but that's not the point. The point is just to be involved in something artistically satisfying and exciting. So this initial False Priest tour we're doing with Janelle Monae. It's going to be the most exciting event that I've ever been a part of. I just know it because we've got so many exciting ideas. We're going to marry the two shows together, in a way. It doesn't feel like you go see a band, and there's a pause, and there's another pause, and then it's over. We want to control the environment from right when the doors open, and have performance art and video performances and so many different levels of artistic stimulation that would go on throughout the whole night, so there's never a moment where there's house music or boring lighting. We want to transform the venues each night, so it becomes this exceptional experience for everyone.

Posted by Tom Breihan on June 17, 2010 at 8 a.m.

2010-06-10 - Spin

original article.

News - By William Goodman on June 10, 2010 11:08 AM

On Athens, GA, psychedelic glam-rock band Of Montreal's upcoming 10th album, False Priest (out this fall), weird has never sounded so good.

For the first time in their 14-year career, Kevin Barnes and Co. ditched the budget home studios they used to record much of their catalogue, and hit Los Angeles' high-tech Ocean Way Recording, where the Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, Radiohead, and the Rolling Stones have made albums. Barnes tells SPIN.com that the band hired offbeat L.A. superproducer Jon Brion (Kanye West, Spoon) to help create their most hi-fi album yet, while continuing to push their genre-smudging, experimental sound.

Below, Barnes talks about working with Solange Knowles and Janelle Monae, rekindling his side-project with Andrew VanWyngarden of MGMT, Blikk Fang, and the newest addition to Of Montreal's eclectic sound: "trunk-rattling booty bass."

Hey Kevin! How's Los Angeles treating ya?
It's good. But I'm living the vampire lifestyle since I'm working at night. I could be anywhere and it would be the same.

What's the status of the new Of Montreal album?
We're totally done tracking and about halfway finished mixing. We're still ironing it out, but it looks like 14 to 16 songs will make the album.

You wrote some of the new songs while drunk. How'd that go?
Some terrible and funny songs came out of it but I'd just send those to my brother. But a lot of the vocals -- because it's just me being by myself, drunk, at like 4 A.M. -- turned out well. I didn't have any inhibitions. It's important for me to block out the world and to get into this insular form of life where I'm just in touch with whatever is inspiring me. It helped to bend my mind a little bit. I usually don't drink in the winter but in the summer, I drink a bit more. The crickets were going insane outside, and I was inside the studio going insane. It was a very solitary experience but I felt like I was connecting somehow, in a different way, in a different form.

What can fans expect from the sound of False Priest?
The fidelity is going to be more massive than anything I've ever done before. We're getting inspired by A Tribe Called Quest and Dr. Dre albums, and incorporating that really deep low end into the Of Montreal sound. That's something that's never been before. There's a lot of trunk rattling bass. I'm really into OutKast and booty bass like 2livecrew and Ghetto Boys, plus N.W.A., Beastie Boys, Run D.M.C. I had all those in my head somewhere. I also really love 1960s and '70s reggae, which has really great low ends. It's amazing the way it connects with your body; it's such a physical thing -- it goes right through your body in a way that the other frequencies don't. The album isn't a straight up homage bass music, it's a blend of '70s soul, too. I was trying to think like, "If Philip K. Dick was like a black soul singer in the '70s, what kind of songs would he write?" Or, "If William S. Burroughs was a black songwriter from the '70s what kind of song would he write?" Others are a mix, like if the Kinks were to collaborate with Sly Stone, and Isaac Hayes was the producer and Brian Wilson was involved, too.

Tell me about a few songs specifically.
There's one called "Godly Intersex" and another called "Famine Affair." They're abstract lyrically. I'm thinking of William S. Burroughs a lot. I've only read Queer and Junky but somehow I feel like I've connected to what was inspiring him. It's very free form and I want the character that I invented, Georgie Fruit, to have balance with a slightly more intellectual influence. There needs to be duality.

Beyonce's sister Solange appears on the new album. How did that come together?
When I wrote a new song called "Sex Karma," I thought it would be cool if it appeared on her record. I sent it to her and for a while that was the plan. But I really liked it and changed my mind, and we decided to record it as a duet. Which works because the lyric "You look like a playground to me, player," is funny for a guy to sing. I didn't know if I could pull that off.

There are reports of a collaboration between you and Beyonce. What's up with that?
Nothing yet. If I wrote a song that fits for her and she was into it, I definitely would be happy. But nothing is in the works.

Atlanta R&B starlet Janelle Monae is making on appearance on False Priest.
Yep. The track is called "The Enemy Gene." It has sci-fi elements. I've been reading a lot of Philip K. Dick and thinking about the future -- people have a dark vision of it. The track is about technology robbing us of our organic connection to nature. It has a complex, semi-abstract story. Meeting Janelle and her Wondaland Arts Society crew is one of the greatest things to happen in the past year. There's a weird disconnect between Athens and Atlanta. I didn't really know any Atlanta musicians, but in the last few years I met Bradford Cox from Deerhunter and the Wondaland Arts Society, and it's a beautiful artistic romance. They'll send me mixes of songs, and vice versa. They've been a huge influence and inspiration on me. We'll definitely work together a lot more in the future. There are a lot of ideas in the works and those will probably be something we focus on a lot over the next year.

How did you end up working with producer Jon Brion?
A friend of his turned him on to our music and soon he mentioned Of Montreal in an interview, so I got in touch. We hit it off right away. He had this vision: "Man, I could definitely help you, I can see what your doing. If we worked together we could create something really cool." So, I tracked the album one instrument at a time in my home studio in Athens. Then I came out to L.A. and played it for Jon, and we tried to figure out how to improve the fidelity and decided which instruments we could add. We re-tracked bass guitars, electric guitars, and some pianos at Ocean Way. Jon really helped -- it benefits me to have someone around with an engineer's mind as well as a producer's mind because there's a lot that I overlook when I'm recording and experimenting with compositional techniques.

Last year Susan Sarandon joined Of Montreal onstage in New York and spanked members of the band with a ruler. That was random.
We have a mutual friend and her son is an Of Montreal fan. He turned her on to us. She's been in Rocky Horror Picture Show and tons of cool movies, so we figured she'd be up for doing something weird. We invited a skit based around her as a teacher that sees these two pigs misbehaving, grabs one pig by the ear, bends it over her knee, and spanks it. It's really interesting to realize that this famous actress is just like you -- creative, artistic, excited about off the wall things. We might do some more collaborations onstage.

Any plans to revive Blikk Fang, your side-project with Andrew VanWyngarden of MGMT?
We've been talking about it, but timing is tough: they just released their record and I'm recording frantically. It's just a matter of finding time. We both really want to make it happen. Even if the songs never get released, it's fun to work with someone that you respect a lot and have a lot in common with. We've already written a bunch of unrelased songs together and hope to develop those more.

2010-07-12 - Stereogum

original article.

Roman GianArthur – “Depraved Valet” (Feat. Kevin Barnes) (Stereogum Premiere)

Last week we posted the version of “Hydra Fancies” that appears on We Bumped Our Heads Against The Clouds, the new Believer CD curated by Wondaland Arts Society creative director/Janelle Monáe producer Chuck Lightning. In the name of context, I mentioned Monáe’s “Make The Bus,” featuring Kevin Barnes, and that she appears twice on on Montreal’s forthcoming False Priest. Since then it was announced of Montreal’s touring with Monáe this fall. Continuing the association: Outside of “Hydra Fancies,” Barnes appears on Lightning’s comp as a Prince-like featured guest for “Depraved Valet,” a smooth slow jam by Wondaland-associated artist Roman GianArthur. I was curious about all these W.A.S. overlaps, so I asked Barnes a few questions. Read his responses and then check out “Depraved Valet.”

STEREOGUM: Janelle Monáe sings on False Priest’s “Enemy Gene.” Is this how you met Chuck Lightning? Or did you meet Janelle via Chuck? In either case, how did that collaboration take place?

KEVIN BARNES: Actually, my clone met Janelle’s clone at a ski resort in Colorado a few years ago and they were the ones who introduced us.

Meeting the W.A.S. was a major influence/inspiration on False Priest. I’m so happy to have Janelle on a couple tracks on the record. I feel like she is the best vocalist and performer alive right now. So it’s a major blessing to have her involved in our world.

STEREOGUM: In Chuck’s liner notes to the new Believer CD, he mentions you sending him a “Hydra Fancies” demo. Did he have any suggestions for it? Did you send him anything else from False Priest?

KB: I sent chuck a bunch of False Priest works in progress over the course of the writing process. His input was very important to me. It was great to have someone like Chuck to present my new songs to, ’cause he got all of the musical references. He also turned me on to a bunch of things, like Parliament and Philip K. Dick, that had a major impact on my creative process.

STEREOGUM: In those notes, Chuck also mentions what he thinks Jon Brion brought to the track. How’d working with Jon shift your original demos or your general aim? Or did he help you achieve/crystallize a certain sound/goal?

KB: Jon played a huge part in the making of False Priest. Without him it would’ve been a different listening experience for people. He helped me create a fuller and more intensely emotive sound. I learned so much from him. He was an absolute angel to work with.

STEREOGUM: “Hydra Fancies” strikes me as a radio-ready love song. (Even the psychedelic exit — it reminds me of prime vintage Beach Boys.) Can you imagine of Montreal “crossing over” with this one?

KB: Ha, I hadn’t really thought of it. I guess that would be cool. I don’t see it happening though. It’s not 1967, after all.

STEREOGUM: What’s the deal with Roman GianArthur?

KB: Roman GianArthur is gonna be the story of 2011, he is a musical genius, a brilliant arranger, writer, performer … he’s probably a good cook as well. Just you wait Henry Higgins, just you wait — when his album drops, people are gonna drop their groceries!

* Roman GianArthur – “Depraved Valet (Feat. Kevin Barnes)”Download

Chuck’s thoughts on the song:

The days at Wondaland start when Roman GianArthur sits down at the grand piano and plays his morning selection. Sometimes it’s Debussy, sometimes it’s Stevie Wonder. Other mornings, he plays songs like this one. Georgie Fruit (a.k.a. Kevin Barnes) might join him. How can one piano take so much funk?

Get more info about We Bumped Our Heads Against The Clouds at believermag.com.

2010-06-?? - Evolved Weirdness

original article.

Athens, Georgia-based weirdos Of Montreal have a lot going on. Their tenth studio album, False Priest, is set to drop September 13.
Of Montreal kicked off their last tour when they played for a full house at the Howlin’ Wolf this past May. After sauntering on stage, jorts-clad frontman Kevin Barnes began by asking the obvious question, Are you ready to party? To call the show, complete with a psychedelic video show and a finale wherein thousands of feathers shot like champagne over the crowd, a party is the understatement of the year. What happened was more like induced euphoria; the live show was an experience capable of transporting the audience to another world entirely.

InvadeNOLA contacted Bassist Davey Pierce to talk about that wild show in New Orleans, combating stage fright, and how indie rockers find their crazy outfits.

What’s it like playing the first show on a new tour, and how is that different from any other show?
Well, it’s a lot more nerve racking, especially this one. We have a drummer that’s filling in with us, and we never actually practiced with Kevin, so this show in particular, it was kind of a crap shoot. We didn’t know what was going to happen, what was going to work, what wasn’t going to work. It’s a good experience though, that first show. You work out a lot of the kinks, which sounds like a bad thing, but no one really notices what goes wrong, if things do.

How did you feel about your last show in New Orleans?
I felt really good about that show actually. We were all kind of pleasantly surprised, because, like I said, we had never actually rehearsed with this whole band before that. Dottie, Bryan and Clayton and I would run through songs with no guitar and no vocals, basically. We were all really nervous. When it came time, it actually worked out really, really well. It was a really fun show. The crowd seemed super into it. We love the Howlin’ Wolf, it’s such a great place.

With elements of theater, big time performance, and colorful costumes, Of Montreal is a great fit for New Orleans. Is this just coincidence, or are you inspired by our city?
I think it’s probably more of a coincidence. There are elements of weird everywhere that we go that we pick up on. Obviously, New Orleans has a lot of really cool Voodoo culture. It has this really cool element to it – you can’t help but take something out of it. For the most part, we try to bring a little bit from everywhere we’ve been, finding things on the road that we can use in the show. We actually found a good amount in New Orleans; a lot of its retired, but the last couple tours we had a couple Big Bird figurines we found, a plastic owl, all sorts of weird, strange stuff that we had on stage. We definitely enjoy it, but it’s more of a coincidence that we actually fit in really, really well there. People seem a lot more open.

Do you have any type of pre-show ritual?
Not really. You know, just sit around and have beers, smoke cigarettes – well, for a couple of us, – just kinda chill. We do one thing that that we call ‘bringing it in’ where everyone puts their hands in the center of a circle and you say something, usually something really absurd and stupid. It’s pretty much the closest thing to a ritual we have before a show.

So you don’t wear the same underwear for every show then?
[Laughs.] No, that would be gross. It would get sweaty. We wear a lot of the same costumes, just because we can’t really bring tons of stuff on the road with us. But we try to wash them as much as possible. [Laughs again.] Definitively not gonna be wearing the same socks for twelve days in a row or anything, you know?

Speaking of clothes, how do you come up with all of the awesome stuff you wear on stage?
Well it’s kind of a mishmash. Kevin has had some stuff made by designers. He has a designer friend in New York named Rebecca Turbow that did a lot of costumes for him. Most of us just kind of find stuff that we think is really cool. When all is said and done, you throw it on, put it together, and it’s like, “Wow, that’s really, really weird.” It works somehow. We spend a lot of time in thrift stores and secondhand shops. There’s namely one in Athens called Agora. It’s run by a wonderful lady. She’ll see something come in, and she’ll pull it for us. We go in there, and she’s got boxes for us. She’ll say, “I saw these and I thought they’d be perfect for you.” You pick through, and some are really awesome; some really aren’t right for me. I just look around, it’s whatever strikes your fancy at the time. I’ve been really going through a uniform kind of thing, you know, all black or all white, with a little bit of gold or something, because I get tired of all my own costumes. I haven’t really found anything cool and weird lately, so it’s kinda like, “I’ll just go monochromatic and see what happens.”

What’s usually running through your head when you’re performing?
Generally I’m just thinking “Oh please don’t fuck up.” [Laughs.] Over and over and over again. You know, I pay attention to the drummer mostly, and make sure that I’m locked in with him. Kevin and Bryan and Dottie – I just take cues from everybody. We do these shows all the time, we play the songs over and over and over again, and it’s really hard to keep them fresh and interesting for us. Once you play a song like 200 times, it becomes a little mundane. Nowadays, I find that Kevin and I, if we do make a mistake, turn around and start laughing at the other person. Things like that do kind of break it up, so you don’t become robotic. We definitely feed off the audience. If it’s a bad show, and the audience isn’t really into it, or no one is paying attention – which, nowadays doesn’t happen that much – if that happens, it’s really hard to put your all into it. But you kind of force yourself to do it. I’m a big proponent of just giving it your all for every single show.

Do your set lists vary from show to show? Or are they set in stone?
Well it depends on what kind of tour we are doing. For our last tour, we did pretty much the same set list the whole time, because we had this whole production that went along to it. It was very structured. There were seven performers that had their cues that they know, and everything had to be done right on time, otherwise the whole thing would fall apart. On tours more like this one, we can vary it a lot more, because the production is more based on what we’re doing, not so much what we’re doing based on the production. When we don’t have like a huge thing that we’re doing, it’s a lot easier to vary it, so on smaller tours, if you see us more than once, you probably have a better chance of seeing songs that you didn’t hear the night before.

How long does it take before you find your stride, and a tour begins to really take shape?
They pretty much start to take shape the first time we do it. You’ll get a basic idea at the first show, and then it constantly evolves, evolves and evolves. By the end of a tour, it will probably be something completely different than what we started with. At the end of the day, I’m always completely pleasantly surprised by what we wind up doing. It’s just this totally weird, evolving thing. It’s nice to be able to go up there and just wonder what’s going to happen. I feel like I can relate a lot more to the audience watching the show in that way, because you have as much of a clue as what’s going to happen as I do, most of the time.

Of Montreal will launch a ten-month tour, starting with two shows in DC, on September 13 and 14. Soul sister Janelle Monáe is featured on two tracks on False Priest and will be joining Of Montreal’s fall tour roster.