Of Montreal goes live
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
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."
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.]"