Q&A: Of Montreal's Kevin Barnes on Janelle Monae, Athens, Elephant 6, and False Priest
Next week, Seattle's getting hit with not one but two Elephant 6 Collective alumni -- The Apples in Stereo will be at the Crocodile on Tuesday, October 26, and Of Montreal will be at the Paramount on Wednesday, October 27, co-headlining with Janelle Monae. I just got off the phone with Kevin Barnes, Of Montreal's colorful and charismatic frontman. Here's what he had to say about Janelle, his old Elephant 6 friends, Athens, and his band's latest effort, False Priest:
On collaborating and touring with Janelle Monae:
I really love her songs, I love her as a human being and an artist. And she has an equal respect for what I do, so it just worked out.
On the proliferation of artists in Athens, Georgia:
There's nothing else really to do. It gives you plenty of freedom. And it's easy to get lost in this bubble, where the eyes of the world aren't on you at all. You can do whatever you want. There's no feeling of self-consciousness.
On meeting the Elephant 6 Collective:
I just exhausted my resources down there [in Florida, where he was living]. There wasn't any sort of scene. I felt like if I ever wanted to play with other people and not just be a solo artist, I'd have to move. I moved around to a bunch of different places and eventually settled on Athens because that whole Elephant 6 scene was slowly starting to build up there.
I had been doing a lot of cassette 4-track recordings. The kind of music that I was really into was the Beatles, the Kinks, stuff that really wasn't that popular at the time with people my own age. So I was really excited when I met all the people in the Elephant 6 collective, because they were all doing the same thing, they were all recording in their bedrooms on these cassette 4-tracks and listening to the Beach Boys' Smile, trying to find the most obscure 60s psychedelic records. We'd just hang out and have potluck dinners and play each others' records. It was great for me, to come from this totally alienated place, where I didn't know anybody and couldn't find anybody to play with, and then come up to Athens and meet all these awesome people that were doing a similar thing that I was doing.
A lot of those records like In the Aeroplane Over the Sea and Dusk at Cubic Castle, all those Apples records and Elf Power records and Olivia Tremor Control records, I still think those are some of the best records that were made during that time period.
On False Priest's influences:
I was listening to a lot of soul music. A lot of Parliament and Curtis Mayfield, Sly and the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder, stuff like that. I was in that frame of mind. When I first discovered music, one of the first artists I really connected with was Prince. And through Prince, I found out who his influences were, and I started listening to different things like Kool & the Gang or Isaac Hayes or Ohio Players, you know all those bands that he was listening to when he was coming up.
On False Priest's theme:
I can't really say. I just made it. It's always difficult for me to comment on things like that because I'm not really that kind of artist. I just do what feels natural. I'm not a fine artist with explanation of why it's supposed to be valuable. I just kind of make it and hopefully people like it.
On his favorite songs on False Priest:
"Around the Way," I really like the arrangement of that song. It's kind of special, it's different from anything I've ever done. As far as performing songs live, I really like to play the last song, "You Do Mutilate?"
On Of Montreal's upcoming tour:
It's very theatrical. We have performance artists and video projections and lots of lighting stuff happening. It's very visual. It's a bit of comedy, a bit of abstract art. It's a combination of all the things we really like.