::Kevin Barnes, the antihero
By Flor. Published: December 9, 2011.
Hours before his DJ set at Grand Central, of Montreal’s, Kevin Barnes, spent some minutes on the phone with WFK. Last week the band announced the release of their awaited new album, Paralytic Stalks, their darkest record so far.
In this interview, the lead singer and composer of one of the weirdest and most talented groups from the last decade tells WFK how he fell in love with art and the dark side of being a true artist.
WFK: Everybody knows the story of your musical career after you joined the Elephant Six Collective, but what happened before that? When did you start feeling passionate about music?
I guess when I was about 13 or 14. I started making songs and recording in my bedroom. By then I was inspired by heavy metal music but my inspiration has changed a lot over the years.
What was the primordial musical intention when you created of Montreal, back there in 1996, is it still the same?
Yes, pretty much is a labor of love to me. I made it pretty much by myself and I got inspired by different things; I wanted to made something personal, exceptional and interesting and the essence stayed kind of the same from the beginning.
Both your music and performances are notoriously influenced by other art disciplines such as theater, cinema and literature; you were even involved in the A Pollinaire Rave comedy tour. Is there any other artistic discipline that you would like to explore or combine with your music?
You kind of name most of them, you can definitely try to incorporate different things like gardening or other unconventional ideas. We also have lots of pretty strong visual elements on our live productions over the past four years, as far as projecting images and putting thought into the lightning and the stage. But for this future we are actually spending a lot of attention on the visuals and the projections and trying to create a sort of transportive experience for the audience.
You are an artist that was never afraid of opening up and singing to your deepest feelings, in one of the songs that is going to be included in your upcoming album you even declare: “I spend my waking hours haunting my own life / I made the one I love start crying tonight / And it felt good”. Did you ever get involved into serious trouble because your conception of art?
Yes, definitely it creates some issues with the people I’m in a relationship with because I incorporate a lot of my personal life into my songwriting and people, understandably feel sort of victimized in a way to see that they are displayed in front of the world like that because especially is only my perception, it’s only from my advantage point which is not a real fair thing to do. I mean is not fair to the other people involved but in the same time I think that art really has to come from a very personal place if not it doesn’t have much value and it feels superficial, in my mind.
I think that you are one of the few artists left who are so true and sincere in your songs, although, as you said before, it can get you in trouble. So, have you ever thought about changing that way of making art?
Well, I have done some roll playing and I have definitely written songs to fantasy, I have created characters and you know in a way that is more a fantasy based line rather than personal. I guess sometimes you got trough phases were nothing really dramatic is going on in your life but you want to keep on writing songs and creating this “personas” allows you to stay productive without a soap opera happening in your life.
Paralytic Stalks is probably one of your darkest albums so far; are the Georgie Fruit days gone?
I think that I will keep on playing some of those songs, I don’t think that I need to have a funeral for Georgie Fruit or anything like that but this is just a period of me needing to do something different. I don’t worry that much about the things of the past, I’m just only interested in moving forward and trying to live in the present moment and do whatever feels right in that moment.
In the past, of Montreal released many conceptual albums such as The Gay Parade, The Bedside Drama: A Petite Tragedy and Coquelicot. It’s Paralytic Stalks a conceptual record? If so what is the concept behind it?
I think there are lots of recurrent themes but I don’t know if you can really consider it a conceptual album just because there is not real narrative or a story necessarily, it’s almost like general scenes from a period of my life.
of Montreal is one of the few bands that still support cassette, Paralytic Stalks is going to be release in this format among others, and you even have released your own Cassette Box Set. What do you find so enchanting about this format?
I think I’m fond of it because it’s something different that it used to be extremely popular and then it completely fell off. Now nobody even considers it as a possibility but they are so cheep to get, you can go to any thrift store and get a cassette for 10 dollars, I mean they are still around but … I think they are kind of cute in a way, this little plastic things. And also when I first started recording I was recording in a cassette four tracks so all of my early demos were on cassette, so I definitely have a sort of connection with them, pleasant memories about them.
On December 10 you will be performing in Miami with a DJ set. Can you tell us about some of your favorite tunes that you will be playing that night?
I will probably play some Parliament and some Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder and then some more contemporary stuff like Erykah Badu, mostly some kind of funky soulful songs.