Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011-12-10 - The Therapy Of Music

The Therapy of Music: Exclusive Interview with DJ List Cristee a.k.a Kevin Barnes from of Montreal
Natasha Mijares December 8, 2011
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The Therapy of Music: Exclusive Interview with DJ List Cristee a.k.a Kevin Barnes from of Montreal

As the December 10 show featuring Au Revoir Simone’s Miami debut approaches, the city has been set ablaze with anticipation not only for these songstresses, but for the DJ sets as well. I got the chance to have a phone interview with DJ List Cristee, otherwise known as Kevin Barnes from the acridly glam pop group, of Montreal. We discussed his fairly new DJing career and about of Montreal’s upcoming album, Paralytic Stalks, which shall be released in the US Feburary 7, 2012 by Polyvinyl Records Co.

The album mixes the flowery, ethereal quality that stays true to their sound with wretched and almost primitive lyrics that come together to make a beautiful milieu of Barnes’ personal experiences. He’s introduced some new elements in this album that can be heard in the album teaser “Wintered Debts” below. However, Barnes continues to uses his personal relationship as paradigms of the relationship man has to the world. He covers many topics, from drunk calling in Sao Paolo, to the void we feel as a solitary planet in a giant solar system, as seen in Tensional Parapraxes (Dour Percentage) where he says “our parents aside, this planet is an orphanage, and it cheapens us the way you and I torment each other”

The album has an inescapable “manic energy” that Barnes shows in Spiteful Intervention when he sings: “lately I’m rutted in the filth of self-authored agonies that really should fill me with shame but all I have is this manic energy.” Barnes has shared that the reason for this mood is because of his problems with depression, and that writing this album has been helping him battle it. In essence, we are really riding along the journey of Barnes psyche and receiving that sense of illumination and wonder in the end.
Listen to the album teaser, “Wintered Debts” (not the lead single):

Wintered Debts by of Montreal

Therapy Life: What kind of music or artists do you like to include in your DJ sets?

Kevin Barnes: I like to play a lot of 60s, 70s, 80s funk and R&B; Sly and the Family Stone, Elements, Prince, Cameo, all sorts of things.

TL: How long have you been DJing as List Cristee and how did you come up with the name?

KB: I guess I’ve been doing it since about a year ago or so. The name, I’m not really sure where that came from; it’s just a strange name that came to me, haha.

TL: We’re also anticipating of Montreal’s next album Paralytic Stalks, which was recorded in your home studio in Athens, Georgia. Would you say that a Southern influence is present in your music?

KB: Uhm, maybe on some level. I might be like Outkast, haha. There are some Southern artists that I like. But I mean, I guess there are different kind of Southern music, there’s like Southern rock and hip-hop. I’m definitely more influenced by hip-hop and R&B than Southern rock.

TL: What kind of creative processes do you take in writing and producing an album? Do you write on tour or do you lock yourself at home and write?

KB: I do a lot of lyric writing on tour when I’m traveling, but pretty much all the music is written at home.

TL: What effect do you think your writing process has on the lyrics?

KB: Well, if you’re traveling, you’re experiencing all these different things that you wouldn’t necessarily experience when you’re at home. When you’re at home, you kind of get into a routine. Especially with writing, you get a lot of consistency, which sometimes is good, but sometimes it’s bad.

TL: The music of the album is riddled with intricate compositions that some would say resembles modern classical, while at others echo at neo-prog, pseudo-country, and 60s pop. How would you characterize or personify the relationship between the lyrics and the music on this album?

KB: They’re equally as important for me. When I’m making music I want it to be interesting and unpredictable and when I’m writing lyrics I want it to have those same characteristics. With this album, I’ve definitely written more personal lyrics, from the heart, and from my personal life. So it’s not really as fantasy based, it’s all rooted in reality and I’ve been going through some tough times so I’m kind of using the music as a form of therapy in a way, because the creative process is a form of therapy.

TL: After adding violinist Kishi Bashi to the touring line-up, you’ve been working with session musicians for the first time in your career. How do you think that changes the of Montreal sound as a whole and are you enjoying how the music is evolving?

KB: Yeah it’s good because, especially with Kishi Bashi, I would write something and do a lot of work on it and I’d kind of get to the point where I wasn’t sure what I could do to change it or make it more interesting, and I would send it to him and he would come up with all of these ideas that would help transform it. Then he would write stuff to me and I would use that as inspiration for new ideas for myself. So it was really great with him and also with Zach Cowell, who is also gonna join the line-up. He played all the woodwinds and the brass on the record and we had a smooth relationship as well, so it was really cool to have people that could contribute things that you’d never be able to contribute. It’s not like a piano player and a guitar, those things I can handle on my own, but I wanted people that play things that I don’t know how to play and that I’d never be able to do on my own. It’s always good to have people that can contribute something special.

TL: Who did the album artwork and why did you choose that piece for the cover?

KB: David did the cover, my brother. He listens to the record while he’s producing the artwork. So he kind of used that as inspiration and tried to, in a way, represent the sounds on the record visually. It’s always a sort of abstract translation; the sounds just sort of made that image in his brain.

TL: Will you be using this kind of imagery for the live shows?

KB: Yeah, the live show is going to be very visual but it’s not going to be as theatrical in a sense because we’ve been using a lot of comedic characters for a couple of tours. It’s almost been like a comedy show, sort of like a Dada comedy show as far as theatrics. For this one, because the subject matter of the record is much darker and more personal, we wanna present it in a different light. It will still be very visual and interesting on that level, but it won’t be as comedic.

TL: So will Georgie Fruit (Barnes’ on stage persona) be back for Paralytic Stalks?

KB: Haha, maybe for the encore but not for the regular show.

TL: There are some very big concepts that the album discusses such as revenge, self-hatred and the egocentric man. What kind of lessons on humanity and existence would you say is most apparent in the album or do you think that people will walk away with?

KB: Well, yeah, it’ a very bitter album in that way, which I think you can lose yourself in bitterness and it’s definitely not the path to enlightenment. It’s definitely more of a self absorbed, kind of negative trip. But sometimes you kind of have to go through it. It’s an element of the healing process. It’s okay to be really hateful and really bitter for a period of time but you eventually have to get over it. So it’s kind of a weird record in a way cause if you stop listening to it midway through, it might actually put you in a bad mood but if you can make it all the way to the end of the record it has some sort of weird healing power at the very end. I’ve noticed that myself when I listen to it. I kind of need to listen to it all the way through in order to feel that sense of balance returning.

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