Of Montreal frontman Kevin Barnes embraces weirdness
Barnes discusses his constant creative challenge to channel Of Montreal’s future masterpiece
Published: May 7, 2014
OF MONTREAL with Boogarins
8 p.m. Thursday, May 8 | The Social, 54 N. Orange Ave. | 407-246-1419 | thesocial.org | $20
Put electro-funk, glam-rock, twee-pop and whimsical psychedelia into a blender, press the chop and liquefy buttons simultaneously, and you’d still only have a small glimpse at the 20-year career of Athens, Ga., band Of Montreal. Fronted by Kevin Barnes, a flamboyant yet demure master craftsman of literate, danceable tunes, Of Montreal’s backing band has cycled through a rotating cast of prominent musicians from Athens’ Elephant 6 collective.
But that endless cycle of creativity matches Of Montreal’s variegated 12-album, 16-year discography. Where 2012’s Paralytic Stalks was punctuated by challenging dissonance and micro-tonality – what Barnes described to Orlando Weekly as “something that’s definitely in no way conventional pop” – 2013’s Lousy With Sylvianbriar, written solo during a self-imposed retreat in San Francisco and inspired by the work of Sylvia Plath, veered into country-influenced garage-pop territory.
And new Of Montreal material? “In the past I’ve taken inspiration from ’70s funk and ’60s Baroque pop, but recently I’ve found an interest in contemporary music,” Barnes says. “I want to do a similar writing retreat somewhere in the world and create something that feels more futuristic and forward-reaching – not retro. I don’t think it will have anything in common with Sylvianbriar.”
One similarity any upcoming album will have with Of Montreal’s past work is verbosity. Starting with 2001 record Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse, Barnes has chopped and screwed his ornate take on the English language into some of the most memorable titles in music history: “Death Dance of Omipapas and Sons for You.” “Eros’ Entropic Tundra.” “Triphallus, to Punctuate!” “Malefic Dowery.” “Hegira Émigré.”
As Barnes says, “I’m definitely a fan of the written word, and I’ve always had a thing for titles. It’s just another chance to do something creative; obviously it’s not commercially palatable to name a song ‘Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse,’ but it’s more fun.”
For all their linguistic absurdity, each of the above songs rock the hell out – perfect for strutting, jamming, tripping or just dancing. That free-for-all spirit is reflected in Of Montreal’s elaborate stage shows, which Barnes says will remain another constant even as each tour’s playlist changes. “The live show stays fairly consistent as for the visual elements, theatrics and costume changes. The only difference is the music is more dynamic – moments of anthemic pop, dance music and glam rock, but also with a quieter, more intimate element to the show.”
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