Thursday, December 29, 2011
'Paralytic Stalks' hits stores on February 7th
By Matthew Perpetua
December 5, 2011 1:20 PM ET
Of Montreal will release Paralytic Stalks, their 11th studio album, on February 7th. Though the band have not abandoned their distinctive colorful funk, the disc finds frontman and songwriter Kevin Barnes spiking their tunes with abrasive noise, artful orchestration and some of the bleakest lyrics of his career. ("I spend my waking hours haunting my own life / I made the one I love start crying tonight and it felt good," he sings in "Spiteful Intervention" – and that's one of the album's most upbeat numbers.) Barnes recently opened up to Rolling Stone about grappling with depression while working on the new material, his plan to change the tone of the group's theatrical live show and his disappointment with the response to his band's previous album, False Priest. You can stream "Wintered Debts," the first track released from Paralytic Stalks, above, or download the song for free here.
The press release that was sent by your publicist along with your new album made a point of stressing that you're singing entirely from the first person in these songs, that you're not using any personas this time around. Why was it important to make sure people knew that?
It’s not really something I felt like I needed to disclose, but I guess on some levels, it's just the reality. It was sort of also a decision that I had made, though in some ways it was sort of made for me, because I was going through a difficult period. And a lot of times when I go through those kinds of periods, I use music as a sort of form of therapy. So, I guess I wasn't in good enough spirits to fool around with a persona.
So you work through more upbeat themes through fictional characters?
I think so. I think usually, that if I'm in a happy, balanced state of mind, my imagination tends to go in that direction, where I'm able to create a more positive atmosphere musically. I think I am a bit of an Eeyore. And when I'm feeling better, I really want to sort of want to magnify the effects of that, and that's why I'll create these really outlandish characters.
Did you know going into this album that it was going to be a particularly dark set of songs?
Yeah. I'm not going to just write when I'm happy. I also need to write when I'm in a darker place. I definitely didn't want to be there, but I just sort of found myself there. False Priest is very colorful and more upbeat for the most part. There are kind of darker songs, but for the most part, I was trying to make something that was more like Earth, Wind and Fire or Sly and the Family Stone. Something that was more funky and positive. But somehow that didn't last, and I sort of fell back into this darker place and was just writing songs from that perspective. But it wasn't really something that I set out to do as far as, "I want to make a dark record." It was "I need to make a record" or "I need to make music" because it's one thing I find extremely fulfilling and also distracts me, in a positive way, from my condition.
What brought on this dark phase you were in?
I think it's some sort of cyclical thing, you know? That you just have ups and downs. And I have a lot of depression issues. A lot of people in my family have had a lot of depression issues. In the past, I've tried to make things that are really upbeat, to sort of change my mood or try to alter my mood in a way. Somehow make myself happier. To some extent I'm still doing that with this record. It's still poppy, it's not extremely morose and minor. It definitely has a hookiness to it.
When you perform the darker songs in concert, do you reconnect with that mood?
The first 20, 30, 40 times that we play it, it's definitely still connected to the source. You know, a song like "Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse" has an upbeat, dancey quality to it and the lyrics are much darker. But just by creating a sort of carnival-esque atmosphere, it sort of changed the song in my head. And now when I play it, I'm not really thinking about the original inspiration. I'm thinking about what it has become. And it's sort of become this anthem in a way.
How are you planning to present these new songs live? It seems like it may be tricky to get across some of these arrangements.
Yeah, it's going to be a serious challenge. Zac Cowell, the guy who played the woodwinds and the brass instruments on the record, is joining the band. He is going to be playing those parts, but they're all multi-layer parts, so I think we'll have to experiment with having some samples mixed in with the live playing. And, you know, maybe have people playing parts that were originally on a flute on a synthesizer, or things like that. So it will sound different from the record. It probably won't sound exactly like the record, but we'll try to get pretty close.
Are you going to change the way you present the show visually for these new songs?
Yeah, I'm really excited about that actually. Right now we're still developing ideas. I think, in the past, we've sort of had fun using comedic elements – we've had performance artists coming out in different kinds of costumes and definitely on the False Priest tour, it was way more comedic and sort of Dada, sort of absurd stuff happening. And we've been doing that for a while and it was really fun, but I think now we want to do something slightly more abstract that is relying more on projections. But not just projecting onto a screen behind the drum set, but actually using the whole stage to create a very dynamic visual experience.
There are a few different shows that you've done in New York that have a few over-the-top sort of antics, like when you came out on stage riding a horse at the Roseland Ballroom. Do you feel a need to top that sort of thing, or do you want to move away from it?
I'm trying to not necessarily back away from it, but I feel like right now there's so much flash in music, so much showmanship. Which is great, like Lady Gaga, for example. But I think that in my head, I want to make something that's less superficial. I've been listening to a lot of John Lennon solo stuff and realizing how powerful that music is when it's more raw and direct. I want the stage production to work within that context. I've done that already, you know? I've been on a horse. I've been naked. I've covered myself in glitter, and all that stuff, and it was really fun but I don't want to just do it over and over again. I don't want to become a caricature of Georgie Fruit or whatever. I want to keep growing as an artist. I want to keep doing different things and trying different things and exploring my imagination.
How will this affect your choices of what older songs to play?
I had this kind of cool realization recently where, forever I've been thinking that, "Oh, the show has to be this upbeat dance party from start to finish, and I just want all the songs to kind of blend together and I want it to feel sort of like a mix-tape, like a really well-made, upbeat mix-tape." I realized there's a sort of insecurity in that; you're always afraid of letting the energy go down, and it's almost like you want to get off the stage at a super-high point and you worry about there ever being a moment where people get bored and start talking. But I want to be less insecure. We've got this hour and a half, whatever it is, 70 minutes on stage, and there's no reason to feel like, "Oh we need to apologize for taking chances with certain songs that aren't necessarily everyone's favorite song." I'd rather play slightly more obscure songs that fit the mood of Paralytic Stalks, rather than make it this upbeat dance party. That's not to say it's going to be extremely tedious and pretentious and boring, you know? I just want to make something that's a bit heavier, more beautiful and more emotive.
So what older songs would fit into this kind of show?
I was thinking of playing "Nonpareil of Favor," which is on Skeletal Lamping. It definitely starts off really upbeat and happy, and then it goes into this kind of crazy, noisy guitar thing. So I'd like to play some of the longer songs. Because most of the songs on Paralytic Stalks are pretty long. Or at least half of them are at least six to 10 minutes long.
When you write a song like that, are you kind of piecing together different fragments and ideas?
Well, nowadays, I don't usually write before I record. So I'll write and record a section of a song and work on that for a couple days, and once that's done, it’s "Okay, well now where do I want this song to go?" So I'll work in blocks of a minute, minute and a half. So you could say, "Well that could be a verse and that could be the chorus so let's just repeat that verse and repeat the chorus again and you're done! " Which is kind of a lazy way to write songs, but that's just the way pop music goes, for some reason. There's so much repetition in pop music, and that's cool, that's what it's about. But sometimes I like to get out of that and put a little bit more thought into it and make it a bit more transportive and not worry so much about the hookiness of it.
When did you make that shift over to kind of writing directly to tape?
I guess it was probably around The Sunlandic Twins. I think Satanic Panic in the Attic, I was still writing songs on acoustic guitar and working on it a couple months before recording it. Then I sort of realized there's no real reason to do that. Which on some levels is kind of a shame, because whenever I try to do solo shows, I don't even know what to do with myself because it seems so boring just playing them on acoustic guitar. But back in the day, when you're writing on the acoustic guitar, at least for me, I would try to make the acoustic guitar part kind of interesting too. But now it's like all about the layers and instrumentation, which doesn't really translate as well on acoustic guitar.
Was there anything that came out in the past year that really inspired you?
I was really inspired by Sufjan Stevens' record, The Age of Adz. That woke me up in a way where I realized that music doesn't have to be extremely digestible. You don't have to think about getting a song on someone's iPod playlist. You don't have to accommodate the direction that people are going with music, where they want one single, they don't give a shit about a record, they just want one single that they can put against all of the other singles and I feel there's a superficiality to that. At least for me, for someone who loves music and wants to connect with the human race through music or art, you don't really get that with some three-minute pop song about getting drunk and partying and all that.
The first song you put out from this record is "Wintered Debts." Why did you choose that song as people's introduction to the new album?
I think it was a pretty good representation of what people will be able to expect on the record. It is one of the longest songs and it's one of the more intimate songs – at least it starts that way until it transforms into something different. We could have picked any number of songs on the record, but I guess that one just felt right. I don't care if any of the songs get played on the radio and I don't care if it's even a popular record with people. I'd hope that people can connect with it, but that wasn't the motivation for making it. I'm not really plotting like, "This will be the one that gets them! And then I'll give 'em this one!" It's not like that. It doesn't matter. People could hear any of the songs.
Did you have greater commercial ambitions for any of the previous records?
Yeah, definitely. With False Priest, I was definitely hoping it would help us take the next step commercially, and that's why I did certain things like make a song that was kind of shorter, but also gave them logical titles. And it's funny because for some reason in my head I thought it was a very commercially acceptable record, but I was listening to it the other day and realizing that it's actually not that commercial. It's not a record that would necessarily make a band, or get a band on the television, or break a band, because it's still pretty artsy and weird, and also anachronistic in that it's pulling from these influences that most 18-year-olds aren't interested in. Most 18-year-olds don't think Isaac Hayes is awesome.
Natasha Mijares December 8, 2011
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.
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.
of Montreal's Kevin Barnes Talks New Album, Cassette Box Set, His Career
"I don’t think I’ve made a great record. I guess that gives me something to live for."
On October 25, Joyful Noise will release a cassette box set of psychedelic-pop mainstays of Montreal's entire catalog-- all ten albums, from 1997's Cherry Peel to last year's False Priest. The whole thing comes packaged in a wooden box (above) with screen-printed original artwork by bandleader Kevin Barnes' brother, David (who's done the cover artwork for all the band's albums in the past, too).
The retrospective package provides an opportunity to look back at of Montreal's career, from the band's lo-fi, 1960s psych-pop-worshipping beginnings to their zany, colorful, avant present. Rather than getting nostalgic, though, Kevin Barnes is looking forward-- he's currently putting the finishing touches on of Montreal's eleventh album, Paralytic Stalks, which is due early next year. Read on for our interview with Barnes, which touches on the new album, the return of cassettes in indie culture, and his feelings about his band's legacy as part of Athens' seminal Elephant 6 collective.
"The new of Montreal album is bit more esoteric, and it’s probably not something everybody’s going to like. The songs are way more intimate and confessional."
Pitchfork: Do you have a personal history with cassettes?
Kevin Barnes: When I first started recording, I used a four-track and I’ve got an incredible collection of cassettes in boxes that I don’t want to get rid of-- especially from when I was living at my parents’ house and doing nothing but recording songs. I have tons of early recordings that I haven’t listened to in forever. At some point, I’ll pull them out and listen to them and cringe. I think that could be really cool to release them at some point, though. There’s so much there. It would only be for the biggest fans in the world. All ten of them.
Pitchfork: Recently, cassettes have come back in vogue with certain, nostalgia-obsessed sects of indie culture. When agreeing to release this box set, were you taking that into consideration?
KB: I can understand the cassette thing, but I don’t really feel that connected to it. Its like the CD for me-- I don’t really like that tactile quality. Plastic just annoys me. It's easy to romanticize the past. That sort of goes hand in hand with vinyl as well. Having a connection to a physical object is really cool. At some point, people will be nostalgic about CDs, too. It's just human nature.
Pitchfork: What about those buyers who are purchasing things like your box sets for collector's purposes, rather than for the material that's inside?
KB: Whenever anybody's giving a shit about music on any level it's a good thing. It’s not like [collecting] guitars. I know people who just collect guitars and don’t even play them-- that's a different matter.
"I don’t really feel that connected to cassettes. Plastic just annoys me."
Pitchfork: This year marks of Montreal's 15th anniversary, and the band's been through a lot of sonic changes since your early albums. Do you think that you've retained fans from way back when?
KB: Every once in a while, somebody will come up and say, “I found out about you guys forever ago, around [1999's] The Gay Parade.” I was playing The Gay Parade for one of the guys in the band who had never heard it-- he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. I feel pretty detached from [that time period]. We never play anything [live] that was recorded before [2004's] Satanic Panic in the Attic. I closed the book on that period of my life and moved forward.
Pitchfork: So you're never going to play material from before Satanic Panic live again?
KB: I can’t see it ever happening. The only way it would happen would be if a record became popular in some weird random country. [laughs] Actually, The Gay Parade did sell really well in Japan. For a brief time period, we were like rock stars over there. But after a year, it had totally died out. [laughs]
What might have attracted somebody in the beginning is not really there anymore. Albums like Cherry Peel are extremely naive and sweet and not all that competent. It's like natural human development, you start off when you’re young and vulnerable.
Pitchfork: So what's your midlife crisis record going to sound like?
KB: [laughs] I don’t know. Maybe like a bagpipe record.
Pitchfork: What's the record in your career thus far that you're most proud of?
KB: There are moments of my records that I’m proud of, but I don’t think I’ve made a great record. I guess that gives me something to live for.
"I’m not really excited about playing any of my old songs live.
It would feel like I was wasting my time."
Pitchfork: With Jeff Mangum touring and Olivia Tremor Control becoming more of an active concern again, an Elephant 6 revival seems to be in place. A bunch of the E6 guys did the Holiday Surprise tour a few years ago-- if that kind of thing were to happen again, would of Montreal join in?
KB: I didn't go on the Holiday Surprise tour because we were too busy, and I’m not really that excited about playing any of those old songs. I don’t feel nostalgic about it. It would feel like I was wasting my time. I don’t mean that as a criticism against anybody else. I think it’s a defect for me that I can’t really appreciate it that much-- anything I’ve done always just seems boring and stale really quickly. I just want to keep moving forward.
Pitchfork: When's the last time you spoke to Jeff Mangum?
KB: A couple of years ago. He came to one of our shows and we were hanging out backstage for a little bit. He seemed to be in good spirits and it’s always great to see him. I’ve always admired him. He’s been sort of a big brother figure for me.
Pitchfork: You're finishing up a new of Montreal record, right?
KB: Yeah, there’s some moments on this record that are very different from anything I’ve ever done before. It’s a bit more esoteric, and it’s probably not something everybody’s going to like. I can see a lot of people having problems with it, but I can also see a lot of people loving it. I feel like so many records nowadays are disposable-- you’re not really expected to listen to the whole album, and no one does. With this record, I wanted something that was more of an experience that you would listen to from start to finish and have a very deep personal connection to. The songs are way more intimate and confessional.
Pitchfork: Any specific influences you're drawing from?
KB: Twentieth-century modern classical music-- Penderecki, Charles Ives, Ligeti. But it’s not a complete departure. There’s still funky elements, and it’s still very much a colorful pop record. But it goes into darker places. There’s one song in particular that is kind of polarizing in a strange way. I play it for a lot of people and it seems like they just feel confused by it.
Pitchfork: What's that song called?
KB: "Exorcismic Breeding Knife".
In feature/interview on 05/04/2011 at 8:30 am
If you wanted to get all psychoanalytical about it, you could say Kevin Barnes’ soaring falsetto is a mere manifestation of his restlessness. And all those words he crams into Of Montreal’s songs? Same thing. The dude feels he has so much to say and so little time to say it in that he spits them out a mile a minute as his voice reaches Dirty Mind-era-Prince heights.
Check out this line from “Our Riotous Defects,” one of the best songs from last year’s False Priest: “My God, I should’ve realized on our second date when you dragged me into the bathroom at Tameka’s house and screamed at me for like 20 minutes because I had contradicted you in front of your friends/I was like, Oh/And then later that night at my apartment, as punishment, you killed my betta fish/You just threw it out the window.”
At times, Barnes is a marvel to behold. Other times he verges on annoying. Either way, no band has made a transformation quite like Of Montreal over the past 14 years.
On their 1997 debut, theAthens,Georgia, group distilled many of the same influences as other bands in their Elephant 6 collective, making a sort of artsier version of Beatlesque indie pop. But they’ve evolved – sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly – over the years, until they ended up what they are now: a theater-like troupe of funky performance artists made up of more than a dozen members. “I view it as a life form that has its own trajectory,” says Barnes. “I think back to [those first albums] and I don’t really identify with them, like a completely different person made them. It’s like a typical human evolution: The early albums are very sweet and naïve but they evolved into something more mature and sexual.”
The evolution began in earnest with Of Montreal’s ninth album, 2008’s Skeletal Lamping. That’s when Barnes (who plays most of the music on the band’s records himself) let his R&B-singing, cross-dressing alter ego Georgie Fruit take over for an entire album. False Priest is a bigger and tighter version of its spazzy predecessor, using live instruments instead of synths, and singers Janelle Monae and Solange Knowles (Beyoncé’s sister), who add sweetness to the sometimes sour mix.
“I wanted to make something that was more accessible and immediate,” says Barnes. “I have a tendency to put too many ideas into my records. Any song can go in so many directions, and there’s that tendency to just take it there.”
Just as Of Montreal’s music has gotten more ambitious, straying outside its comfort zone, same goes for the feather-boa-wearing man behind it. False Priest is the first album Barnes recorded outside of hisAthens studio (it was made inLos Angeles) and the first time he’s worked with a producer.
Jon Brion (who’s helped shape albums by Fiona Apple, Aimee Mann, and Kanye West) arranges sounds that Barnes just kinda threw out there before. The post-disco beats running through songs like “I Feel Ya’ Strutter” and “Our Riotous Defects” lead to messy, glorious trips. “There are so many different ways to listen to music,” says Barnes. “There’s so much going on in Stevie Wonder’s records. When you dissect them in your head, you hear all these things going on. That’s the great thing about music. It can be very complex but also very sneaky.”
Barnes’ continuous restlessness yielded thecontrollersphere EP last month. He calls it a folk record, but that genre tag is debatable, since the highlight — a sprawling and amp-shredding five-minute workout called “Black Lion Massacre” – is the noisiest thing Of Montreal have ever recorded. “I’m never really satisfied with the things I do,” says Barnes. “I never feel like I’ve accomplished anything, so I’m always looking for the next thing.”
Thecontrollersphere isn’t baroque pop or funk machine or anything else, really, found in the group’s bag of sounds (even though most of the songs are False Priest leftovers). It’s Of Montreal between stages, once again, and is likely a sign of things to come. “It’s a bridge,” says Barnes. “It’s noisier and more cacophonous, which is where I’m heading. But it’s hard to say where you are in a moment. I really don’t know where I’m at right now.”
Prior to tomorrow night's show at the Phoenix, we spoke to the Of Montreal ringleader about alcohol-inspired creativity, wearing women's clothing, what his mom thinks of his onstage nudity and spirit animals.
BY Sarah Nicole Prickett May 02, 2011 15:05
Something you might not know about Of Montreal—particularly if you don't know anything else about them either—is that they're not actually of Montreal. As the story goes, frontman Kevin Barnes—who is from the world's most wonderfully named place, Athens, Georgia—named the band after a Canadian girl who broke his heart. Well, he's returned the favour several times over since then. Barnes used to whip up chipper, psychedelic twee-pop songs (kinda like Animal Collective) and insane gimmicks (one album was called Dustin Hoffman and featured “Dustin Hoffman” in every song title). Now, he makes sad songs that trick you—with a lot of bells and whistles and disco references—into thinking they're happy. Those are the best, or worst, kind, depending how you feel about being sad.
From 2007 (when Of Montreal got deeply glam with Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?), till now, with the release of totally manic EP thecontrollersphere, Barnes has fashioned himself as a kind of Bowie who can read. (If you don't get it, Google it.) His live performances look like Judith Butler case studies plus drugs. (You'll see, if you catch Of Montreal this Tuesday night at the Phoenix.) Meanwhile, in recent phone interview, Barnes tells me about everything from his favourite summer drink to his spirit animal, with some stuff about music in between.
So, where are you now?
Is it always sunny?
[Laughs] No, it's actually not.
Did you watch the royal wedding?
You know what, I missed it. I slept on that.
I would have, too, but I had to wake up for a minute and comment on “The Dress.”
How was it?
Beautiful, but so virginal. I don't get that about wedding dresses—like, you're 29, we don't believe you.
Maybe she got the hymen surgery. There's home kits for that now.
Yeah, at Shoppers. Or—what do you have in the States?—Walgreen's. Anyway, I was listening to The Controllersphere, and it reminds me so much of Bowie's “Space Oddity.” All spacey, lost and bleak.
The whole album reminded you of that?
OK, mostly the second song, but that was the most memorable one for me.
Yeah, it's very Bowie-influenced. I was also extremely wasted when I was writing and recording it.
What were you drinking?
I think I was drinking my favourite summer drink, which is gin, tonic, watermelon and a little bit of Perrier. It's really good. A little bit of mint, too. You gotta do that in the summertime. It makes you feel better about the intense humidity. Although I like humidity. It feels like being in the tropics or something. I can imagine myself somewhere.
And you can go naked, which is a big pastime for you. I mean, I saw the Pitchfork photos. Question is, did your mom see them?
She was embarrassed. I've done so many things to embarrass her that she's kind of used to it. It's a bit of a shitstorm for a couple of days [after I do something like that], and then it's fine.
You've sold songs to a few commercials. Like, there was one for a steakhouse. Does that make you want to make your songs weirder, so commercials won't want to use them?
I haven't had a song in a commercial for a while, but it's not that intentional. That one [for Outback Steakhouse, which changed the lyrics of the song "Wraith Pinned to the Mist" to form a jingle] came out before I had any representation of the ad agency world—just how sinister they can be. They completely lied to me in regards to that song, that nightmare. For the other ones, I actually gave my consent. It's a good thing for indie bands because there's a good amount of money. Actually, there was a Canadian commercial I made the music for—it might have been online only—the Subway commercial. It was the people [Kangaroo Alliance] who made the "Wraith Pinned" video, the animated video, and they were working for a Canadian ad company. They did the animation and I did the music for a Subway commercial. You wouldn't notice it, though. It wasn't, like, Jared eating a sub and listening to my song.
My favourite use of an Of Montreal song in The September Issue; they play “Suffer for Fashion.” It's perfect.
I actually haven't seen that! But I should. Janelle Monae was super-into it, she was telling me the other day.
Your own fashion sense is notoriously theatrical. Were you always into the dress-up box as a kid?
No, I did a lot of athletics and kinda hung out with friends. My parents made me take drama. I was in Oklahoma! in high school, but I was just, like, a loser in the chorus. It wasn't until later that I discovered theatrics on my own. What we do [in Of Montreal] is so much more fun, because we just combine everything. In a way, I like bad taste better. The New York Dolls are one of my great inspirations. When I think about what they did at that time, and in New York City, one of the toughest places, to dress like that was really inspiring.
Diana Vreeland agrees with you on bad taste.
It should be fun! Go into your girlfriend's closet and grab whatever and put it on. Go out on stage. A lot of fashion is so trendy and it's so insecure, and there's no real joy there. You should be able to look ridiculous. That's why someone like Björk is really great. She does take chances.
Cross-dressing is kinda mainstream now. Even Kanye West wore a Celine shirt, a women's shirt, at Coachella.
Well, in the '60s, men were given options that weren't just grey, beige, khaki, white—these boring colours. Men like myself don't look in the men's section in most stores because it's so boring, but it wasn't always like that. After the '60s, the whole psychedelic period, we lost that for some reason in the '70s. It came back a bit in the '80s, on the club scene, but it dropped massively in the '90s when every guy was so butch in jeans and whatever. I think maybe it just goes in waves. Now, maybe we're back on track to having fun.
A lot of your songs are wild and bright, but the lyrics are very dark and serious. Are you doing that on purpose? Making people dance at their own funerals?
I think it's a combination of what I wish were true and what is true. I want to make emotive, joyful music, and in the past I have made similar lyrics to match the joy of the music, but then the music became slightly more cynical, slightly changed, and I'm trying to get out of it, but it's difficult to be extremely optimistic in the face of everything. I'm a bit of an Eeyore at heart.
And the music is Tigger.
Exactly. I think Tigger's on acid anyway.
I have this new therapist and she says all creative people are depressed, but maybe she just wants to make me feel good enough to hand over my money.
On some level, it's true. I think about what it is that makes artists want to produce, make us want to do it. On some level, it's dissatisfaction with reality, and trying to create our own. For me, making music definitely takes me to a better place. It's definitely therapeutic. I would be lost without it. I always have something I need to say, not even for the world, but just for myself.
What's happening with your side project with Andrew [VanWyngarden] from MGMT?
We've both been swept up in our own projects. It's been kind of difficult. We love each other and respect each other and hope that it does happen someday, it'd be really great. It's loading there in our consciousness.
Who else is left on your list of dream collaborations? You've done so many already.
There's a lot of people. It would be fun to collaborate with certain bands like Animal Collective and Caribou. Actually, you know, the person I would most want to collaborate with is Erykah Badu. She's extremely funky, she's like the funkiest woman alive. She has a spirit that is so free and crazy and interesting. She reminds me of everything that I like about funk music. It should be playful and wild and heavy and emotional.
Last question: what's your spirit animal?
I don't know. We've talked about this, but I don't know.... Maybe the wolf. I think about the way it's used in contemporary art. It's always the tackiest, most terrible thing imaginable, like all the truck-stop art. I like the way it appeals to people who aren't artists or avant-garde in any way, but they might hang a silk painting of a wolf, and it's big and mysterious.
Anything else you want to tell me?
There's so much, but we'll leave it at that.
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Interview: Kevin Barnes from Of Montreal
Whether he's exorcizing personal demons on the harrowing, yet poppy Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? or putting on a stage show with skull masks and people dressed as imaginary creatures, Kevin Barnes and Of Montreal continue to push up against the confines of indie rock. From breaking down traditional song structures on Skeletal Lamping to getting his best Bootsy Collins on with False Priest, Barnes may just make the most fun music about personal trauma and sexual desire. I was fortunate to spend 45 minutes speaking with Barnes about the creative process, Sufjan Stevens, his influences and selling out. I am proud to present the Spectrum Culture interview with Kevin Barnes from Of Montreal.
Your new EP Thecontrollersphere seems like a departure from what you were doing with False Priest.
Well, the songs were written and recorded around that same time period. It's very much a sister release to False Priest. There were songs that could have been on False Priest, but for whatever reason didn't make the cut.
I read an interview with you that said when you were making False Priest you were consciously trying to keep the length of the album down. Were these the songs that got cut off or a different batch of songs?
I only briefly toyed with putting "Black Lion Massacre" on False Priest but "L'age D'or" and "Slave Translator" were definitely intended for False Priest, but I cut them at the last minute.
I feel like the music on False Priest is more traditionally constructed pop songs while these break down the structure of traditional songs, especially the first track.
Yeah, definitely. On False Priest I was trying to make something that was a bit more accessible. Just a really well put together pop record without asking too much from the listener. Some of the Controllersphere songs are a bit more esoteric and not really for everyone.
Was that decision for the format of False Priest a reaction to Skeletal Lamping? That one definitely demands more from the listener.
Maybe to some degree, instead of making another Skeletal Lamping. I was excited to make something different than that.
You mention all of these titles on Hissing Fauna near the end. Was there a conscious trilogy in your mind at that point or did it come after you wrote the lyrics?
It just sort of happened organically. I didn't have a real vision of how the records would sound. I just knew those would be the titles for the next three records that followed Hissing Fauna.
Did those titles play on any obsessions of yours or were they free association?
They are definitely more free associations. At the time, I was just trying to come up with interesting song titles and that was part of the process. I got three album titles out of it.
Speaking of titles, the song titles on this new EP are less esoteric, to use your word, than many of your past ones.
I kind of go back and forth on that. You can name it anything you want to. You can give it a name people recognize and would make sense or give it a name that has a connected meaning with the song or maybe it doesn't. Sometimes I feel like giving it a totally sensible title and sometimes I feel like giving it some other kind of title. Like "L'age D'or," for example, I could have easily called it "She's My Party Drug" or something stupid like that. I guess a lot of times when you think a lyric is powerful or interesting then you can put more of a focus on it by titling the song that way. If you don't really care or don't really feel that strongly about any of the lyrics or you don't really want to put a spotlight on them then you give it some other title.
Traditionally bands title their songs after the chorus because it's the hook. Where with "Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse," most people would probably call it the "chemicals" song.
Exactly. Especially with Hissing Fauna there's so many Norwegian words that nobody can really pronounce. It's not like I would even know how to say it either and I lived there for that time period. Titling songs is a slippery slope sometimes.
Is "L'Age d'Or" a direct reference to the Buñuel film?
It seems to me a lot of your music practices the same principles as of Surrealism. Two major hallmarks of Surrealism are sexuality and savage desire. Those are things you are not shy about putting into your music.
Definitely not. I think we share the same spirit. The same excitement about life and its potential and being broad-minded and open to new experiences. Exploring different aspects of the psyche.
Do you notice a difference in reaction between American and European audiences when it comes to the sexual and violent parts of the stage show?
Not really. It's pretty much the same when we go to Europe or other countries. I think we appeal to a certain kind of person all over the world. That kind of person is definitely in the minority as far as human beings go. But there's a good contingent of them all over the world. We're pretty much playing to same species of human or whatever you want to call it.
We have a pretty puritanical country here and if you played a show for non-Of Montreal fans they would definitely be more upset about you taking a person in a pig costume from behind than people shooting at one another on the stage.
Yeah, but I think it's always very cartoony. Unless you have no sense of humor you will probably find most of the theatrics entertaining. You might find it juvenile. All of it is really tongue-in-cheek. We hardly ever have a serious agenda that we're trying to push or try to make people uncomfortable. We're just having fun. We feel so free. We feel so liberated physically and emotionally and intellectually that there aren't really any taboos that we're afraid of.
Are a lot of the sexual lyrics tongue-in-cheek also?
I don't know. It depends on what specific lyrics. There's definitely songs that are more personal to me and they come from a darker place. Those aren't necessarily that fun. But they can help me resolve certain issues. It's always better to talk about something and get it out in the open. It's not always fun but it's therapeutic.
Yeah, Hissing Fauna felt more confessional than the albums that followed it.
That record is out of necessity. I was going through such a difficult time and I was using music as something to help me heal. It's not like I set out to make a really personal, confessional record, I just needed to make that. If that makes sense. It wasn't a premeditated thing, "Well, this record is going to be very confessional." I was going through such a terrible time and I was using music as therapy in a way.
Now that the dust has settled, is looking back on that record and that period harder for you to re-experience? Do you feel the same pain? Are those songs closer to you because they spring from a more personal space rather than a persona?
I like that record. I like playing those songs. It's funny because we have so many songs that we haven't touched live. We haven't played anything from any of the records that came before Satanic Panic in the Attic in forever. I can't remember the last time we played any of those songs. It's kind of weird, like my mind turned around Satanic Panic in the Attic and these last couple of records. We seem almost like a different band. I just feel so disconnected from those other records but I feel really connected to Hissing Fauna, Sunlandic Twins and Satanic Panic in the Attic. I definitely feel really connected to them but some songs are harder to perform night after night. Like "The Past is a Grotesque Animal," we've played that many, many times. But it's not something I'm really feeling right now and don't want to do it. But it's cool to have songs like that. If you are in a certain mood you can exorcize those demons with a song. If all you had was really happy songs, you'd be kind of fucked if you're in a shitty mood (laughs).
"The Past is a Grotesque Animal" has to be hell to play, especially on your voice.
I'm a weird vocalist. I'm really taking chances because I am not trained at all. I have no idea really how to protect my voice or even how to warm up. I have some really rudimentary techniques I use to warm up but a lot of times I don't even warm up. A lot of times I just
take the stage and realize, "Oh shit, I'm not warmed up yet! I can't sing this yet!" Then you just have to work your way through it.
I know that as a fan singing "Past" it wears me out.
Yeah, that song is super wordy. There are songs on Icons, Abstract Thee EP that came out right after Hissing Fauna that we've never played and I can't even listen to them because it still hurts me. It's way too sad still. But I guess there is a form of detachment that happens with songs. It's detaching from the source or inspiration and taking it somewhere else. Then I can deal with it. I've played "The Past is a Grotesque Animal" so many times and it doesn't really hurt me in that way. It just felt good to do it. But with those other songs I would just feel bad (laughs). I don't even want to sing them or think about them.
I'd like to back up for a moment about the longevity of the band and not playing the old stuff. Every time I see Of Montreal I feel like the audience gets younger and younger which is pretty fantastic for a band that has been around for so long. Is it hard to attract new fans without alienating the old ones?
To be honest, I don't think it's that healthy to think about your fans because you could be a fan of one record or one song. It could change. You don't really have to be beholden to some concept of the fan's perception of you or what they want from you. What one specific person wants from you or what a majority of people want from you. I don't think it's healthy for an artist to even consider that. So, I don't really think about that when I'm writing and recording. I'm not really worried about alienating people or pleasing people. I don't really think it would help the process at all. It's very important to me when I'm creating something to not let anybody else into my little bubble. I feel like that makes it impure and takes it out of this place it needs to be for it to happen organically.
So what is it about your music that attracts the 16-year-old? There is a sophistication about it that's different than what is on the radio these days or lack thereof radio.
I'm not sure really. I can't really say. Maybe because it's liberating. Maybe seeing people wearing interesting outfits and dressing up. I think it appeals to the side of people's personality that is in a hibernating state most of the time. Then they get a chance to cut loose because it's like Halloween or a costume party. It's always fun to go to a costume party when Halloween rolls around because everyone gets into it. Pretty much everybody has that side to their personality but most of the time it's in this hibernating state.
Back to the breaking down of song structures - another artist I feel is doing similar things is Sufjan Stevens with his newest record The Age of Adz.
Yeah, I love that record.
Someone was telling me that you do. I do see some similarities between his music and yours. I know that record, like Hissing Fauna, came out of personal strife.
That record has really meant a lot to me. It is probably the record I have connected with the most over the last five years or so. Not only because of its emotional content but also musically I feel like I've never heard music like that before. It's one of the most groundbreaking records we've ever had as humans. It is weird to me that it hasn't gotten more acclaim. I mean, it has gotten a lot of critical acclaim but I saw the records making critics' album of the year lists and I just couldn't believe that record wasn't on top of all the lists. Anybody who really loves music and loves the art form should see that it was the most fantastic, most exceptional record made that year.
I think one of the problems was that people were expecting another Illinois and it's completely different than that.
With artists, all of their records are held up against each other. If that was his first record and there was no other reference of what Sufjan does and what he is capable of it probably would have had a completely different impact on people. I was thinking about a review I read of the new Deerhoof record. I love Deerhoof and I think they're incredibly creative and extremely wonderful and important. I couldn't believe this writer was giving them such a mediocre review. I was thinking about all the other records that were getting good reviews that were so much more derivative and so meaningless. Well, not meaningless but I can't imagine them having any sort of value 10 years from now. It's weird that certain records that are more adventurous, more cutting edge and more valuable....
Not everyone wants to be challenged when they listen to music.
Yeah, that's true.
Have you seen Sufjan play those songs live?
No, I haven't seen him yet but I think we're playing a festival together this summer so hopefully I will get a chance to see it. I can't imagine how he'd do it live.
Speaking of stage shows, the last time I saw Of Montreal, it seemed to be more Kevin Barnes-centric than ever before. The band surrounded you in a horseshoe shape and you had the entire stage to roam around. Will we be seeing less and less of the other band members?
That was just an idea for the last tour because we wanted to do something different from the previous tours where we had a lot of action with the performance artists. We'd done tours before where we had this room where most of the theatrics took place but that was an insanely heavy stage and it broke everyone's backs (laughs). So we decided to make it a little easier on ourselves so we created that horseshoe shape. I wasn't playing guitar on that tour. It was fun for me to be a front man and dancing around and have that sort of persona. On this new tour, it's kind of similar to that but we're getting more people involved with singing songs. We're getting band members involved in different ways. We kind of felt it was weird to have the band so displaced in a way and have them pushed into the shadows. We want to get people more involved this summer.
Is there a line where theatrics can overshadow the music?
I never really felt that because the music doesn't change just because something is happening on the stage. It doesn't get quieter. If people are really trying to focus on the lyrics but they're getting distracted is one thing, but I don't think you could ever have too much going on on stage for me. If I go see a concert 99% of the bands that really have any sort of theatrical elements to their shows, they might have some video stuff but I would never think that. It's obvious if you've seen our shows that we wouldn't think that. I wouldn't feel that way about theatrics. I always loved what George Clinton did. I always loved the theatrical side of Parliament and how they had so many different layers to what they were about. We view ourselves in that vein. We think of ourselves as the grandchildren of Parliament.
On your last tour it seems like you found a great foil for yourself in Janelle Monae.
She's amazing. She has become a really close friend of mine. It's amazing to develop new friendships, especially artistic relationship like that. It's something I treasure and hold very close to my heart.
Did she help you come up with that Michael Jackson tribute at the end of the show?
No, that was our idea. We wanted to come up with something we could all do together. We didn't really think of the tour as Janelle Monae and Of Montreal. We wanted there to be a lot of integration between the two groups. We just wanted to have a lot of cross-pollination. The Michael Jackson thing at the end was a really great way to close the evening together, holding hands.
I also saw you do a Franz Ferdinand cover and a Nirvana cover once to end your show.
It's kind of hard to pick them though. That's the tricky thing. It's always fun. The Nirvana was great. It seemed like the right time and it had been long enough for people to get back into Nirvana. It was around the time of the anniversary of Nevermind. That record meant a lot to me at one point so it was great to do that one again. It's a great song. The most badass rock song ever.
Which cover song ideas have been floated around that will never see the light of day?
We tried a number of things we felt like we couldn't do. It's hard to do a Marvin Gaye song or Al Green. If you don't have that voice, it's going to sound kind of weird. I guess you could always do it. We were listening to the Slits version of "Heard it Through the Grapevine" yesterday and realized how incredible that version is. In a lot of ways, it's just as good as all the other versions out there but it's not Marvin.
Speaking of your voice, I feel like your vocal style has been moving closer and closer to Prince. I know you referenced '70s musicians such as Parliament and Stevie Wonder but has Prince been a direct influence on your songwriting as well?
Yeah, definitely. Without question. I adore him and I adore everything about him. He's an incredible professional.
He's an incredible musician and incredible vocalist and dancer. You couldn't really ask for a better human (laughs). I mean on an artistic level. Especially his earlier records like Sign O' the Times, Parade and basically everything up until Diamond and Pearls is, I think, the most incredible pop writing we have.
I remember reading somewhere they floated doing a Prince and Bob Marley duo at one point. But Bob Marley wouldn't do it because Prince was too effeminate. I should probably Google it to be sure. That would have been pretty interesting.
I guess Stevie Wonder did some stuff with Bob. I was doing some Googling about that. That's awesome but I don't think there is any footage of it. There's a recording of a show Stevie did in Jamaica maybe, and Bob Marley played and they played some songs together. It was pretty amazing. Yeah, Prince and Bob Marley would have been pretty great.
Stevie Wonder is another guy who had an amazing run of albums.
Yeah, it's insane. I was listening to a lot of Stevie Wonder when I was doing False Priest and rediscovering Songs in the Key of Life and Innervisions and Music of My Mind and that whole period. Songs in the Key of Life is one of those records that really inspires you and you really love it but at the same time it can make you feel like, "Why do I even bother?" I'm never going to make anything that great (chuckles).
Is it reasonable to hold yourself to a standard like that?
No, definitely not. That's why I have to be like, "Fine, I'm not Stevie Wonder. I'll never be that great." But I'm not going to not make music because I'm not Stevie Wonder. There is that little voice sometimes that's like, "God, man. I wish I was that good" (laughs). You know, that's all right. I'm sure he probably felt that way about other people too. I'm sure he probably felt that way about James Brown or Otis Redding or whoever. Everyone has that insecurity. Jimi Hendrix didn't like his own voice. Things like that. How could Jimi Hendrix not like his own voice? He sounds great!
You have definitely mined the funkier side of Stevie Wonder but have you ever thought of doing something as heartbreaking like "All In Love Is Fair" or something like that?
Those kind of ballads are actually my least favorite Stevie stuff, even though it's great. I can appreciate it but I don't know. Writing about love like that is kind of tricky. If it really comes from the heart, that's one thing. But so many times people will sit down and write a song and they just write about love because it's the conventional thing to do. But I'm not really that into love ballads at all. They just don't seem that genuine most of the time.
You don't feel like something like "Let's Get It On" isn't genuine?
No, that's genuine, for sure. Sexuality is a real, natural thing. If I thought about it I'm sure there's some love songs that really touch me. I feel like John Lennon's songs for Yoko seem genuine. There has to be a rawness too. If it's just super flowery and sentimental it doesn't really have much impact.
What songs in your lifetime have meant the most to you?
Definitely the first two John Lennon solo records.
Plastic Ono Band and Imagine?
Yeah, Plastic Ono Band plus Imagine. Definitely Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. There is always an emotional impact and potency in those records. All the Beatles records. All the '60s Kinks records, Os Mutantes, Sly and the Family Stone with everything up until Fresh. Curtis Mayfield's first couple solo records. There's just so many.
It's pretty amazing that we get to experience this stuff, isn't it?
Yeah, it's great. I was talking to someone yesterday about as an artist it's kind of incredible that in 2011 that you have Stevie Wonder, Parliament, Prince but you also have Sufjan Stevens and Animal Collective and Caribou and other people like that. There's so much incredible music from earlier times and even world music. Especially now, everything is so accessible. All this incredible stuff from the '60s like Ethiopian funk. You can get your hands on that. Like Cambodian music. It's crazy how much access we have to so much incredible stuff.
How do you find time to listen to music?
I like listening to music when I'm doing little things around the house like cooking or chilling out. I always want to have music on when I'm doing something non-musical. It's not going to be a distraction. A lot of times if I come into the studio before I start work on something, I will listen to something to get into the spirit of it and let that inspire something out of me.
Let's talk about the music industry. I just watched Morgan Spurlock's movie about advertising. The whole conceit of the film is selling out vs. buying in. This is about the Outback thing. I feel like the whole attitude of the country has changed lately. Back when Of Montreal started out, people would have been pissed off about a band jumping from an indie label to a major. Now there is no radio or MTV and people don't care about a Wilco song on a Volkswagen ad or your song on an Outback commercial. Was it hard for you to make that decision? Is that the only way to get your music out?
It's kind of a tricky thing. As an indie artist, everyone is always so broke all the time. They've been broke their whole lives probably. When these big companies come to you with a check for more money than you've ever seen at one time, more money than you'd probably make all year, it's really, really difficult to say no to that. But then there's that dilemma because you know there's going to be a bad backlash. I think it still exists in the community. Not with everybody but there's definitely a punk rock attitude still prevalent in the scene where you don't lip synch or do certain things. There's these unwritten rules as far as maintaining your credibility. If you put a song in a commercial and it's pitching some stupid product and your song gets associated with that stupid product it's kind of terrible because the song has been ruined for people. You just throw trash on the song in a way which is not respectful to your own art. But at the same time, you need that money to keep going and to keep putting out records.
People would say, "Well, R.E.M. wouldn't do that and Radiohead wouldn't do that," but they are not in the same financial position as a lot of indie acts.
Totally. For them, there is no reason to do it because they don't really benefit, necessarily, from having a song in a Volkswagen commercial. It depends who you are. I think what you're saying is true. People aren't as critical as they used to be and it probably wouldn't be death to band. There would probably be a handful of people that would be like, "Fuck that band. They're sell outs, blah blah." You don't really hear "sell out" that much anymore. It doesn't seem like it really comes into the conversation that much anymore.
Right, the attitude has changed.
I'm sure if you're a punk rock band and that was your whole thing , anti-corporation, then you'd lose everything if you did that. For most people, you gain people who are like, "Oh, actually that song was really cool."
What was your experience with it? Did you gain more fans or was there backlash?
I think we had both. Definitely there was major backlash. We had people coming to the shows....There was one show we played in Austin, Texas where these people brought a big Outback Steakhouse banner. They went so far out of their way. They got napkins from Outback Steakhouse and were throwing them in the air (laughs). It was something they had to spend money on actually and that's a lot of time. That was like next level backlash. But we had people still come to the show and stuff. It wasn't like nobody was supporting us anymore.
No one threw a Bloomin' Onion at you?
I think they had a Bloomin' Onion that they wanted to throw but then someone somehow caught it beforehand (laughs).
Would Kevin Barnes circa Cherry Peel feel the same way?
About selling out?
If you got approached with that sum of money.
I think it would be the same situation. It hasn't really changed. During Cherry Peel I had this telemarketing job. All of us had these terrible jobs so I think if I had got offered a way out of that even in spite of losing some credibility in some people's eyes, I don't think I would be able to refuse it. You have to really sacrifice a lot to maintain that level of anti-corporate whatever. You can't really get around it. Everybody shops in the same places. Everybody is supporting these corporations anyway. What difference does it make if you have a song in a commercial or you go there and buy their hamburger? It's the same thing in a way. At least if you sell a song for a commercial, you're getting something out of it. I could see it both ways. I can see how it's potentially damaging
to a song, at least, and to some degree people's perception of you and your commitment to your art. There are other hard realities you have to accept as an adult.
I interviewed one indie artist who said the goal nowadays is not to be rich but not have to work a day job anymore.
That's pretty much it. You just want to be able to make your music. No one is really trying to get yachts and Mercedes Benz. We're just trying to stay afloat and be in a situation where we can focus as much as possible on our art.
Do you self-finance all your own records?
I have a deal with Polyvinyl where we split all the expenses. But I have my own studio where I record. With the exception of False Priest everything I have ever recorded was recorded in my home studio. Studio might give you an exaggerated concept of what it was, especially back in the day. It was basically a 4-track and a $100 mike. Slowly, with each record, it has gotten a little bit better. I have understood how to get better sound, slowly, over time, by just learning little things, little engineering tricks and little mixing tricks. Pretty much everything is done on a shoestring budget or no budget at all.
You seem to have a lot of ideas circling around your work. Where are you headed next?
I started working on a new record. I'm basically done, actually. All of the songs are a lot longer. Much of the songs are about eight minutes long. It's a little bit like I was doing with Skeletal Lamping, having these longer, slightly fragmented songs. These ones are less fragmented. They feel more like one composition and not a bunch of different compositions pieced together. I've incorporated a lot more symphonic instruments. There are a lot of woodwinds and strings and brass. Things I haven't really used in the past very much.
Are you playing these or do you have people coming in?
Yeah, I can't play those instruments. K Ishibashi, who plays in the band now, plays violin and is doing all the string arrangements. He's turned me onto a bunch of his friends that are really talented and also excited about experimental arrangements. Which is important because a lot of people can play an instrument, but they don't have much imagination. They have all these rules in their heads, especially classical musicians. They have all these rules in their heads about what you can do and what you can't do. They are a bit robotic about it. Then you get that great combination of virtuosity and imagination. I feel really fortunate that I've met a couple people that fit that description.
Is there a thematic preoccupation in your new songs?
It's definitely more intimate. It's more personal. It's not really as sexual. There are a couple of funkier moments but I wanted to make something that sounded more intimate just because I was going through some different things as of late. Similar to Hissing Fauna, I was using music as therapy to get over these things and resolve them.
Do these songs have movements and tempo switches like the Sufjan songs?
Each one is different. The Sufjan record definitely feels almost like a through composition. You could listen to the whole thing and think about them as different suites because it definitely feels consistent throughout, which I can't even imagine how he was able to sustain that focus on something, to my ears and to my mind, that seems so complex. To have that complexity sustained throughout the 70 minutes or however long it is, that was something I was extremely inspired by. There is a lot more repetition on his record than there is on my stuff. I don't repeat very many sections. I create these expansive soundtracks. A lot of the songs go into these weird, less lyric-based and more music-based moments. There are definitely moments of heavy lyricism but there's really, really moments of instrumental periods. That's really different for me because I haven't really worked much with instrumental music.
I know Sufjan used a visual artist as his inspiration. Do you use any external stimuli when it comes to writing or does it all come from within?
There are definitely a lot of outside influences, especially musically. I hear something like Stevie Wonder for example or I hear something like "Boogie on Reggae Woman" and I listen to what he's doing on the keys and I think, "I want to do something like that. That's so incredible." So then I'll make something like that. It won't sound like Stevie. Nobody can sound like him, anyway. But often, Parliament and Prince and Sly, all these people influence me greatly.
by David Harris
Welcome to Sound Cheque, where we sit down with one of our favorite bands to get the scoop on their city-by-city dining picks.
Of Montreal. Top - Jerrod Porter, Dottie Alexander, Davey Pierce, Matt Wheeler, Dan Korn, Pual Nunn, Nick Gould, Kevin Barnes. Bottom - Clayton Rychlik, Nicholas Dobbratz, Nikki Martin, Thayer Sarrano, Michael Wheeler, Brian Poole. [Photo: Patrick Heagney]
Of Montreal's sound is shaped by an ever-changing cast of characters and love for the whimsical community of Athens, GA. When frontman Kevin Barnes moved to Athens in the late 90s, the band morphed from a pop solo project to a sort of psychedelic collective, with dramatic stage shows, and elaborate costumes. Flash-forward to today and the band is a regular on MTV and Late Night, has performed on SNL, and even had their song used in an Outback Steakhouse commercial! I caught up with one of the group's core members and keyboard player, Dottie Alexander, to talk hometown eats and mystery meat.
Having lived in Athens, GA for over a decade - have you cultivated a Southern food bias? Any Southern dishes you feel pretty strongly about?
Definitely. Athens has really cultivated the "Southern Gourmet" aesthetic over the last decade, and I find myself missing that kind of food when I'm away. Shrimp and grits and collards are two of my favorites.
What are your favorite restaurants in Athens and what are your regular dishes there?
I'm a big fan of The National, which has a revolving seasonal menu, and the Diner Burgers at The Globe are amazing!
You recently got married. I heard the celebration was a blast with a killer after party to boot. Can you tell us a little bit about the grub at the big event?
We wanted the entire event to be a celebration of Athens, as well as the two of us, so we went local on everything. White Tiger catered with amazing yummy barbecue. We did our rehearsal dinner at Big City Bread, and they really pulled out all the stops!
Of Montreal is notorious for its bigger-than-life stage shows and massive entourage. How do you handle dining requirements with such a big group?
We have a few vegetarians, and some... "choosy" folks, but the rest of us are pretty adventurous. We just had an amazing trip to Mexico where we tried everything from upscale seafood to street tacos.
Do you usually eat together or does everyone fend for themselves?
It really depends. We like to have a few "family dinners" while we're on the road, but everyone's schedules (the crew and the band) are different, so we usually split into smaller groups.
Any special requirements you have on tour yourself?
I avoid fast food, but other than that, I'm pretty open. I like to try regional things when I can.
What has been your best food-experience on tour?
Well, like I said, we just got back from Mexico, where there wasn't a bad meal to be found. Japan was pretty amazing too. We had a meal in Osaka that consisted of a bunch of chopped up mystery ingredients (Maybe octopus? Maybe duck?) which were grilled in a barfy-looking blob on a hibachi in front of us. We were each given tiny spatulas to shovel the goo into our mouths. Turns out, it's delish!
Do you guys ever treat yourselves to high-end dining?
Sometimes. I like to try and get away with my husband when I can, and we'll Yelp a fancy place from time to time. There are a string of amazing Italian places on Thompson Street in Soho in New York City that we love. Sushi is also a favorite for everyone.
How do you guys feel about fast food? Any favorite chains?
We avoid fast food like the plague. This does not apply to certain members of our crew, some of whom have found McDonald's on the four corners of the globe. Personally, I will go for street food (kebabs, tacos, etc) over fast food every time. If we are somewhere remote with no other options, we'll stomach Subway as a last resort.
What is your favorite city in the US to tour in because of the food?
It has to be New York, right? The "slow food" trend is everywhere in the City now. A new favorite of mine is a place called The Farm on Adderley in Brooklyn. Craft is also amazing.
What is the one food item you can't live without when you're on tour - your rider staples?
Fresh veggies and cookies.
You guys play a lot of festivals, which ones in the US have the best food?
Coachella wins. Hands down. Filet mignon and crab legs.
And now for your top picks in the US!
Best burger: The Farm on Adderley, NYC
Best taco/burrito: La Super Rica, Santa Barbara, CA
Best barbecue: Anywhere in Georgia
Best diner: Brunswick Diner, Brunswick, ME
Best coffee/tea shop: Anywhere in Seattle
Best bakery/sweets shop: Sees Chocolates, San Francisco, CA
Best pizza: (and best sandwich!) Amato's, Portland, ME
- When Of Montreal hit the road for last fall's tour, Kevin Barnes and his crew of psychedelic pranksters delivered sets that leaned heavy on the band's latest record False Priest. The Georgia-based group will head out for a second trek in April — check out dates below — but they'll be mixing things up by debuting new songs, as well as surprise covers and classics from albums like Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?.
Barnes tells SPIN the new material will appear on an upcoming Of Montreal EP titled The Controller Sphere, which is due out this spring. "It's not completely different — the songs were written in the same period as False Priest," he says of the five or six new tracks. "Some of them are a bit noisier and a little bit less groove-based, and some are just a bit artier."
Of Montreal will still bring their wild, over-the-top stage show, which features the band and their entourage dancing around the stage in all manner of freakish costumes: winged dancers, "spooky kids," dragons, and bondage fetishists. The storyline — conceived by Barnes' brother David — is loosely based on a crew of people traveling through an alternate universe.
But Barnes says there's plenty of room for improvisation. "We'll have some new props and things, but those ones are secret," he says. Also expect plenty of surprise covers — similar to the group's takes on Michael Jackson's classics like "P.Y.T." and "Wanna Be Startin' Something" from the last tour. "Maybe I'll come out and do a muddy waters cover or something," Barnes jokes.
Once the tour wraps, Barnes will return to the studio to work on the next Of Montreal record, but he tells SPIN that he's also started writing new songs. His inspiration? Sufjan Stevens' latest experimental record The Age of Adz. "I love the spirit of that album," says Barnes. "You don't get the sense that he's making something to play on the radio. It's just this pure artistic statement. I'm trying to get back to that place."
So far, Barnes has sketched out three tracks, tentatively titled "This Planet Is an Orphanage," "Ye, Renew the Plaintiff," and "We Will Commit Wolf Murder." "I don't know what the titles mean," he says with a laugh. "They're definitely all over the place — it's a lot of genre hopping. 'Orphanage' is more soulful, more Motown-y or Curtis Mayfield sounding. And "'Ye, Renew the Plaintiff" has moments that sound like Sonic Youth. Not a lot of distortion, but just open guitar tunings, slightly angular and slightly dissonant."
A Q&A with of Montreal visionary frontman Kevin Barnes; the Athens psyche pop group plays The Ritz Ybor on Saturday (with videos)
Posted by Leilani Polk on Tue, Jan 11, 2011 at 12:57 PM
Kevin Barnes [pictured below] is the high priest of intellectually stimulating, cleverly cheeky pop culture-infused lyricism, an idiosyncratic self-trained musical genius who serves as the visionary frontman of Athens, Ga. electro-lush glam rock and psyche pop outfit, of Montreal. The band released a Top-10-of-the-year worthy LP in 2010, False Priest, which found them fully exploring their funkadelic and R&B tendencies along with pumping up the richness of their sound with help from producer Jon Brion (Kanye West, Fiona Apple).
I had the pleasure of chatting with Barnes several weeks back while he was taking a break before gearing up for the next leg of the band’s False Priest tour. Check out our lengthy conversation below along with various videos for songs off the new album.
Leilani: So how are you doing? You enjoying some time off? Or is there really any such thing as time off for Kevin Barnes?
KB: Yeah, I’ve been getting some recording done. It’s been good. I feel lazy if I don’t do anything, just sitting around seems like a waste of time.
How have the False Priest tour dates been so far? I know you played some international dates ...
Yeah, it was great, it was definitely one of the most successful tours we’ve ever done, on every level. We also recently went to Mexico and we went to Brazil, before that we went to Europe. We’ve kind of been all over the place.
It was our first date in Brazil, but we'd played one other show in Mexico. The first time we went down there, actually, it was sort of under dubious circumstances because we were playing this festival — it was a massive festival [Corona Music Fest] — but we were playing a smaller stage. And the festival was actually in a soccer stadium that was, if it’s not the biggest, then definitely one of the top five largest soccer stadiums in the world. Just massive. But we weren’t there, we were in the parking lot, one of the side stages in the parking lot of the giant soccer stadium.
Most of the kids were there to see NOFX. So they didn’t want to see us at all, you know? And they were really insane and it was crazy weather, pouring down rain, and these kids were really into the whole punk rock thing and the role-playing of “Oh, we’re so punk rock, we hate everything,” so they were spitting at us and throwing shit at us. It didn’t bother me because it was so surreal and so cinematic in a way, you know? It was definitely an extraordinary experience.
We went back a couple weeks ago and played a proper show in a venue, and we were the headliners. And that was great. We got to really connect with people who were on our side. So that was nice.
Do you find that your overseas fans respond differently to your music, or are there certain songs they respond to more enthusiastically?
I think we’ve been sort of spoiled because our U.S. fans are really amazing, it’s not like we're coming from this uptight place and then going to these other places where people are less uptight.
But sometimes we feel like, in a weird way, we are an American band that seems to make sense more to Americans than we do to people in other countries. But one thing that does seem true is when you go to other countries, people don’t have to know the material to get into it, they’re naturally inclined to dance and they want to dance and celebrate and have fun. When they see a band, as long as the band is giving them something that they can work with, they will be very supportive and vocal about it.
I guess if you put on a good show people will like it regardless of what you’re doing as long as the music is good and the entertainment matches the quality of music…
It’s kind of cool to go places where maybe you haven’t been before, and maybe your records aren’t really available or widely available, and you have to really sort of get by on the talent, or the presentation, or whatever it is you’re putting forward. You really have to have your shit together in order to put something across that’s positive for people.
Sometimes it’s easy, if the fans are there to see you and they know the material. You can’t really lose unless you’re just completely wasted and can’t even function or can’t stand up or whatever (laughs). As long as you can, like, do your thing, then people are going to like it and it’s fine. But it’s kind of an interesting challenge to go places where you don’t really know if they know you, and they don’t really have the context to understand you, but they can still get into it.
Let’s talk a little about False Priest. I know you’ve said in interviews that it was pretty much complete when you brought it to producer Jon Brion. What motivated you to work with him?
I had only worked in my home studio and I’ve only worked in bedroom studios my whole life, so I’ve never really been to a real classic studio and worked with anyone who had a track record like Jon’s. So it was really me wanting to go and see how real records are made, rather than what I considered my little bedroom project. And I was really intrigued by going to Ocean Way, where Frank Sinatra used to record, and all sorts of other crazy people over the years, and then working with Jon, who’s a genius, a total icon. I knew I’d learn a lot and I did. So it was great.
[Video below for "Famine Affair" off False Priest]
What ultimately convinced you to incorporate more live instrumentation on this album?
The live drums was sort a of a semi-new thing – the last couple years have been more drum programming and loops. I’ve kept a lot of the drum programming, then also integrated live drumming onto the tracks as well. But the main thing is instead of using the software versions of synthesizers, using the actual synthesizers.
Jon has an incredible collection of vintage synthesizers, vibraphones and the most incredible collection of musical instruments you could ever imagine. We had so much at our disposal. He’d listen to something I made just using my computer software, piecing it together myself like that, and he’d go, “Oh, you want to use a Mellotron sound, or that Chamberlin sound? I have an actual Chamberlin. We can just plug it in and replace it with that.”
We did that a lot, replacing software versions with their actual physical instrument. And then the big thing, too, was mixing, ’cause I’d always just mix it myself, but Jon has an engineer that he works with and he pretty much mixed the whole thing. I was there with him and made some suggestions, but he was the one moving the faders and turning the knobs. That was cool, too. To have someone else I respected mixing it, after it was all said and done, was really great for me. I kinda just looked at it as an education …
It seems like you go through a different stage of creativity with each album. How did your creative process work and evolve into what became False Priest?
A big thing for we was meeting the Wondaland Arts Society, which is the art collective that Janelle Monáe is part of. I met them in Atlanta after a Skeletal Lamping show and we started hanging out. One of the guy’s in the collective, Chuck Lightning, he and I became really good friends and he turned me on to a bunch of different things I hadn’t really explored very much, like the whole P-funk scene and a lot of science fiction writing and things like that. I owe a lot of that inspiration, that spark, to Chuck and meeting those guys. It was great because they were working on the Arch Android, Janelle’s record, at the same time and we would kind of email each other, works in progress. Getting their feedback and support was very important to me.
I know she’s on the album, specifically one of the songs I wanted to talk to you about, “Enemy Gene” – how did that song come about?
The creative process has always been a bit of mystery to me, it’s sort of this unconscious evolution. I just sort of sit down at piano or guitar or whatever it is, and it sort of happens in this organic way, and I just sort of let it happen, and whatever it is, if I’m laying down the music first, I’ll listen to it a bunch of times and figure out what I want to sing about here. I have a journal that I keep all my lyrical ideas in, so I’ll go through the journal and see if I find something that seems to fit or that has some sort of glow to it, like, oh, that’s the direction I should be going in. You know? And then I sort of piece it together. All of this really happens very organically and very mysteriously.
But getting Janelle to sing on it … once I discovered what an incredible vocalist she was and how versatile she was, I got to a point where I wanted her just to sing on every track – basically I wanted make a Janelle Monáe record. But you know, I couldn’t be too greedy.
We actually wrote that song “Our Riotous Defects” as a duet. It was sort of like a he-said she-said – she took the second verse, and we had a whole separate verse that she sang that was more from the female perspective. But it kind of became too campy, so we shelved it. It might be available via iTunes [it is on the Deluxe Version of False Priest]. That was the original idea. But after we shelved that, we ended up getting her to sing on “Enemy Gene.”
[Kevin Barnes performing "Enemy Gene" solo acoustic on piano below.]
You’ve been known to take autobiographical experiences and incorporate them into your songs. How much would you say what you’re writing these days is inspired by things that have happened to you as opposed to things you’ve made up or things that have inspired things you’ve made up?
It’s definitely something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I think, maybe about 50 percent, it’s sort of split. A lot of the stuff, maybe it didn’t actually happen, but I don’t really differentiate that much between what physically happens or what just happens in my mind. In a way, it like, if it happens in my mind then it’s just as real as if it happens in real life.
Also, I think about music and I think about the things I sort of identify with and writers I identify and the writers a lot of other people identify with, are the ones that speak, for the most part, from personal experience, and it just feels more real and more emotive and in a way, more fulfilling to hear stuff like that because it has a universal appeal to it. Someone like John Lennon, for example, and the Plastic Ono Band, it’s one of the best examples of that, just completely raw and coming straight from his heart, straight from his soul. That’s something you can’t really do on every record, necessarily, but those are magical moments in music, and we’re lucky to have a few. It’s something I’d like to do more and I think I’m getting in a state of mind where I can do it a little bit more. Because you do have to put yourself in this vulnerable position and really not think about the outside world – at least for me, anyway, it would definitely throw me off. If I think about someone writing about it, commenting on, hearing it, even, then it takes me about of that space that you need to be in where you’re just unconsciously doing this thing, stripping it directly from your psyche and not conscious of it. Otherwise, you might just become too self-conscious to even do it. I think you have to be unconscious in that in that way – you’re speaking to god, or whatever, you’re speaking to something that isn’t necessarily human…
I know you guys have another outrageous stage production put together for this tour. What is different on this tour from your last big album tour as far as what’s happening on stage?
So for False Priest, we thought it’d be cool if it was more thematic and everything had a narrative to it, that maybe wasn’t completely linear, but the parts connected together, so felt more like a contrived piece of work. And we actually tried that for the first couple shows, but it became almost a bit Spinal Tap (laughs). It wasn’t the way we envisioned it in our heads, it just came off in this awkward, sort of pretentious silly way. So then we just said, fuck it, and abandoned it and we were like, we’ve got all these components, we’ve got all these costumes and all these props, and everything, so what are we going to do?
So we tried to make it more playful and fun. I think we always just naturally gravitate towards that anyway, and any time we try to be too ambitious in creating some sweeping epic in our mind, it never really comes across. It’s always better if we have fun and do things spontaneously. And when you’re doing something night after night after night, even if it’s a complicated thing where you have lots of roles to play, it can still become mundane. To have that freedom, where you don’t have to follow any script, is very important.
It’s kind of funny, too, though, with the theatrics, because you realize that one certain theatric works really well with this specific song, but if you tried to do it on another song, it’d be awkward and just wouldn’t work. So a lot of times the theatrics actually sort of determine what the setlist is going to be.
So what’s next? I know you guys have an EP with some more material from False Priest on the way …
Yeah, that’s going to come out in April. It’s called The Controller Sphere. I’m really excited about it. It’s only five songs but there’s some different material, it’s sort of new territory for us, a bit noisier, a bit artsier. Just kind of bizarre stuff. But that’s done. And like you said, I’m not gonna take a break, so I’ve been working on more new material, working on some new projects, and I’m sort of in a transitional stage right now trying to figure out what I want to do next. I’ve made so many records by now, I’m trying to figure out if I should do should do something different, involve different people, to figure out different things I want to do, but still writing and exploring…
[Video for "Coquet Coquette" from False Priest below.]