A Chat with Kevin Barnes

Published on April 21st, 2014


Kevin Barnes | Of Montreal | PureHoney

Kevin Barnes | of Montreal Credit: Nina Barnes

Kevin Barnes has taken his ever-evolving project of Montreal through just about every musical dynamic he’s fancied since its inception in 1996, citing his latest inspiration as the late 60s and early 70s for his most recent album Lousy With Sylvianbriar.  of Montreal’s transformation over the years, starting with a lo-fi indie-pop sound, which bled into their later electro-dance anthems leading up to their psychedelic folk rock movement with this latest album, all seem to have been a very natural and honest exploration of Kevin’s constant forward motion, chasing the next source of inspiration.

PH: Is this tour focused mostly on the new album or will you unearth some of the past as well?
KB: “Oh yeah we’ll do a lot of old stuff.  It’s a healthy amount of the new songs, but what I feel is so special about of Montreal is the dynamic of all the different genres that we toy with, and by having that dynamic there’s moments of quiet, intimate, more confessional songs, and moments of dance party anthems and everything in between.  That’s what makes it fun for me is being able to explore all these different styles of the songwriting and all the different identities that exist within the band.”

PH: Do you have something visually/musically that you hope to accomplish on this tour? 
KB: “What we want to do is create an atmosphere that feels special and unpredictable and we basically just try to transform the environment so you don’t feel like you’re just in some rock show…Hopefully it feels like a holiday of some kind.”

The reach of Kevin’s creative mind extends beyond his musical arrangements.  He composes the sound, writes the lyrics, and creates a physical and visual atmosphere that transmits his vision directly into every sensory receptor available.  Genre exploration and evolution aside, the level of production and realized representations have been consistent over the years. of Montreal’s movement into the folk rock realm of Kevin’s latest muse enabled a few recent line up changes…

Kevin Barnes | Of Montreal | PureHoney

Kevin Barnes w. Rebecca Cash | of Montreal Credit: Nina Barnes

PH: What prompted the lineup change and how did you choose new members?  
KB: “Basically I had been working with the same group of people in the live band for a really long time, and… things started going kind of stale. I felt like we weren’t really growing.  We had a system worked out that worked and everyone knew their role, and it’s just sometimes like anything else in life, you just reach this point in your relationships where you just want a change and you want to see what other possibilities are out there.”

“I wanted a group of musicians that would help me realize that vision and wanted it to be a natural thing for them, not ask people to play something they weren’t comfortable playing.  I picked people who play in that style already and they can just do it – and it’s just a very organic change.  I picked these people specifically for that purpose of playing on the album, and then the album sounded so good and the experience felt so good that I started realizing that I needed to bring these people on tour.”

PH: How did the new lineup affect the way this last album was written?  Was this a solo effort like you have done in the past or more of a group effort?
KB: “We made the album together and the dynamics between these musicians felt special and interesting so I wanted to pursue it further. It’s definitely more collaborative for sure. I wrote the song structures, you know the chord progressions and the lyrics and melody lines and things like that, but as far as orchestration they wrote a lot of their own parts and we came up with a lot of things together so it’s really the most collaborative album that I’ve had since, well, a really long time…like seven records or something.”

In the background of the recent noise around the new lineup and album, and the theatrics the band is creating on stage this year, of Montreal is soon to see the release of a documentary.  It’s a telling of Kevin’s story by Jason Miller, titled The Past Is A Grotesque Animal.

PH: Any involvement or creative input with the documentary?
KB: “It was mostly his [Jason Miller’s] project but I did have some input.  There were a lot of things I had to veto.  You know like, “No… Please… God no… don’t” [laughs].  There were a lot of things like that, but I think in general I wanted to give him some room to be creative.  I had to accept the fact that there would be some ugliness and some awkwardness.”

“I think I come across as being kind of a dickhead in the movie, but I don’t know how other people approach it.  It sort of focuses on the one side of telling of the story, and in a way it’s kind of just funny to me that I come across as a dickhead.  It doesn’t really bother me that much, it probably should bother me, but I just don’t really care.  And it’s funny the name of the documentary “The Past Is A Grotesque Animal” That’s just kind of basically the theme, just running away from the past and not wanting to be categorized or placed in any sort of context so trying to escape that, and so that’s basically where my head is at anyways.”

CAMP THUNDERBEEof Montreal makes their way to Florida with Brazilian psychedelic pop quartet The Boogarins!
05/05 – Pensacola, FL – Vinyl Music Hall  |  Tickets
05/06 – St Petersburg, FL – State Theatre Saint Petersburg  |  Tickets
05/07 – Miami, FL – Grand Central  |  RSVP  |   Tickets
05/08 – Orlando, FL – The Social  |   Tickets
~Danielle Romanowski

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