Features In The Studio: Of Montreal

Jamie Milton catches up with Of Montreal frontman Kevin Barnes to discuss the band’s forthcoming new album.

Jamie Milton catches up with Of Montreal frontman Kevin Barnes to discuss the band's forthcoming new album. Photo: Patrick Heagney.

By the time ‘Paralytic Stalks’ sees the light of day, Of Montreal will be eleven albums strong. That being the case, you can only envisage frontman Kevin Barnes using this milestone as some sort of catalyst for making his most experimental offering to date.

The last truly odd and striking album in the band’s catalogue came in the form of 2008’s ‘Skeletal Lamping’, a work that shares a lot in common with the Athens, Georgia-based group’s forthcoming record, claims Barnes; “This one’s definitely asking more from the listener... The arrangements aren’t obvious or based on simple structures or basic chords or anything.”

Most Of Montreal records have their idiosyncrasies, odd bits here and there that almost intentionally thwart the listener. It seems ‘Paralytic’ Stalks’ will have similar moments: “There’s one song in particular where it’s either going to be one of those songs that people really love or really hate,' he tells us. 'It’s not funky, or anything in particular, I don’t really know how you can describe it. That song’s the one where I actually had to kind of fight the label and make sure it
went on the record, for obvious reasons.”

But the challenging nature of this next record might not stem from experimental instrumentation or unconventional structures: Barnes highlights the lyrical nature of the album as quite confronting; “I think with [previous album] ‘False Priest’ I was doing roleplaying, in a way, telling stories and acting out and singing songs from a different persona. The album’s definitely more in touch with my personal life and as a whole it’s much more confessional. On the storytelling of the last record, a lot of the stuff was true but the spirit of the album was a whole lot more dramatic.”

‘False Priest’’s lyrical content was extremely hard to ignore, too, with tales of girlfriends throwing fish out of windows, followed by stark, blunt monologues on religion. But where the last album thrived on a sense of theatre and performance, ‘Paralytic Stalks’ sees a full-frontal emotional performance. “With this record, I’m wearing my heart on my sleeve,” says Barnes, “I was a lot happier, a lot less vulnerable [on ‘False Priest’] than I am for this one.”

But what looks like potentially Of Montreal’s darkest, most harrowing record to date, also comes with a contrastingly fun companion, on release day. The band plan to issue out “500 or so” copies of a customised board game, alongside the record. Including a question section devoted entirely to North Korea (“a lot of that isn’t factual-based,” admits Barnes), it’s fit for social outings, whilst the album sounds fit for isolated, headphone-assisted listens.

The board-game has “been created to be pretty much impossible to win in a conventional way” and likewise, with the album, Kevin Barnes predicts it to be far from easy on the head: “As the record goes on, a lot of the songs get longer and longer and the final song on the album is thirteen minutes long, and a few other songs are around eight minutes long.” Is he concerned about how people will receive it? “I never worry about how it’s going to be received when I’m making it. It’s pointless worrying about how commercial or anti-commercial the album is.”That’s been Of Montreal’s ethos from the very start, and to date it’s paid dividends.

Taken from the Winter 2011 issue of DIY, available now. For more details click here.


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