Of Montreal’s latest album, “Paralytic Stalks” departs from the dance-groove creations of the group’s resent past. Instead of recreating an album of rearview mirror sound, frontman Kevin Barnes directs listeners down darker streets of introspection.
For a man who’s most confessional work to date was only weeks away from public unveiling, Barnes was very calm and quite relaxed. Even with the kickoff of their latest tour (featuring Of Montreal member Kishi Bashi and Atlanta-based musician, Roman Gianarthur) days away, Barnes showed no signs of pressure during our discussion of the new album/tour, his favorite plays and more for Take Cover and Shoot.
*** Kevin Barnes Interview ***
TCAS: You’ve got the new album coming out Feb. 7th. What gets you off the most about the Of Montreal experience? Is it the songwriting, the live performances…
KB: They’re different things to me. A lot of the recording processes is done by me alone. I’m just working on things by myself. It’s a more isolating experience in a way. I’m just working alone, piecing things together. But the live performances are communal and more collaborative and I like them both for different reasons, but performing it live is a great challenge and I probably get more fulfillment because I’m working with my friends and working on something as a group.
TCAS: They’re almost opposed to each other. You mentioned performances. I saw you last year in Mobile. Your shows and theatre go hand-in-hand. With the new album out, can you give us insight on what the audience can expect on this tour?
KB: Yeah, well we’re doing now is shying away from the Dada comedy aspect of the previous tours and focusing more on a visual spectacle. It’s going to be like a sensory overload at times, but there’s going to be…(long pause) Hello?
TCAS: You still there, Kevin? I think the phone cut out or something.
KB: Oh, ok.
TCAS: You said more of a “sensory overload.”
KB: Yeah, I was talking about the stage production is going to be visually, really intense and psychedelic. Really powerful. We’ve been working on getting content for it. The stage itself is going to be one giant, projectable space. And we’re going to have all of these areas all over the wall where we’re going to be projecting animation and just really wild lighting schemes. It’s all going to be scripted out to the music. Accompanying the music in a powerful way. We’re very excited about it.
TCAS: Do you direct the live performance. I’m visualizing theatre here. I was curious as to how you come about with these elaborate shows?
KB: It’s definitely a collaboration between all of the people in the band and David, my brother and my wife Nina and Nick Gould who does a video.
TCAS: What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you on stage?
KB: One time I rode a horse on stage and that was probably the most interesting thing I’ve done on stage.
TCAS: What is your favorite play?
KB: Well, there are plays that I’ve read that I’ve never seen performed. I like “Caligula” by Camille a lot (laughs). “No Exit” by Sartre I like. “Rhinoceros” by Ionesco and of course “Waiting for Godot” by Beckett but I haven’t really seen any plays actually performed. I’ve only seen musicals like “My Fair Lady”, “Music Man”, things like that.
TCAS: If Broadway called and knocked on your door and said, “Kevin, we want you to be in a production of “Waiting for Godot” with maybe Steve Martin, would you say, “I’m there.”?
KB: With Steve Martin?
KB: Yeah, I would definitely do that. That would be really funny and weird. I mean to be like an actor?
TCAS: Yes. For just a run. Maybe just a year of Broadway. Just any play you wanted to do.
KB: Yeah. Definitely, that would be really cool. It would be an interesting challenge.
TCAS: If you could only listen to five albums for the rest of your life, what would they be?
KB: Probably, Beach Boys “Smile”, The first two O-Shen records, John Lennon’s “Plastic Ono Band”, and…maybe the first Velvet Underground record.
TCAS: Best advice you’ve ever been given?
KB: Slight pause…I guess maybe, “Free your mind and your ass will follow.”
TCAS: What advice would you give for someone who wants to be where you are?
KB: You have to really love the process of creating. For us and for me, the reason that I keep doing it is because I get so much fulfillment out of it and if I didn’t, I wouldn’t do it anymore. I don’t think that, as far as, finding an audience, you just have to do what you feel naturally driven to do and follow a sort of organic spirit and just hope that other people can connect with you and identify with you.
TCAS: I love that. From “Your ass will follow”, to “The people will follow.”
KB: Yeah. (laughs)
TCAS: Last question. The grand finale’. Do you prefer crunchy or creamy peanut butter?
TCAS: Any reason why in particular?
KB: I like a little crunch.
– Michael L. Smith
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