COURTNIE / OFMONTREAL.NET
Kevin Barnes, far right, is the frontman for Of Montreal, Barnes' solo recording project that turns into a live band when touring. The inset cartoons at right are by artist David Barnes.
Indie music fans: Wear your dancing shoes
Of Montreal makes its debut in Honolulu with two shows
FOR Kevin Barnes, the musical magician behind the indie dance pop project Of Montreal, he can thank "The O.C." for upping his music's profile many times over. A version of "Requiem for O.M.M.," the lead heartbreak track from his latest album, "The Sunlandic Twins," is part of the latest mix CD compilation from the Fox primetime drama. Barnes, speaking by phone from the college hometown of Athens, Ga., said a couple of his songs have been played on the TV show in the past.
Which is no surprise, considering that the songs of Of Montreal (so named for a former flame of Barnes' who came from that particular French Canadian city) are ingenious pop confections that revel in their artifice. While Barnes recorded "The Sunlandic Twins" all by his lonesome, he hits the road with a band.
And Of Montreal makes its anticipated debut in Honolulu with two shows this weekend -- thanks to following up on a whim of a request to Barnes' booking agent, who got the husband-wife duo Mates of State out here a couple of years ago.
"We're planning to do something special for the shows there," Barnes said. "With our recent touring, we've been stuck predominantly with featuring songs from the new album, but in Hawaii, we'll mix it up with older songs from the previous album, 'Satanic Panic in the Attic.'"
But it's been "The Sunlandic Twins" that has been appearing on some indie-minded rock writers' best-of-'05 lists. Barnes describes the album on its press release as "my foray into 21st century A.D.D. electro cinematic avant-disco. My aim was to place the mirrorball choral acrobatics of the shamelessly ambitious '70s and '80s studio wizards into a more chimerical mien."
If you're expecting fey, soulless ear candy, try listening to such inscrutably titled disco and pop nuggets like "Wraith Pinned to the Mist (and Other Games)," "Forecast Fascist Future," "The Party's Crashing Us" and "Everyday Feels Like Sunday" without breaking out some bitchin' dance moves.
"There's definitely a '70s influences to my music," Barnes said, "particularly Brian Eno, more of his own early solo work and when he produced people like Talking Heads and David Bowie."
OF MONTREAL was born of the expansive Elephant 6 collective in Athens of the late 1990s, a group of bands like The Apples in Stereo and the Olivia Tremor Control, that themselves were hugely inspired by such '60s icons as the Beach Boys and the Beatles.
"When I started Of Montreal, that was kind of changing," Barnes said. "Three, four years ago, this was an actual band, where we used to live together and record. We did two records as a full band. After awhile, I thought it was becoming too insular, and I needed my own space. Ever since I moved, I've been working on my own, making music with programmed drum beats and a more electronic feel. As other bands splintered off, Of Montreal has become a band when we play gigs and tour."
(The band includes longtime mainstay bassist/vocalist Brian Poole, drummer Jamey Huggins, keyboardist Dottie Alexander, and multi-instrumentalists Matt Dawson and Jason NeSmith.)
"Where the first six Of Montreal records moved from vaudevillian to a sparser, more evotive guitar-dominated sound, 'Satanic' had an Afro-Beat, electronic sound, and 'Sunlandic Twins' is a little darker in tone, although the two records are fairly similar.
"I've been always into songwriting, since age 15, from recording side projects during my high school years on a four-track recorder. It helped fuel my being able to do anything I want to in the studio, and realize any vision that comes to mind. It's not Phil Spector quality, granted, but it's close."
And Barnes wants people to come out to the shows ready to go. "They should realize that this is fun music. The last couple albums have been so dance-y. Usually, with an indie rock audience, they stand around with crossed arms, and this is not like that at all. It's all about getting sweaty. So come with your dancing shoes."