Having released their eleventh album, Paralytic Stalks, back in February, the Georgian rock outfit Of Montreal have been touring relentlessly. They’ve now made their way over to the UK, providing us with a chance to squeeze in a chat with the band’s frontman and founder, Kevin Barnes, on their day off, before a triumphant return to play a show at London’s Koko. Here’s what unfolded…
Hi Kevin, how and where are you today?
Kevin: Hey, I’m doing alright, I’m in London…
You’re well into the European tour now, how has it all been going?
It’s going well, and we’re having some fun…
How do the UK crowds treat you? There’s sometimes a mixed reaction, coming from bands from across the pond…
Well, London’s usually really good, so we look forward to playing London shows, you know? Plus, it’s one of our favourite venues to play, so we’re very much looking forward to it.
You’ve been trying out a load of new visualisations and animations for the live shows, and in your latest video. How has that gone down?
Have you seen the video?
Yep, we certainly have!
Oh cool. Well it’s going great, it’s very emotive, you know like when you’re in the audience and you’re listening and watching everything. It transports people into another atmosphere that’s not typical.
So, have you been pleased with the reaction to Paralytic Stalks and is it something you pay attention to?
Well, the people who love it, seem to love it a lot, and the people who don’t, don’t (whilst laughing nervously). It’s like – you’re going to get some positive feedback and some negative feedback, and some in the middle. But it seems like people like it; or whatever. It doesn’t really matter to me.
But, on a personal level are you pleased with how it turned out, now that you have the opportunity to look back on it?
Yeah, I’m very proud of it. I mean, I wouldn’t make that record again, because that’s just representative of where I was at that time period. But I’m not there anymore, and am not in that state of mind anymore. But I’m happy that it exists, and I’m really proud of it.
Were there any direct influences on the record, be it musically, geographically or literary?
Yeah definitely, everything comes from something else. I was influenced by some soul music and R&B music. And, I’m listening to more 20th Century Avant-Garde classical music, and that sort of creeped in to the sound a little bit, where songs like Exorcismic Breeding Knife probably wouldn’t have existed on any other record. Where I was influenced by things such as; Charles Ives and other stuff that could be considered as Avant-Garde classical music
So this is your eleventh album, does the whole record/release/tour process get easier or harder?
Well it’s easier when people come to the shows, and harder when they don’t. So it all depends on what response you’re getting, and on this tour it’s been really fantastic in that way. So that keeps everybody excited and happy about what we’re doing. But it’s like an up wards, uphill battle.
You brought in session players for the new album. What was the thinking behind that?
Well mainly, I just tried to bring in people that could play instruments that I couldn’t, because most of the tracking was done by myself in my home studio. SO if I wanted anybody to play strings, brass or woodwind – then I’d have to look for somebody to do it. And, I’m very fortunate as I met some people that are actually in the group now, as I wanted to continue working with them, as they did really good thing for the record: so they’re in the touring group now.
Do you still try and find ways of keeping the whole thing fresh?
Definitely, I mean, we don’t want to just do the same thing over and over again.
Does that translate to songwriting too? Do you look for new ways to push or challenge yourself?
I try to push my self, to take chances and explore different areas of my psyche to try to find new areas that inspire me.
Great, so whats next for Of Montreal? Do you have many plans for the summer?
Um, yeah we do, we’re playing together for a summer tour, but mostly festivals. And, we’re playing Green Man festival, I think that’s the only UK date, then we’ll be working on a new project – a new album, once the tour is over.