Of Montreal, (not actually of Montreal) paints the darkness of depression with vivid color and glitter. This quintet from Athens Georgia, fronted by guitarist/vocalist Kevin Barnes, are currently on tour supporting their eighth album Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer, a full length recording of contradictory delight.
Hissing Fauna is a sweet combination of gloomy lyrics harmonizing with happy neo-psychedelic sing-a-long indie-pop. This recipe seems to be the perfect remedy for despondency. Of Montreal’s bassist Bryan Poole took a few minutes to chat mobile to mobile before jumping back on their tour bus.
How does an American band end up with a name like Of Montreal?
That’s pertinent considering you’re actually of Montreal, we usually don’t like answering that question, but I will. There are a lot of different stories floating around about this. Kevin was a gymnast at an early age and there was a really important competition in Montreal. His dismount went awry and he broke his leg! So that took him out of the competition. At that point his life had been geared towards gymnastics and there he was being sent home to recover. He had to recuperate and stay in bed and that’s when he picked up the guitar. If it wasn’t for this accident he might not have discovered playing music. In a weird way, for Kevin, where the music comes from is Montreal.
What is the significance of the album title Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?
For the most part, Kevin has gone through a lot of stuff in the last couple years in his personal life; a lot of depression, anxiety and paranoia. He got married to Nina, a beautiful Norwegian girl, who played bass with us. Things we’re going very well, but then uncertainties came. Trauma rose between Kevin and Nina. We toured for nearly two years straight and he was gone all the time and wasn’t seeing his baby girl grow up. One decision was good for the band, but then hurt his family. Kevin felt the world and everything was plotting against him in a way. I think he really felt like things were out to destroy him.
The first song on your record is called “Suffer for Fashion” and that reminds me of the lack of fashion or rather the lack of clothing regarding a little commotion I heard about at a show in Las Vegas where Kevin took it all off.
Yup! Kevin got naked! Just something Kevin felt like doing. It was a 21 and over show and it was Vegas! We even asked the venue if they were ok with it. They said “Hell yeah!” It was just something about pushing the boundaries of sexuality and freedom of expression.
Seeing you perform, hearing your music and even just looking at your website, you can’t help feel an 80s vibe. What are your favorite 80s albums?
I could give you a list of five Prince records!
Is there an 80s icon you’d love to perform with?
Aw! Grace Jones.
What do you think was the best thing to have come out of the 80s?
Well not Ronald Reagan! [Laughs]
What about Cyndi Lauper or Madonna?
I like Cyndi Lauper, but I’d say Madonna. She had a lot of impact in a lot of different ways. They’ve figured out a whole formula based on her. Britney Spears and that pop stuff are like watered down versions of what she was doing. Mind you Madonna’s on a major label, but she is still an independent, savvy woman! I think Madonna knows how to manipulate. Look, she’s still here and headlining!
David Bowie or Robert Smith?
I absolutely love The Cure. But Bowie is the ultimate! He’s so “I am not what you think.” Creating characters like Ziggy Stardust; he just made things so theatrical. He’s up there with the cleverest!
Mullets or Mohawks?
Ugh! Those perm-mullets were the worst things in the world! I had a mullet, unfortunately, but I was very proud of my Mohawk! Mohawks are cool. Look at the girl from Bow Wow Wow and her Mohawk. That was hot!
Star Wars or Indiana Jones?
Some archeologist finding weird stuff, stepping on something and then arrows shoot out? Hmm. Then there’s space adventure! So Star Wars then! You’ve got Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader! Good vs. Evil. You know, that’s what it’s all about!
Of Montreal plays La Tulipe, 4530 Papineau Ave., Monday, March 12 at 8 p.m.