The last time the delightfully tart Of Montreal played in Philadelphia, its chameleonic leader, singing songwriter Kevin Barnes, was going through not one rebirth, but several. After an oft-reported bout of depression and a couple of Merseybeat-inspired albums (1997's
The Bedside Drama: A Petite Tragedy
), his band's 2008 glam-disco
showed off his love of classic funk elders. As a guy, he claimed he was less repressed, freer, and more sexual than ever before. Was it music that liberated Barnes, or did his personal liberation open up his new music?
"It was a personal liberation that informed the art," says Barnes. That openness allowed inspirations such as Sly Stone, Marvin Gaye, and Curtis Mayfield to flow through his newest music: "I love that they don't restrict themselves creatively. They just let it all hang out." He says such funky freedom suits his goal of making complex music: "Not complex in a math-y way but in an emotional, intellectual, and soulful way. The most important thing is to follow the creative muse that has a message for you to deliver. Right now, the message it wants me to deliver is of a homo-luminous, funky nature."
Of Montreal is now gearing up for False Priest, an album to be released this autumn, with new tracks such as "Famine Affair," "Coquet Coquette" and "Like a Tourist" added to their live catalog. Barnes and Co. are experimenting with arrangements to be used in recording the new songs, exploring new theatrical and visual ideas, and dropping their usual backing tracks and using nothing but live instrumentation.
"It makes it more of a challenge, 'cause there's nothing to hide behind," says Barnes. "I'm just really enjoying being a part of this art organism."
This but another set of changes for the skin-shedding Barnes, an artist who refuses to repeat himself. He acknowledges that sometimes his search gets him into trouble, and his bandmates and friends find him difficult and moody. "I have the misfortune of being in a constant state of emotional instability as my feelings about things change quickly and unpredictably," says Barnes. "What I love about Of Montreal is that it gives me a chance to interact with people in this fun, artsy way. If you make a beautiful record or novel, people will forgive you your unfortunate passions and personality crimes. Everything can be forgiven through art."