Kevin Barnes is the mastermind behind the indie pop band of Montreal, which will be performing Friday at The HUB at UC Santa Barbara. This show is open to UCSB students and the general public. Click here for more information.
of Montreal got its start as part of the Elephant 6 collective, which spawned other notable bands including Neutral Milk Hotel, Olivia Tremor Control and The Apples in Stereo. The latest addition to the band’s diverse catalog is last year's Lousy With Sylvianbrian, which tilts in a more straightforward rock direction, making it arguably one of the band’s most accessible recordings.
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Jeff Moehlis: What can we look forward to at the upcoming show?
Kevin Barnes: We’re going to play a bunch of songs from the last five records, try to mix it up and do some different things. It should be a fun night.
JM: The band is known for the theatrical element. What led you in that direction?
KB: I guess mainly just feeling like I wanted the show to be a special event, and not just a typical rock ’n’ roll experience. I have a great appreciation for artists like Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel and David Bowie, you know, people who put a lot of time and effort into creating a happening, as it were. Something that is extraordinary and feels almost like a holiday, a very special day. For me, I want every show to feel like that, like a holiday.
JM: You had a new album (Lousy With Sylvianbriar) come out recently, and unlike most other of Montreal albums it was recorded in the studio with other musicians. How did that affect the final product, rather than doing it yourself?
KB: It definitely created a new atmosphere. That was really the goal for me. For every record, I want it to be different from the one before, and all the other ones, too. I want each record to have its own strong identity and personality. I made most of the last records over the last six years by myself, just piecing things together one
instrument at a time on my computer. If I had someone else play on the record, I usually emailed them a mix and they would do it in their own studio and email it back to me, so it was really disconnected.
With this record I wanted it to feel more communal, and more impulsive and spontaneous, and capture an energy in the room with a group of people and a specific period of time — something that could never be duplicated. So, basically that was the vision, to get a group of people together and make the record very quickly. We did it in about two weeks, and just sort of knocked it out. We made all of our creative decisions on the fly, and didn’t overanalyze anything or second-guess anything too much. We just sort of dove in and knocked it out. So it was really fun. It was very refreshing in a way, to work that way.
JM: In your opinion, how does of Montreal fit into the musical landscape of 2014?
KB: I think on a certain level we’re sort of on an island. We’re not really a part of a scene, necessarily, and we’re not really part of whatever trend is happening right now. I think that we’ve kind of formed our own little niche in the world, and sort of exist there.
JM: My favorite of Montreal album is Satanic Panic in the Attic, which is now I guess 10 years old. Do you have any reflections on that particular album, you know, where your mind was at and so on?
KB: That was a very important record for me because the band that I had up to that point had sort of splintered apart, and I had just gotten married. All of the band members used to live in this big house together out in the country, and we decided to move out of that house. Me and my wife and my brother moved into this little house together by this train track. So it was a transitional period, or a new chapter, whatever you want to say. I didn’t really know what was going to happen with the band, or with my life, or anything. Everything was in transition. So that record was great, to be able to experiment with different thing and incorporate drum programming and synthesizers and dance influences. That was basically the beginning of a new direction for me stylistically.
JM: What are your plans for the near future? Are you writing new songs, is there a new album in the works?
KB: Yeah, I’ve started writing a new album. I have about five songs that we’ve recorded, so we’re about halfway through the next record.
— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.