Interview: of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes Talks New Album ‘Girl on the Cusp’ & Embracing Unpredictability


Kevin Barnes honors themes of transformation, innovation, and full absurdity within the latest of Montreal album, ‘Girl on the Cusp.’
Stream: ‘Soporific Cell’ – of Montreal


I actually take pleasure in albums which have quite a lot of unpredictability in them, and it’s not simply the identical tune or the identical colour palette for each single tune.

A staple of the indie pop style for the final three many years, of Montreal’s music takes self-deprecation and turns it into celebration.

Regardless of many years of creating music, Kevin Barnes, the center and soul of the undertaking, brings a brand new twist to each album and every particular person monitor. Their upcoming (nineteenth) studio album, Girl on the Cusp (out Might 17, 2024 by way of Polyvinyl) guarantees to be one other kaleidoscopic take a look at the inside workings of Barnes’ thoughts.

Barnes, who has been closely influenced by over two years of dwelling in Athens, Georgia, has not too long ago pivoted to calling the snowy ridges of Vermont dwelling. It was a tough resolution to depart Athens behind, and Barnes admits “the transfer took up quite a lot of bandwidth in my thoughts,” which in the end influenced the upcoming album. This modification inevitably pushed Barnes in direction of introspection and reflection, emphasizing themes of concurrently returning and leaving dwelling.

Lady on The Cusp - of Montreal
Girl on The Cusp – of Montreal

of Montreal, established in 1996, rapidly rose to prominence inside the indie music scene on account of their eclectic amalgamations of glam rock, psychedelic pop, and electronica inside what’s, at occasions, a tamer style. The band is a member of the Elephant Six Collective, a bunch that positive aspects affect from the musical revolutions of the Nineteen Sixties and have become key gamers within the emergence of other and indie rock. Since their debut album Cherry Peel launched in 1997, of Montreal haven’t slowed down, although their sound has shifted and advanced.

In Girl on the Cusp, Barnes takes this to a brand new degree, telling Atwood Journal, “[I was] utilizing noise in ways in which I haven’t at all times been curious about previously.” Their album course of is tune by tune – every monitor possessing an expansive panorama of music and lyricism that make this work unmistakably Barnes’.

Yung Hearts Bleed Free” is the primary launched single from the album. It begins with disjointed, rigorously crafted chimes of a synth, inviting you into Barnes’ alien soundscape. After the mounting intro, they hiss, “I’m a creature of inconceivable leaps as a result of / Yung hearts bleed totally free.” With the refrain, Barnes’ pitched up voice eerily harmonizes alongside, nearly demanding the listener concur. After paying respects to “intercourse maniacs,” the bridge brings the falsetto to the forefront, stating, “I wanna wrestle, wanna twist you want a pretzel all evening.”


The second single, “Impolite Lady on Rotation,” is extra conventional, with standout moments of the band’s distinctive sound. The refrain is available in rapidly as Barnes croons, “Stepping on scorpions to lose my erection,” illustrating a determined, graphic picture with matter-of-fact vocals and lightweight acoustic backing.

Atwood Journal caught up with Kevin Barnes to debate Girl On the Cusp this previous April, and so they made it clear that the album’s defining trait was cautious craft juxtaposed with absolute absurdity. “I just about performed every part on the document,” Barnes explains, “constructing songs up one instrument at a time.” They have a tendency to work in isolation, which supplies every monitor a one-of-a-kind high quality.

Once I prod them to disclose their main influences for this album, they admit, “I can by no means actually put my finger on what could be the driving inspiration for something.” It’s evident that the widespread denominator of Barnes’ work is “unpredictability […] the place it’s not the identical colour palette for each tune.”

Barnes is significantly influenced by writing, each their very own and others’. “[Writing] is a large a part of what I do,” they inform me, “however I don’t consider [the lyrics] as extra essential than the music.” For Barnes, each side of a monitor has equal worth, from the invigorating refrain to the tiniest trembles of percussion.

of Montreal's Kevin Barnes © Shervin Lainez
of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes © Shervin Lainez

There’s a deliberation in of Montreal’s work that makes every tune really feel like its personal world, which in flip makes their data galactic.

As Barnes places it, “I see myself as a pirate in quite a lot of methods.”

of Montreal’s tour kicks off Might 31 in Athens, Georgia, which Barnes says is “a surreal feeling.”

Although they plan to play each outdated and new music, Barnes admits they like enjoying new tracks because the outdated songs are assured to get a very good response. With new ones, it’s at all times a shock “how [it will] resonate…with individuals,” and Barnes likes to be saved on their toes.

Followers ought to anticipate a rollercoaster of an album and a tour with surprises round each nook.

— —

:: stream/buy Girl on the Cusp right here ::
:: join with of Montreal right here ::
“Impolite Lady on Rotation” – of Montreal

A CONVERSATION WITH OF MONTREAL

Lady on The Cusp - of Montreal

Atwood Journal: How does it really feel to be kicking off your tour in Athens after the transfer?

Kevin Barnes: It’s at all times fascinating to return to a spot the place you as soon as lived, and also you don’t stay there anymore. You don’t have a home there anymore. I’ve truly already skilled that after as a result of we performed in Athens in September. It’s fairly bizarre. Simply because I lived there for like, 25 years or one thing. It’s like a surreal feeling. To be again [with] so many reminiscences of the place and to not belong to the place anymore. It’s cool as a result of my brother nonetheless lives there, I nonetheless have a ton of buddies that stay there, we truly rehearse for the excursions nonetheless in Athens. So we nonetheless have quite a lot of connections there.

Are you able to discuss to us a bit extra about how your transfer to Vermont influenced this album?

Kevin Barnes: My associate, and I, Christina, we began going as much as go to Vermont about two years in the past. I actually tried to wrap my head round the opportunity of shifting up right here, uprooting my life and all that might be required. So we got here up for all of the totally different seasons and form of skilled it that approach. I met a bunch of individuals via her and form of realized, okay, I might do that. I feel that me eager about the transfer in all probability took up quite a lot of bandwidth in my thoughts, and doubtless influenced the document. There’s undoubtedly some references to Vermont on the document. However the document was made in Athens.

of Montreal's Kevin Barnes © Shervin Lainez
of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes © Shervin Lainez

Your final two albums had been written with influences of isolation, each self imposed, after which surprising. Would you characterize Girl On the Cusp to have the same remoted vibe, on account of it being primarily being pioneered by you? Or was it a collaborative effort?

Kevin Barnes: I just about performed every part on the document, apart from “Endure” [which] had Clayton [Rychlik] on drums and JoJo [Glidewell] on piano. There’s one other tune that JoJo performed saxophone on, however for essentially the most half, it was simply me on my own within the studio, working the way in which I’ve many occasions previously, constructing songs up one instrument at a time. I feel there’s an inherent isolation in that course of if you work that approach. Additionally, once I was dwelling in Athens, I wasn’t actually socializing fairly often. I are likely to lean extra in direction of solitary time than social time. So I form of really feel like all of the data have that feeling of isolation, despite the fact that quite a lot of it’s by alternative.

What are your main musical influences for this album? Do you end up leaning into the sound of the previous and the Elephant 6 collective or gravitating in direction of the extra upbeat dance combine vibe of your current albums?

Kevin Barnes: It’s at all times going to be a mixture of all of the various things that I like listening to and really feel impressed by. So a few of that shall be just like the stuff that I listened to twenty years in the past and a few of will probably be extra up to date influences. It’s at all times all over, I can by no means actually put my finger on what could be the driving inspiration for something.

For this document, it’s undoubtedly all over as nicely. I feel I simply actually like selection. I actually take pleasure in albums which have quite a lot of unpredictability in them, and it’s not simply the identical tune or the identical colour palette for each single tune. I like albums which have quite a lot of several types of experimenting with several types of genres and several types of instrumentation. So it’s form of arduous to say there’s only one or two issues that had been inspiring me, however undoubtedly funkier stuff.

I actually take pleasure in albums which have quite a lot of unpredictability in them, and it’s not simply the identical tune or the identical colour palette for each single tune.

So would you classify the album as a deconstruction of earlier works? Or development of a brand new sound?

Kevin Barnes: I don’t know if I’d use both of these two [descriptors]. I wasn’t attempting to reinvent the wheel or no matter, I used to be simply form of making issues which are organically taking place in a approach. I suppose there have been some songs, like “2 Depressed 2 F*,” for instance, the place I used to be experimenting with extra summary sounds that aren’t actually utilized in pop music fairly often. Making an attempt to work these sounds right into a pop kind of tune was a enjoyable problem for me, and [I was] utilizing noise in ways in which I haven’t at all times been curious about previously.

If I had been to go tune by tune, and even tune part by tune part, I’d have the ability to say, “That was impressed by this.” However I don’t know if there’s an overreaching or common high quality to the entire document that might [lead me to] say it’s a deconstruction or development.

General, how have releases modified over time for you with the prevalence of streaming companies and mp3?

Kevin Barnes: We nonetheless manufacture data and CDs and cassettes for all of the albums so we haven’t gone totally digital. However I’m positive that the overwhelming majority of people that hearken to [the records] hearken to it on their telephones or computer systems. It’s form of cool within the sense that there’s an immediacy to that and there’s apps that you could get to trace what number of occasions individuals have listened to a tune. I don’t actually spend that a lot time eager about that or researching that or worrying about it, however I do assume it’s cool that you could simply add a tune and be like, “Hey, everyone, I simply uploaded a tune.” You don’t must manufacture a bodily model of the factor after which discover distribution for it and hope that someone has 10 further {dollars} that they wish to spend on you.

I feel in that sense, issues have modified lots, however then I additionally marvel if [physical records] had a extra mystical and magical high quality to [them]. And now I really feel like music has change into a bit devalued due to that truth. Clearly, listening to one thing over your iPhone speaker or your laptop computer audio system is absolutely not one of the simplest ways to listen to it. However you can do this and lots of people do this. It’s fascinating, realizing that there’s good and dangerous to the present state of affairs.

of Montreal's Kevin Barnes © Shervin Lainez
of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes © Shervin Lainez

How does being a author affect your music and your course of?

Kevin Barnes: I worth the written phrase. I learn lots and assume usually about what individuals had been in a position to accomplish with out music simply via writing. I would like there to be that ingredient in what I do, and it’s an enormous a part of what I do. However I don’t consider [the lyrics] as extra essential than the music as a result of [of] the way in which I hearken to music. I usually will zone out on the lyrics if I feel the music is absolutely boring. Music must be fascinating to me for me to actually take into consideration what they’re saying, however I’m attempting to get higher about that. I do know that lots of people [aren’t] actually essentially obsessive about music in the way in which that I’m. [For them,] the lyrics are an important factor and they also don’t spend as a lot time with [the music], or they’re not able to making extra fascinating music, or they’re happy with generic chord progressions, as a result of that’s not the main focus of what they wish to do. I’m attempting to get higher at ignoring basically, I’m attempting to get higher about zooming in on the issues which are cool, [the things] that curiosity me, and zooming out from the issues that bore me. My entire life, I really feel like I zoom in on the issues that I feel suck, after which it makes me not respect the rest about it.

How do the music video’s visuals align with the supposed picture of this album?

Kevin Barnes: That’s very a lot the director’s imaginative and prescient. She’s actually a cool artist that we began working with on the final document, and I believed it could be cool to proceed that collaboration. So far as visuals go, I have a tendency to depart that as much as different individuals. Typically my brother does quite a lot of the visible stuff, particularly throughout excursions with what sort of issues we undertaking and what costuming now we have. The efficiency aspect of issues usually will go away as much as David [Barnes] to deal with, and sometimes with movies, I’ve tried to search out somebody that I like and ask them to do it as a result of it’s probably not the factor that I’m drawn to.

I worth the written phrase. I learn lots and assume usually about what individuals had been in a position to accomplish with out music simply via writing.

What are you most trying ahead to with this tour?

Kevin Barnes: The factor I’m most trying ahead to is hanging out with everyone within the touring group, as a result of I haven’t seen quite a lot of them shortly. It’s such a enjoyable cling to have on daily basis, as a result of we journey on the tour bus. All of us climb in there. It’s form of like summer time camp in a approach, all of us have our bunks and now we have a communal space that everybody hangs out in. It’s a really totally different type of dwelling, and it’s enjoyable to do this for a few months out of the 12 months.

So far as the efficiency goes, a pair excursions in the past [we] began incorporating some extra older materials, like actually early stuff into the set, and that’s been enjoyable. I would like there to be a component of spontaneity and improvisation to this tour. So in all probability going to be doing that, attempt to do some various things each evening. After which additionally nonetheless have quite a lot of stuff that now we have [already] completed so far as having a efficiency artist on stage and having projections and placing quite a lot of time into the pre-production of the excursions, simply to place collectively a extremely enjoyable, outrageous occasion for everyone.

of Montreal's Kevin Barnes © Shervin Lainez
of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes © Shervin Lainez

I would like there to be a component of spontaneity and improvisation to this tour.

How does touring a brand new album change your relationship with the album?

Kevin Barnes: If you put out a brand new album, it’s apparent that [new] materials is essentially the most thrilling, or for me personally. However I perceive that we’ve been round for a very long time, and we hold placing out albums [so] it’s arduous to maintain up. We don’t wish to simply play new materials, however normally we get a good response from the brand new materials. It’s cool to see what individuals appear to be vibing with and what they aren’t. You simply form of take a leap of religion that folks have checked out the brand new album, so that you’re probably not boring individuals. It offers you form of a way of, not essentially the high quality of the work, however at the very least the way it’s resonating with individuals.

It’s undoubtedly an excellent feeling to look out within the viewers and see somebody singing alongside to one of many new songs. That feels higher simply because [of] the way in which I’m, I’m a freak about new issues and searching for out and valuing new issues over issues that I’ve already skilled. That’s not freaky; that’s in all probability what everyone’s like. If we play one thing like from “Hissing Fauna,” for instance, we all know [that] we [have] performed the songs like a zillion occasions and so they at all times get a very good response. I suppose for me, it’s extra thrilling to tackle one thing that we haven’t completed earlier than. So enjoying the brand new materials undoubtedly satisfies that want.

— —

:: stream/buy Girl on the Cusp right here ::
:: join with of Montreal right here ::

— — — —

Lady on The Cusp - of Montreal

Hook up with of Montreal on
Fb, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram
Uncover new music on Atwood Journal
? © Shervin Lainez

:: Stream of Montreal ::




Recent Articles

Related Stories

Leave A Reply

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here