Photo/ Courtesy Polyvinyl Records
of Montreal will offer a stripped down performance at SouthSounds to allow for more dancers and stage antics.
Band: of Montreal
Date: Friday, April 13, 10:30 p.m.
Venue: Lagunitas Stage at The Merry Widow, 51 S. Conception St., www.themerrywidow.net
The band of Montreal’s regular visits to the Azalea City bring a grand spectacle for the ears and eyes. Kevin Barnes is the avant-garde brain behind this worthy addition to Athens, Georgia’s legacy.
of Montreal’s formula incorporates ‘80s dance pop with intellectual lyrics and a colorful, unforgettable live show. Barnes has been celebrating of Montreal’s latest release, “White Is Relic/Irrealis Mood,” a title describing the album’s concept.
Barnes composed double-titled tracks such as “Paranoiac Intervals/Body Dysmorphia” and “If You Talk to Symbol/Hostility Voyeur” with ‘80s-style “extended dance mixes” in mind. Because of the extended length of these songs, the lyrical content sometimes shifts into new areas.
“The songs are longer than the typical pop song,” Barnes explained. “They sort of venture into different kinds of lyrical territory. The song might start dealing with one subject and then meander into another subject and evolve into something else before it’s finished. I want the titles to reflect the more complex aspect of the subject matter of the songs.”
“White Is Relic/Irrealis Mood” mixes Barnes love affair with early new-wave dance pop together with unconventional lyrics. His muses included Malcolm X, Noam Chomsky and Angela Davis.
Barnes also admits he’s a fan of “catchy melodies” and “vivid and buoyant” arrangements and harmonies and even though he is a Beatles fan with an appreciation for “that ‘60s pop approach,” he also wants to break some of the pop archetypes.
“I want to venture off and become more original,” Barnes says. “So, I tend to blend a bunch of influences that are all over the map. It’s not always something that would make sense together, but I like to think of myself as a collage artist in that sense.”
One example of breaking pop traditions can be found in the song “Plateau Phase/No Careerism No Corruption.” The seed of this track was planted during a collaborative effort between Barnes and Janelle Monae called “F*cked in Your Driveway,” which is the opening line to the song. Eventually, the Barnes/Monae collaboration fizzled, but the song remained embedded in Barnes’ brain. The composer took a song “meant for the dance floor” and transformed it into a minimalist work of art filled with synths and ambient tones.
“It didn’t have that layer of intellectualism to the lyrics,” Barnes says. “It was more visceral. When I realized that it wasn’t going to happen as a collaboration, I decided to take it more in the same direction of the other songs on the record.”
For “White Is Relic/Irrealis Mood,” Barnes spent a significant amount of time alone in the studio, creating a meditative, immersive experience that allowed him to “lose track of space and time.” When working with a full band for the entirety of an album, Barnes admits, he can instinctively worry about involving everyone. His supression of this instinct harbored an optimum creative environment.
“When I’m working by myself, it feels more therapeutic,” he says. “I get into this hibernated state of mind. I go to sleep thinking about the song and wake up thinking about the song. Then, I work all day on the song. It’s a more immersive process.”
Barnes has something new planned for of Montreal’s SouthSounds performance. Instead of a full band, of Montreal will feature only Barnes and longtime band member JoJo Glidewell onstage. In return, Barnes says, there will be double the number of performance artists accenting The Merry Widow’s stage. While he notes this will be challenging, he also admits it will be a fun attempt at a new delivery style and should not prevent him from exploring the far reaches of the group’s extensive catalog or providing the memorable, psychedelic live experience for which the band is known.