Band: Of Montreal, Teen
Date: Sunday, Oct. 30, with doors at 7 p.m.
Venue: Soul Kitchen, 219 Dauphin St., www.soulkitchenmobile.com
Tickets: $15 advance / $18 day of show / $30 for riser seats; available at Soul Kitchen, its website, Mellow Mushroom (both locations) and by calling 866-468-7630
Soul Kitchen is providing an appropriate grand finale to the weekend’s Halloween revelry in LoDa as the beautifully enigmatic Of Montreal returns to the Azalea City for a mind-bending evening of avant-garde music and eye candy. Hailing from Athens, Georgia, Of Montreal has established a cult following, with its aural formula comprising classically influenced prog rock and a complementary stage show that is always full of surprises.
Frontman Kevin Barnes provides Of Montreal’s artistic foundation. While there are many words that could describe Of Montreal’s live show, Barnes prefers to describe it as “theatrical.” He hopes each live show evolves into a communal event with the atmosphere of a holiday celebration filled with music, lights and color, and the current tour features Of Montreal’s most theatrical show to date.
“We always have a theatrical side to what we do,” Barnes said. “This one feels even more extreme on that level. I’m doing multiple costume changes throughout the show. There is so much visual dynamics. There’s never a static moment on stage.”
In addition to the new, elaborate stage show, Of Montreal is also introducing new music from its latest album, “Innocence Reaches,” a stunning musical autobiography that details Barnes exploring the events and emotions associated with life after his divorce. As he penned and recorded the tracks on this album, Barnes experienced a musical therapy that helped him find the emotional release that he required.
“As I got towards the end of it [creating “Innocence Reaches”], I felt like I was reaching this point of catharsis,” Barnes said. “I was able to move on from a lot of things that were going on in my personal life. I was able to transcend through the process of making the record. The title reflects that.”
In the past, Barnes has typically laid down tracks in his home base of Athens, but for “Innocence Reaches” he chose Paris. At the time, he was in Paris at a writer’s retreat. While there, Barnes said a friend who owns a studio gave him “a really good deal” to remain in Paris and record at his studio, with benefits including lodging and total freedom to use the studio whenever he wished. Barnes also noted the studio’s instrumental lineup consisted of drum machines and synthesizers, which he did not have in his own studio.
Barnes noted another benefit of choosing to record in Paris. He admits he can be easily distracted, and maintaining focus in the studio is always an issue. He says he prefers to avoid the world during the recording process, something that’s not an easy task. His time in Paris allowed him to slip on a pair of headphones and lose himself to reality, where nothing exists except his music.
“Ever since I was in high school, when I fell in love with recording music, it was the escapism of it and transporting myself into a new world sonically,” Barnes said. “It’s kind of funny to be in Paris, because when I put the headphones on, I’m somewhere. When I take off the headphones, I’m in Paris again. I love Paris. It’s a great place to wander around and explore.”
In the past, Barnes says, the band’s retro-inspired psychedelic rock was a result of “mining” the sounds of the ‘60s and ‘70s. For “Innocence Reaches,” Barnes decided it was time to add more contemporary influences to Of Montreal’s sound. As he listened to groups like Jack U and Arca, the frontman found himself blending EDM and indie pop into Of Montreal’s psychedelic world.
“It sort of organically happened that way,” Barnes said. “I gravitated more towards things that my contemporaries were doing. I wanted to create something that felt more of this time period rather than something that felt more retro.”
This new facet in Of Montreal’s sound can be heard in the album’s opener, “Let’s Relate,” which just premiered its companion video. Electric beats, heavy synth and effects-laden vocals welcome the group’s fans to a new continent on Of Montreal’s planet. While this track can be noted for being an indie pop masterpiece, Barnes also uses it to deliver a powerful message.
“Let’s Relate” is focused on gender identity and sexuality, and focuses on acceptance. Barnes’ song encourages the masses to stop judging lifestyles and actions they judge to be different. He said he believes everyone in the world should be able to live their life as they see fit without feeling threatened by their lifestyle choices, no matter what they may be.
“It’s basically saying, ‘Hey, take a deep breath and relax,’” Barnes said. “You don’t have to feel like it’s something that you need to fight for or against. You can just let it be and exist.”
Barnes’ autobiographical method of lyrical composition shines brightly on “Innocence Reaches.” These snapshots from his life give Of Montreal’s songs quite a literary vibe. Barnes introduces listeners to individuals such as the motivating Sarah from “Ambassador Bridge” and the “Athenian beachgoth” Gabrielle (“Trashed Exes”). He admits his cult status prevents any positive and/or negative observations of the world and people around him from becoming widespread, but knows revealing his inner thoughts can sometimes “expose” people more than they would wish.
“When I get into the state of mind of working and my personal life is connected to the work, it’s cool with it happening,” Barnes said. “After the fact, you have to deal with the aftermath of exposing your side of the story, which also exposes the other person to public scrutiny.”
While EDM and indie pop dominate the album, Of Montreal still gives seasoned fans a healthy dose of its psychedelic rock. “Gratuitous Abysses” and “Chaos Arpeggiating” are nods to the retro sounds that have gathered Of Montreal’s listening audience. Critics, however, are totally focused on the modern facets of “Innocence Reaches.” Barnes is not moved by the critics, his listeners or anyone else who may have an opinion on his music, past or present. The creation process is purely an artistic movement for the frontman, and outside input “irrelevant.”
“To step back after the fact and wonder about the general consensus on this or how do people feel or how will people react to it, I really don’t care,” Barnes said.