Kevin Barnes: Of Montreal's Front Man Is Depressed
Kevin Barnes, lead singer of Athens-based indie rock group Of Montreal, has managed to channel his depression in to spontaneous whirlwhinds of creativity. Barnes found himself in the midst of depression once again last winter, and responded by returning to the intimately personal songwriting style of previous successes, such as 2007's Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?
On his latest album Paralytic Stalks, he touches on the topic from the evolved perspective of a husband and father. Still, his lyrics often manage to evoke vivid and occasionally painful imagery. I talked with Barnes recently about how depression has affected his career over the years, why he thinks Skrillex is important, and the ambitious new stage setup he'll be bringing to the Wiltern tonight.
Can you tell me about the new members of the band and what they contributed on this latest album?
Yeah, the two guys that worked with me on the record and collaborated with me on some of the songs have joined the group. One guy, the violinist, is named Kishi Bashi and he plays strings and guitar and synthesizer, and he does backing vocals. The other guy is named Zach Caldwell and he's the one that did the brass and woodwind arrangements on the new record, so he's playing those instruments plus guitar. So everyone's basically a multi-instrumentalist and wears a bunch of different hats.
What type of creative influence did they have on the album?
They were definitely very hands on and artistic in their contributions and I basically just gave them free range because I trusted them, and what they came up with totally exceeded my expectations every time, so I was very happy. This record definitely sounds different than the previous record and a lot of that has to do with what Zach and Kishi contributed I think.
Do you think electronic and dance music had a bigger influence on this album?
Yeah, I've always been interested in it and there's definitely some new production that I find really interesting. People like Skrillex and Diplo are doing things that are really cool and interesting and feel very fresh. They aren't trying to be retro and it's not really an homage to something that already exists. It feels really new, which is exciting, so I've definitely had an interest in that area and it's just sort of become a part of everything that I sort of throw together as I'm creating.
See also: Skrillex: L.A. DJ, Producer Is Boy King of Electronic Dance Music
That's interesting you mentioned Skrillex. I think the way you both arrange your music, the quick time changes and nothing ever quite staying the same for too long, is actually quite similar stylistically.
It's kind of interesting to me. You'd think that we'd get to that point naturally. I mean, Skrillex just makes sense to me in that way, just because that's the way the modern mind works. You need constant changes because people get bored so quickly, but it's weird because a lot of music is still very predictable and linear, so it's kind of cool. I guess if everybody was making music like Skrillex things would get kind of intense, so it's good that you have people still writing songs on acoustic guitar.