of Montreal: 20 years of a mad circus

Wednesday 08th, June 2016 / 20:19
By Trent Warner
Founder Kevin Barnes discusses the spirituality of his freak-funk psych-pop show. Photo: Chad Kamenshine

Founder Kevin Barnes discusses the spirituality of his freak-funk psych-pop show.
Photo: Chad Kamenshine

CALGARY — It’s been 20 years since Kevin Barnes founded of Montreal in Athens, Georgia. That the project has endured is no small feat for any band, especially one with a rotating crop of members and surreal theatrical productions that feature dancers, mascots, confetti and even, at one point, Abraham Lincoln dressed up like Spider-Man.

Strangely enough, these are the only things that would make sense at an of Montreal show. Throughout the band’s storied history, Barnes was inspired by psychedelic ‘60s folk and rock, and has adapted to involve elements of funk, soul, electronic and disco. At times, this work can be frenetic and disjointed, equal parts David Bowie glamour and Sly & the Family Stone grandeur.

These influences blend to create dancefloor ready indie pop that hides darker lyrical content and explores heartbreak, death, mental health and even Barnes’ divorce on 2015’s Aureate Gloom. To Barnes, the juxtaposition signals a hopefulness and a yearning for survival. He notes that slaves would do the same thing to uplift their spirits through melody and musical communion. Exploring his dark feelings are what Barnes needs to move on to the next life. He seems to rejoice in the change.

While the Canadian tour will be more stripped down, Barnes hints at a show that’s still strange and visual. It makes sense for a band that’s always changing to pull back at this point, it’s a rare thing to see their emphasis on the musical performance. There are only four shows planned currently, all in Western Canada after a stop at Toronto’s Field Trip Music & Arts Festival. After all, “It’s a pretty long journey to get through Canada,” says Barnes.

Maybe that’s Barnes’ secret to performing and touring for so long. “It creates a more circus-like experience to have a big group of people all travelling together. There’s always someone new to talk to and escape if need be.”

At the end of the summer/early fall, of Montreal plan to release a new album and embark on yet another tour. After 20 years, 13 albums, and a documentary film, the band continues on to its next life.

Of Montreal plays Calgary’s Flames Central on June 18th and Edmonton’s Needle Vinyl Tavern on June 19th.

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Alberta

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