Eclectic doesn't begin to describe the whirlwind blaze of weeping, foaming, hissing pop that we human beings collectively call of Montreal. Part of the fabled The Elephant 6 Recording Company, which includes, among others, Olivia Tremor Control, Elf Power, and Neutral Milk Hotel, of Montreal found the perfect recipe for dissolving complex literary textures into infectious psychedelic nuggets.
With around 13 full-length albums since 1997, of Montreal boasts a Rolodex worth of previous players, but at the center of this experimental outfit has been founder, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Kevin Barnes. Whether he's being haunted by Sylvia Plath or effected by 20th century classical composer Krzysztof Penderecki, like a spun-out Ouija board, Barnes has channeled everything cool since forever.
"Aureate Gloom," of Montreal's latest batch of erratic fits released in early March by Polyvinyl is wrought with personal confessions and garage rock overtones. "Bassem Sabry," blasts "Low"-era Bowie while "Estocadas" nods to Television with gorgeous string arrangements.
"[Gloom is] basically an open journal from last year in my personal life, my thoughts about it kind of exposed through punk and glam and prog rock," Barnes explains when we call him up. "[But] I don't hit you over the head with, 'this is a very personal song.' I say things and try to obscure things a little bit ... So many artists feel like too afraid to share things about their lives and they feel too guarded so the music doesn't really touch you. I'd rather someone err on the side of exposing too much then not sharing anything."
It's a weird album for a weird band, but perhaps most weird for a band like of Montreal is how often they've lent their music to commercials. It's somewhat out of character. T-Mobile, Comcast, even NASDAQ have all licensed the band's music, but most famously, Outback Steakhouse changed a few lyrics in "Wraith Pinned to the Mist (And Other Games)" to help them sell Bloomin' Onions®. The concept of 'selling out' is silly (how else are bands supposed to get paid, since only a few, proud, brave souls still purchase albums?) and Barnes says he doesn't give it a second thought.
"It was so long ago, I don't know what it feels like. Another lifetime," Barnes says. "At the time, I was, on a certain level, flattered, the mainstream world wanted us to be around. Because the bands are completely obscure and outside of that, we have corporate America, mainstream America. I was flattered to be invited to the party for a second."
of Montreal has attracted a wide and varied fanbase since then, but their biggest fan is and will always be Barnes' brother David, who is also known for illustrating every of Montreal album cover since the band's humble bedroom beginnings.
"I used to pick on him a lot because I'm the older brother. When we were kids, I was kind of a jerk. But in high school, when he started getting into art, we kind of bonded over that," Barnes says. "Pretty much from then on he's done the art for all the records. Then, we started collaborating a lot more live ... with some theatrical performances and creating video stuff."