Critics Be Dammed! A Chat With Of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes

Of_Montreal-2016-cred_Ben_Rouse

Text: Isabel Aleman | Photo: Ben Rouse

Of Montreal has been entertaining music lovers with their Avant-garde performances and ever changing music styles since most of you were knee high to a grasshopper, back in 1996. They have released 29 albums in that time, including their latest album Rune Husk released this year. They’ll be setting the Tricky Falls stage on fire with their amazing show Saturday, April 8th. Of Montreal is more than your average show, it’s a interactive art piece!

Pitchfork recently reviewed your latest record Rune Husk, and they were not nice. How do you feel when you get a bad reviews?

Well, those fuckers hate me so I don’t really think about them. They hate everything I do, I could make a ballad record and they would be “it’s not very rock & roll.” I could make a rock record and they would be “it’s not very much like a ballad record”—is it? So, with people like that I feel that they just have a personal mission, for whatever reason, THEY WANT TO DESTROY ME!

Why do you want to be an artist that gives their fans the same thing all the time?

I don’t, I could go off on my really boring tangent about rock critics because every musician may have a really combative relationship with rock critics; at least for me, people are overly critical when it comes to reviews. On my work, they never see whats special about it—they almost always focus on what they don’t like about it. I think that most rock critics focus on the thing that THEY don’t like! When they really couldn’t have any possible knowledge of what the artist tried to do.

Making art is so organic, you’re not really trying to do something, it’s naturally occurring and you are just making it a physical reality. For me when I make music, it just organically happens. It’s not like I’m setting out to make the definitive psych-pop song or anything like that. A song happens to become a psych-pop song, it can become something inspired by Latin music or by prog-rock, or whatever it might be.

Off of the album Innocent Reaches, you have a song on there called “different for girls”—to me it’s a very powerful feminist song, am I right? Were you writing that with the intention of making it a feminist song?

Well, I wouldn’t try to pretend to know how a women feels or what the female experience is, but I did want to shine a light on that reality that the female experience is drastically different from the male one really, all over the world to varying degrees in different societies. Some societies allow women to be engaged in all walks of life, and there in a fair amount of inequality in others. In some societies women are subjugated and kept at a lower level where they are not allowed to really compete, and not given the same opportunities that men have.

I have a 12 year old daughter, I think on some level it makes me a little more sensitive to what her experience is like, and I have a lot of female friends, and just being open to that reality and understanding that things are different.

I think that men often take it for granted that women have to be tough, that they have to be as ruthless as men are to make it, (sarcastically) cause it’s a man’s world. Men shouldn’t force women to bend to the rule of men, men could benefit so much by listening women, and letting women influence society.

You do come up with albums almost every year, how do you balance the creation of art with your everyday life?

The song writing process is very much incorporated into my personal life. If something happens in my life, it usually influences a song. In a way it helps me document my life and it also makes my life more exciting because I’m paying attention to it like I’m watching a movie, or paying attention like I’m reading a book or I want it to read like a book. I want to feel sorta heightened at that level so that things don’t ever become mundane. I’m always trying to see the literary aspect of the human experience, and so that in a way, is why I’m able to keep producing albums and keep creating music is because I’m just very curious about the different possibilities in me artistically and I’m very open to trying new things.  I’m trying to always stay optimistic even in spite of the bad reviews, I feel like there is a reason for me to be doing this. Some people like it and I get so much fulfillment from it.

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