As seen in issue 55 of Closer Magazine, published on 2009-01-06 in the "NationalMusic" section.
Of Montreal's Kevin Barnes Remembers Where He Came From
By: Alex Rendon
How frustrating is it to bust your butt at work and then, at one fell swoop, the boss’ wet behind the ears nephew is promoted over you? Damn annoying, right? But, if you’re on the other side of that coin, well… you’d be stupid not to use your connections.
So cast no stones at Lake Worth upstarts Fire Zuave, whose leader, Chuck Andrews, is first cousin to Kevin Barnes. The founder and leader of indie luminaries of Montreal, Barnes has had a hand in many facets of Fire Zuave’s development—from bookings to staging to changing the group’s name. (Originally The Guns, the handle was ditched when Barnes wouldn’t tolerate it on of Montreal’s MySpace page.)
Now, a major boost. The family connection— and Fire Zuave’s burgeoning talent—has gained them an opening slot on the Florida leg of of Montreal’s national tour. Andrews, understandably, is psyched.
“My cousin totally has got my back, and it’s sweet!” he told us. “I’m pumped. We got really good momentum going on different levels--from performance, to recording, to incredible musicians.”
Barnes’s success is something to aim for. Part of Athens’ quirky, psychedelic, collective/label Elephant 6, of Montreal has released nine full-length records, traveled the world, and even sold jingles to Fortune 500 companies (for which Barnes was criticized by self-styled purists). The band’s latest effort, Skeletal Lamping, a maniacal synth-pop soul affair, was the most downloaded album on eMusic.com during the week of November 14th.
Fire Zuave hasn’t come that far yet, but they’re approaching lift-off. May saw the release of their well received alt-country debut Sand Fastened, and their recently completed follow up, Oscillate the Isolater, takes the band in adventurous new directions.
The cousins—who shared childhood years in Cleveland—recently let us transcribe one of their regular IM sessions, where we hoped the family atmosphere might catch the sometimes enigmatic Barnes off-guard. As fate would have it, it was a Monday night. Topic A: Football.
Chuck: Are you watching Monday Night Football?
Kevin: No. I don’t care about either team, and Nina is watching Seinfeld.
Chuck: I kinda like Arizona.
Kevin: Yeah, it would be good to see them make the playoffs for once.
Chuck: I’m glad you said yes to this cause these guys were like, how close are you with Kevin, and I was like, well we talk every day, but usually about the [Cleveland] Browns.
Kevin: Ha, I wish we could just talk about that. It’s so boring talking about of Montreal
Chuck: Do you get crazy requests for interviews?
Kevin: Yeah. I do like 2 or 3 almost every day, always the same questions too. I guess it could be worse. I could be in Afghanistan.
Chuck: Or no one asks you for interviews because you aren’t very popular. From the outside looking in, your situation seems fortunate.
Kevin: I guess one always finds a reason to complain. You’re right.
Chuck: How much do you have in common with Georgie Fruit [central character in Skeletal Lamping]?
Kevin: Everything. I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together. Chuck: You write from the third person as a guise?
Kevin: I write from The Third Man, or maybe more like The Magnificent Ambersons. I don’t really make a distinction between myself and Georgie. I consider him just an aspect of my psyche. I feel that Skeletal Lamping is just as confessional and personal as hissing fauna.
Chuck: It seems you’re getting a better grip on exactly what it is you’re trying to say with each album.
Kevin: I try not to let the outside world into my creative process in any way that might be distracting or negative. I just do what I feel most interested in. I don’t worry about whether or not it will be commercially successful. If I did, it would ruin the fulfillment I get out of the creative process.
Chuck: Do you worry about losing fans or wonder what fans of older albums will say about new albums?
Kevin: I don’t really feel any loyalty to people who like one album specifically. I think it’s important for artists to take chances and to allow themselves to defy people’s expectations.
Chuck: What inspires your covers? “Shakedown Street” at Langerado was crazy!
Kevin:We just pick songs that we find fun to perform. We were doing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” for awhile and now we are doing a Franz Ferdinand song.
Chuck: Your current show is bolder and more outrageous than ever.
Kevin: It’s definitely a major endeavor every night. Luckily, we have a huge crew.
Chuck: Do you remember your gigs at The [early ‘90s WPB diy hangout] Wormhole?
Kevin: The peeps at The Wormhole were so great and supportive. They made me feel like I had some value as a song writer. I owe a lot to those peeps.
Chuck: Do you still have disdain for the area as you apparently did in 2001? You told New Times Palm Beach Gardens was only full of surfers and country music fans.
Kevin: I really regret giving that interview. I was way too harsh on the city. I didn’t give props to the people who are trying really hard to make something out of it. I was being really stupid and negative. High school sucked, but I’m sure it would have sucked no matter where I lived.
Chuck: Well, the grassroots approach has paid off for us here.
Kevin: I think the climate has changed a lot. It’s great that you guys are doing so well. You definitely deserve it.
Chuck: You think it’s a good idea for a band to bounce from an area like South Florida at a certain point, or stick around?
Kevin: I don’t think it really matters where you live. It’s not like Athens is a great metropolis. As long as the music is great, you can be successful anywhere. It is more important to find a city that you feel inspired in.