Questions With: Of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes on His Love of Clementines and Mickey Mouse

Of Montreal first broke out of the Athens indie pop scene back in 1996, and unlike other bands from the area, they’ve managed to build on the success of their psychedelic and Vaudeville aesthetic to this day. One main reason for the band’s continued achievements is lead singer Kevin Barnes, who is the mastermind behind the costumes, themes, and music that inevitably make Of Montreal one of the most unique and diverse acts out there today.

When I spoke with Barnes on the phone, I asked him about his infamous alter ego, Georgie Fruit, who he describes as “a bit of a narcissistic, energetic, highly sexual person or character or whatever” before adding, “It’s sort of a writing device and also a sort of role playing exercise that I do. Everyone can have a Georgie Fruit.” The persona is just one of the many attractions of their elaborate stage production. Barnes said for their show at The Granada tonight, “We have a very theatrical show with a very strong visual factor, animation, and production. It’s very transportive and hallucinatory and interesting in that way. Musically, it’s a pretty good dynamic – a good combination of upbeat dance songs and more introspective kind of songs and music from the last five or six albums, so a good variety.”

FrontRow: What time do you usually go to sleep?

Kevin Barnes: I usually go to bed around four or five in the morning.

FR: What do you make of the commercialization of youth culture?

KB: Well, it’s always existed ever since people realized they could make money off of it. I guess it’s up to the youth to be savvy enough to know when they’re being exploited.

FR: If you could choose anyone in the world as your partner, who would it be and why?

KB: Um, I don’t know. Mickey Mouse?

FR: What instrument do you wish you played?

KB: I own this instrument, but I can’t play it yet. It’s called a xaphoon.

FR: What do you hate most about performing?

KB: The thing that can be frustrating is I’m a very moody person so I never really know until I’m actually on the stage how I’m going to feel or what kind of show it’s going to be. A lot of times I’ll be in a kind of crappy mood when I take the stage and all of a sudden I’m in a really happy mood or I’ll be in a happy mood before I become depressed. I think it’s just the way it works somehow. I guess that’s the thing, the unpredictability of it.

FR: Who would you want to tour with most, who you’ve never toured with before?

KB: There’s lots of bands. I’d love to go on tour with Dirty Projectors.

FR: If you weren’t playing music and had the talent and circumstances to do anything else, what would it be?

KB: I’m a big sports fan so I think I’d like to somehow work in professional sports. Maybe write about it or something, be a sports journalist. I’m really passionate about football. I’m a huge Cleveland Browns fan – I’m from Cleveland – even though they suck and they always lose. But, for whatever reason I just kind of love them. Every year you’re like “this is going to be our year” and then no, it’s never. Unless you’re like a Yankees fan or something.

FR: How does the theory of evolution and natural selection make you feel?

KB: It’s not something I think that much about. But at the same time, I can see how people could use it in a sort of destructive way of thinking, like, oh if you’re weak enough to be eaten then you deserve to be eaten. But, that’s the thing that separates us as a species is that we should try and protect those whenever we can and try to raise everybody up rather than to demolish the weak.

FR: If global warming melted the ice caps covering 90 percent of the known world with water, what city would you hope was spared so you could live there?

KB: Maybe Rio. I was there for the first time this year and I thought it was one of the most beautiful cities I’d ever seen. If you’re going to save one, it might as well be a beautiful one.

FR: What is the best thing (food/substance/drink/thing) you ever put in your body?

KB: That’s a hard one. I like clementines a lot (laughs).

FR: If immortality was achievable by downloading your consciousness into a database and spending eternity in a virtual reality, would you do it?

KB: Definitely not. I mean, the thing that makes life powerful on some level is that you can leave whenever you want to. Just the thought of your mind forever trapped…I don’t know. That just doesn’t appeal to me at all.