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OF MONTREAL with ROMAN GIANARTHUR and KISHI BASHI

Wednesday, March 7 at 8 p.m.

Freebird Live, 200 N. First St., Jax Beach

Tickets are $15

246-2473

Over the past 15 years, no band has channeled glam rock, twee pop, dance funk and electro psych as successfully as Athens, Georgia’s of Montreal. Add in the group’s hyper-literate lyricism, fantastical artwork and notoriously flamboyant stage productions, and you’ve got a singular modern group with no antecedent and very few contemporaries. Primarily the songwriting, recording and performing vehicle of Kevin Barnes, the distinctive moniker was inspired by a failed relationship that the frontman had with a woman “of Montreal.” The band’s 11th studio album, “Paralytic Stalks,” does represent a surprising departure, however, by placing experimental dissonance alongside their trademark sound of danceable Bowie-esque pop. Folio Weekly chatted with Barnes about overcoming personal madness through art, Dadaist board games and the band’s ambitious upcoming tour.

Folio Weekly: Where did the motivation for this challenging new album come from, Kevin?

Kevin Barnes: I started listening to more avant-garde classical music in the last year, getting interested in things like micro-tonality and composition-style arrangements that aren’t really typical in pop music. “Exorcismic Breeding Knife” is a good example of that, where I was trying to create something that’sde. nitely in no way conventional pop.

F.W.: You worked with session musicians for the first time in a decade. Did that add to the heady, experimental brew?

K.B.: Kishi Bashi added a lot. He has more of a classical, musical-education background, so it was cool to explain to him what I wanted to hear. He’s such a talented violinist and arranger that he was able to create a lot of things that I couldn’t on my own.

F.W.: Yet for all that dense instrumentation, the album’s songwriting seems more personal and self-reflective. Did you have things you needed to get off your chest?

K.B.: Definitely. I went through a really dark period of self-doubt, depression and psychosis in my life, and I was just trying to redirect that negative energy into something more positive through my art. Trying to navigate through that madness and not be destroyed by it.

F.W.: In past interviews, you’ve emphasized your distaste for playing older material.

K.B.: It’s just a bit awkward, because I get so deeply immersed in the new project; when I do a song off of an earlier record, it’s almost like I’m covering it. I still feel there’s a thread that connects all the records together, but I’m not there anymore. I’m in some other place.

F.W.: So should we expect all new material on of Montreal’s upcoming tour?

K.B.: No, we’re going to mix it up. Going to concerts myself, I know the audience doesn’t want to hear just the new record. Audience members who’ve only seen us a few times before aren’t going to get sick of hearing us play a song that they love. But it’s tricky, because I can personally get sick of my own songs.

F.W.: You’ve released some fairly innovative ephemera with past albums, but the offerings with “Paralytic Stalks” were the standard CD, cassette, LP and T-shirt. What gives?

K.B.: Well, the CD is still a really popular format — the sound quality is still far better than mp3s. But I imagined that by now, CDs would be completely irrelevant, and everybody would be releasing art objects as album packaging, like we did with “Skeletal Lamping.” Maybe it’s too cost-prohibitive, or we haven’t figured out a marketplace for it yet. We are working on a Dadaist comedy board game, though, that should be ready by the time we go on tour.

F.W.: The tour actually starts in Jacksonville on March 7. Is it just because we’re geographically convenient to your Georgia home?

K.B.: I went to high school in South Florida, and I remember feeling isolated because there weren’t a lot of indie bands coming through. So I’ve always made a point of playing in Florida as much as possible.

F.W.: As a writer, I really appreciate of Montreal’s song and album titles, which could easily be collected into a poetry book of their own.

K.B.: I’m definitely a fan of the written word, and I’ve always had a thing for titles. It’s just another chance to do something creative; obviously, it’s not commercially palatable to name a song “Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse,” but it’s more fun. ­ There’s a lot of laziness in music, and we don’t even question it. So I won’t give a song a really obvious title, because I want to think of something more creative. Just for the hell of it, and just because I should.

Nick McG

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