of montreal


Getting away from home for a while, thanks to a serious case of the funk flu

Of Montreal mastermind Kevin Barnes recorded the group’s previous albums at his home studio in Georgia. But for the act’s new effort, False Priest, he elected to work with producer Jon Brion (Rufus Wainwright, Aimee Mann, Fiona Apple) in a professional studio. “It was really just a desire to do something different, because I’d been doing it this way for so long,” Barnes says. “It seemed like a really good opportunity for me to get an education, to see how people who make radio records—but not in a cheesy way, good radio records—work.”

After recording early versions of the songs at home (with contributions from R&B singers Janelle Monáe and Solange Knowles), Barnes presented the tunes to Brion in Los Angeles. “We experimented with things we could replace, like all the bass guitars, and added all these drums and synthesizers,” Barnes says. “It was kind of cool to hear the difference of the bass sounds in my home studio and what it sounds like in a professional studio.”

When it came time to record his vocals, though, Barnes felt stymied by having other people present in the studio—unexpected from a guy known for outlandish costumes and provocative stage shows. “I was really self-conscious–I couldn’t even find the pitch. It totally destroyed my mojo,” he says. “It’s like writing a diary while it’s getting projected onto a screen that everyone is reading. It’s awkward. That’s what I like about cutting my vocals at home: It’s four in the morning and no one’s around. I’m able to get really free.”

Free, in this case, meant channeling the feel of the music that inspired the sound of False Priest: funk. “I think I caught this strange funk flu, as if it was a virus or something,” Barnes says with a laugh. “I’ve been listening to a lot of Parliament, a lot of soul and funk records from the ’70s.” Barnes, 36, was just a kid when funk and soul reached their heights in the ’70s, and he knows better than to try imitating the singers who made those styles so successful. He regards the songs on False Priest more as a tribute to the spirit of the era.

“There’s something magical about that time period,” he says. “It’s easy to romanticize a time period that doesn’t exist anymore, but that’s the one that’s winning in my head. George Clinton, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Curtis Mayfield were sort of directing this album.”

–Eric R. Danton

comment closed

Copyright © 2011 M Music & Musicians Magazine ·