Of Montreal (styled as of Montreal) is an American indie rock band formed in Athens, Georgia. Fronted by Kevin Barnes, it was among the second wave of groups to emerge from The Elephant 6 Recording Company.
The band was created by Kevin Barnes and named after a failed romance with a woman from Montreal, though the story changes in various interviews. Barnes was the only member of the “group” prior to his relocation to Athens, Georgia. There, he met Derek Almstead, later of the Circulatory System, M Coast, Elf Power etc., and Bryan Poole, who also performs as The Late B.P. Helium. Together, they recorded their first album, Cherry Peel, as well as The Bird Who Ate the Rabbit’s Flower and The Bedside Drama: A Petite Tragedy.
After production on The Gay Parade began in 1998, Poole left the band to focus on his duties with Elf Power, another Elephant Six band from Athens. Barnes then recruited Jamey Huggins and Dottie Alexander, who had been performing together as Lightning Bug vs. Firefly, to play various instruments. Derek moved from drums to bass. The band was joined soon after by Marshmallow Coast‘s Andy Gonzales.
A number of singles and a re-release of The Bird Who Continues to Eat the Rabbit’s Flower occurred before the advent of the band’s third album, The Gay Parade in 1999. With contributions from several members of the Elephant Six collective at the time, it also featured artwork from Kevin’s brother David Barnes, who would continue to do artwork for future albums.
Following the release of The Gay Parade, the band signed with Kindercore Records, who would release a number of singles and compilations. It wasn’t until 2001 that Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse would be released as a new album with original material. The album again featured contributions from across the Elephant Six spectrum.
Of Montreal front figure Kevin Barnes playing in Gothenburg, Sweden in 2005
In 2002, Aldhils Arboretum was released, with a slightly different sound than its predecessors, as the songs were more directly structured. This album marks the beginning of the change in Of Montreal’s sound, with more danceable rhythms than before, particularly on the album’s closer, “Death Dance Of The Omipapas and Sons For You”. A successful tour ensued, including the band’s first trip to the UK, along with a tour-only EP.
Kindercore Records would fold shortly after the release of Arboretum, and Of Montreal’s status was also threatened. Kevin got married, and Andy and Derek left the band. Barnes, uncomfortable with the unrest, as well as some divisions within the band, took to writing and performing their 2004 album Satanic Panic in the Attic mostly by himself. Released by Polyvinyl Records, it became one of their more successful efforts to that point. The album marked a shift to an electronic bass, with drum machines and synthesizers featured in singles such as “Disconnect the Dots”. The tour for that album also saw The Late B.P. Helium (Bryan Poole) rejoin the band, with some bass played by Kevin’s partner Nina.
This style would continue to evolve into 2005’s The Sunlandic Twins, which was even more of a solo effort by Barnes. Recorded in Athens, with the exception of one track recorded in Norway, it was a much more pronounced electronic album. The album became a success, mostly due to the singles “So Begins Our Alabee” and the MTV clip for “Wraith Pinned to the Mist (and Other Games)”.
The band released several collections of singles in early 2006. Barnes recorded most of the band’s 2007 release, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?, by himself while living in Norway and Athens, Georgia. The switch to autobiographical themes of suicide, depression and isolation of the album was a direct product of his troubled personal life during that period. Barnes also released a companion CD to Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? called Icons, Abstract Thee. In 2007, Kevin Barnes performed five songs nude during a performance in Las Vegas. In Paris, they did a Take-Away Show acoustic video session shot by Vincent Moon.
Of Montreal’s next album, Skeletal Lamping, was released on October 21, 2008. It was released in ten different formats, including conventional CD and vinyl, as well as t-shirts, button sets, wall decals, tote bags, and a paper lantern, the latter formats replete with a digital download code for the album. All items for the collection were designed by The Bee With Wheels (David Barnes) and Gemini Tactics (Nina Barnes). In an essay addressing the concept behind the album’s release, Kevin Barnes stated, “We feel that there’s no reason to produce another object that just sits on a shelf. We only want to produce objects that have a function and that can be treasured for their singularness.” In an interview with NPR, Kevin Barnes revealed that the concept of the CD may be going the way of the 8-track in favor of MP3 downloads. David Barnes joked that fans would buy the album via MP3 download and the version that comes with an amazing sandwich. The album reached number one on emusic‘s Most Downloaded Albums Chart. The video for the album’s second single, “An Eluardian Instance”, was directed by Jesse Ewles.