Kevin Barnes

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For the American football player, see Kevin Barnes (American football). For the association football player, see Kevin Barnes (footballer).
Kevin Barnes
Kevin Barnes from of Montreal in Sweden 2005-11-03.jpeg
Kevin Barnes in Gothenburg, Sweden, 2005
Background information
Born (1974-05-30) May 30, 1974 (age 40)
Origin Rocky River, Ohio, U.S.
Genres Indie rock, indie pop, psychedelic pop, experimental, electronic, funk, R&B
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter, Musician
Instruments Vocals, synthesizer, guitar, bass guitar, piano, drums
Labels Polyvinyl, Kindercore, Bar/None
Associated acts of Montreal, Major Organ and the Adding Machine

Kevin L. Barnes[1] (born May 30, 1974) is the singer, multi-instrumentalist, and songwriter for the indie rock group of Montreal, part of the Elephant 6 Collective.[2] Barnes started the band on his own and, although providing several stories as to the origin of the name, is said to have named it after a failed romance with a woman from Montreal. The group has recorded twelve full-length albums, and numerous EPs and 7" singles. His brother, David Barnes, is an artist and has designed most of the band's artwork for albums after the release of The Gay Parade.

In 2003, Barnes married Nina Aimee Grøttland, a graphic artist and former Ethnobabes member. They separated in December 2013.[3] They have one daughter, Alabee, born in Oslo on December 29, 2004.

of Montreal[edit]

Barnes and bandmates on stage in San Francisco, 2007.
Main article: of Montreal

of Montreal consists of musicians Kevin Barnes, Bryan Poole (the Late B.P. Helium), Dottie Alexander, Davey Pierce, Clayton Rychlik, Kaoru Ishibashi, and Nicolas Dobbratz. The group has recorded twelve studio albums, beginning with Cherry Peel, and, most recently, Lousy with Sylvianbriar, which was released on October 8, 2013 on Polyvinyl. While melodic pop has always been Barnes' primary vehicle, his style has managed to transform significantly since the 1997 release of Cherry Peel. The acoustic tendencies of early albums gradually transformed into a more electronic, funk, and overall eclectic sound. One of the features which often appears in Barnes' songwriting is his penchant for composing upbeat melodies to gloomy lyrics and morose subject matter. At different periods in the band's career he has dealt with subjects both personal and fictional. He is a prolific lyricist with a tendency to employ unusual words and phrases and complicated wordplay.


Kevin sings for of Montreal in San Francisco, 2007.

Kevin Barnes' writing has encompassed many styles over the years. Of Montreal's first album Cherry Peel dealt mainly with personal issues of unrequited love, as in the songs "Baby" or "Montreal", or humorous mundane situations, as in "Tim I Wish You Were Born a Girl". His style then shifted to story-telling, often involving dialogues, as in "Good Morning Mr. Edminton" from the album Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse, or fictional characters, such as Rose Robert or Jacques Lamure, or even fictional mythological creature, like the Efeblum.[4]

The albums The Gay Parade, The Bedside Drama: A Petite Tragedy and the referred Coquelicot are constructed as concept albums, reminiscent of the works of some progressive rock icons of the 70's, such as David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust or Genesis' The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.

By 2004, though, Barnes was starting to revert to more personal lyrics, even incorporating the names of the people close to him and using them as characters in his own songs, similar to what John Lennon or Ray Davies used to do:

  • Eva, an acquaintance and resident of Athens, in "Bunny Ain't No Kind of Rider".[5]

Kevin Barnes explained the reasons why he felt compelled to change his writing from personal to fictional and back to personal again in an interview with the music blog You Ain't No Picasso.,[6] claiming the bad reviews his first album got prevented him from writing anything from a personal point of view until he got married and his wife gave him the strength to tackle his own issues again.

His lyrics, though mostly concerned with dark themes, often portray a certain fondness for:

On stage[edit]

With of Montreal, Barnes has always tried to cross the bridge between his love of theater, comedy, and music, often resulting in interludes between songs - skits, slow-motion sword fights and surreal interaction between band members. However, since the release of Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?, Barnes has been performing as his on-stage glam rock alter ego, Georgie Fruit, first mentioned in "Labyrinthian Pomp".[7] The second half of the album comes after the twelve minute dark epic, "The Past Is a Grotesque Animal", a track which stands out in the album and the rest of the of Montreal repertoire because of how it succumbs to dark thoughts of suicide and chemical imbalance, themes hinted at more cheerily elsewhere on the album. Kevin has said that the album shows his transformation to Georgie Fruit, as is evident in the variation in musical style from in album leading up to "The Past Is a Grotesque Animal" and the two songs after. He has described Georgie Fruit as a black man in his forties who has undergone multiple sex changes. Georgie, Kevin told Pitchfork Media, was in a funk-rock band called Arousal back in the seventies.[8]

Other projects[edit]

  • A Pollinaire Rave is a comedy tour by Kevin Barnes, his brother David Barnes and his wife, Nina. A CD with the same name was sold, and five of the seven songs on the EP became songs on the of Montreal album Satanic Panic in the Attic.
  • He also played keyboard on "The Difference in the Shades", and did the background vocals on "A Poetic Retelling of an Unfortunate Seduction" on Bright Eyes' album Letting Off the Happiness.