Kevin Barnes

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Kevin Barnes
Barnes at Positivus Music Festival (2014)
Barnes at Positivus Music Festival (2014)
Background information
Birth nameKevin Lawrence Barnes
Born (1974-05-30) May 30, 1974 (age 47)
OriginAthens, Georgia, U.S.
GenresIndie pop, psychedelic pop, experimental, electronic, funk, R&B
Occupation(s)Singer-songwriter, musician
InstrumentsVocals, synthesizer, guitar, bass guitar, piano, drums
LabelsPolyvinyl, Kindercore, Bar/None
Associated actsof Montreal, Major Organ and the Adding Machine

Kevin Lawrence 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 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 17 full-length albums, and numerous EPs and 7" singles. Barnes' brother, David, is an artist and has designed most of the band's artwork for albums since the release of The Gay Parade.

of Montreal[edit]

of Montreal consists of various musicians, with Barnes being the only continuous member. The group has recorded 16 studio albums, beginning with Cherry Peel (1997), and, most recently, I Feel Safe With You, Trash, which was released on March 5, 2021 on Sybaritic Peer. While melodic pop has always been Barnes's primary vehicle, the band's style has transformed significantly since its debut. 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's songwriting is upbeat melodies with gloomy, cryptic lyrics and morose subject matter. At different periods in the band's career, Barnes has dealt with subjects both personal and fictional, tending to employ unusual words, phrases, and sophisticated wordplay.

Lyrical style[edit]

Barnes and bandmates on stage in San Francisco, 2007

Barnes's 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". Barnes's style then shifted to storytelling, 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, and even a fictional mythological creature, the Efeblum.[3]

The albums The Gay Parade, The Bedside Drama: A Petite Tragedy, and the aforementioned Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies are constructed as concept albums.

By 2004, Barnes was starting to revert to more personal lyrics, even incorporating the names of familiars and using them as characters, including Barnes's daughter Alabee, in "So Begins Our Alabee" and "Miss Blonde Your Papa Is Failing", and Eva, an acquaintance and resident of Athens, Georgia, in "Bunny Ain't No Kind of Rider".[4]

Barnes has fluctuated between writing personal and fictional lyrics, explaining:

I think if you only write about yourself and your personal life it feels maybe a bit narcissistic, but I think it's inevitable that there will always be some aspect of your personal life or your personal emotions coming through, even if you write about something that would seem like fiction.[5]

Barnes's lyrics, though mostly concerned with dark themes, often portray a certain fondness for:

Despite some lyrical references to drugs, Barnes does not use recreational drugs or psychedelics primarily for the purpose of aiding writing, composing, or recording.[5]

On stage[edit]

Barnes playing a solo set at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery Masonic lodge in 2014

With of Montreal, Barnes has always tried to cross the bridge between a love of theater, comedy, and music, often resulting in interludes between songs—skits, slow-motion sword fights and surreal interaction between band members. Barnes performs as many different alter egos or personas, once including a glam rock alter ego, Georgie Fruit, first mentioned in "The Past Is a Grotesque Animal." In 2007, Barnes described Georgie Fruit as a black man in his forties who has undergone multiple sex changes.[6] In 2019, Barnes announced that the persona had been retired, tweeting that "it was an insensitive portrayal of a marginalized group of people that I had no [business] representing."[7]

Barnes has performed in unusual circumstances, such as while astride a white horse, and while completely nude.[5]

Other projects[edit]

  • A Pollinaire Rave is a comedy tour by Kevin Barnes, David Barnes, and Kevin Barnes's ex-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.
  • Barnes contributed to Bright Eyes' album Letting Off the Happiness, playing keyboard on "The Difference in the Shades" and performing the background vocals on "A Poetic Retelling of an Unfortunate Seduction".

Personal life[edit]

In 2003, Barnes married Nina Aimee Grøttland, a graphic artist and former Ethnobabes member. They separated in December 2013.[8] They have one daughter, Alabee, born in Oslo on December 29, 2004. As of 2020, Barnes's partner is Christina Schneider, the singer, guitarist, and songwriter for the pop group Locate S,1.[9]

In 2020, Barnes came out as bisexual, non-binary, and genderqueer. The of Montreal Twitter account Barnes hosts lists she/her, he/him, and they/them pronouns.[10][11]


  1. ^ "BMI | Repertoire Search".
  2. ^ "Polyvinyl Records".
  3. ^ "Of Montreal". Bar/None Records.
  4. ^ Deusner, Stephen. "No Hisses". Memphis Flyer.
  5. ^ a b c Pagano, Weston (April 29, 2014). "Lousy With Sylvianbriar is Anything But: A Conversation with of Montreal". Transverso. Retrieved November 5, 2015.
  6. ^ Carriere, Mike (November 19, 2007). "Interview with Kevin Barnes". Pitchfork. Retrieved July 12, 2010.
  7. ^ Barnes, Kevin [@xxofMontrealxx] (November 9, 2019). "I regret giving Georgie Fruit a race+gender that I had no perspective on+for using the term She-Male. I now realize it was an insensitive portrayal of a marginalized group of people that I had no biz representing. I apologize 2anyone who has been hurt by that. GF is dead+🖤ing it" (Tweet). Retrieved February 16, 2021 – via Twitter.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  8. ^ "Q&A: Kevin Barnes On Of Montreal's Next Album Aureate Gloom". October 2, 2014.
  9. ^ Barnes, Kevin (April 30, 2020). "Navigating Work and Romance with Of Montreal and Locate S,1". Retrieved February 16, 2021. Christina Schneider is the brain behind the pop project Locate S,1; Kevin Barnes is the frontman of the legendary indie pop band Of Montreal. The two are romantic partners and creative collaborators
  10. ^ Barnes, Kevin [@xxofMontrealxx] (August 8, 2020). "btw I'm bi- always have been💜" (Tweet). Archived from the original on August 8, 2020. Retrieved November 26, 2020 – via Twitter.
  11. ^ Barnes, Kevin [@xxofMontrealxx] (June 26, 2020). "THREAD 9/9 Soooo....I want to officially 'come out' publicly and say with pride that I am a Nonbinary/Genderqueer person!🏳️‍⚧️❤️💙💜🖤💛💚🤎" (Tweet). Retrieved November 26, 2020 – via Twitter.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)