WVAQ&A: Of Montreal

Richard Murphy

Indie rock experimenters and Elephant 6 veterans Of Montreal are back again with a new record Paralytic Stalks that is just as funky, self-deprivational, and plain interesting as anything they’ve ever put out. Staff Writer Richard Murphy recently spoke to bassist Davey Pierce about touring, cassettes, and the band’s street-gang stage show.

WVAU: How are you doing? What are you up to at the moment?

Davey Pierce: I’m doing good, I’m driving our sound guy to a hotel. Pretty exciting things happening here in Athens.

WVAU: Your newest record Paralytic Stalks features a lot of different sounds, just like a lot of Of Montreal’s other releases. Did these sounds come from specific influences, and if so, who?

DP: Well, I know he’s [band leader, Kevin Barnes] to a lot of like, Penderecki, a lot of neo-classical kinda noise composers stuff. It’s been kind of a weird journey for him really, I don’t understand a lot of it. I know that he’s been taking a lot from our violinist actually, Kishi Bashi, and they’ve been working a lot together, trying to get these things that he sorta hears in his head out. But then it’s weird, because he’ll have these like, you know, really weird moments, like exorcisic reading nights and all these weird little vignettes in there and then write “Dour Percentage,‰” which is a crazy kinda just roller disco, Steely Dan-sorta jam song. It’s hard to pinpoint where the influences are because I think they’re just all over the board with that.

WVAU: You guys start your tour in March. Do you have your costumes done yet?

DP: You know, we’re actually going a slightly different direction with this tour, we’re not going like, soul crazy, everybody jumping around in spandex and wrestling and pigs and all that. We’re trying a lot…I dunno, it’s going to be a lot darker than normal. We’ve developed a street gang that we are now members of called “Fleck and the Sleep-Rats‰” and it’s basically it’s modeled after like, Warriors. Actually, I like to think of it more along the lines of like Grease, but we’re basically going for an ’80s street gang thing.

WVAU: That’s awesome, I look forward to seeing that. Your albums are very ambitious sonically, do you guys try to recreate that exactly when you play live, or do you end up with something similar , or something just completely different altogether?

DP: Well, obviously we try to recreate it, but a lot of the stuff is just, it’s not really possible to recreate live without, like, a band of 50 musicians, and right now we have eight, which is a good amount of people and everybody is doing everything they possibly can. Everybody is playing multiple instruments, two or three instruments apiece, just to try to be able to fill out all of these pieces that just need to be there for little bits. It always winds up sounding different, it always ends up its own animal because a lot of it it just impossible to recreate live, and we don’t really like using backing tracks and stuff like that. But, on some of these things, we figured out that we kinda have to to get the point across and not have it just be a dude squealing on a violin and a dude squealing on a saxophone with all this noise behind it. We try to find middle ground just to make it, sonically, sound like we think the album should sound like live and still have it be completely live.

WVAU: A re-release of all of your guys’ previous material was recently put out on a cassette box set. In this day and age, can I ask why?

I think it was more of just a novelty than anything else, but at the same time, I, my partner Dobby and I have..we only listen to cassettes in the van, so to me, it’s like ‘This makes perfect sense, why wouldn’t we do that?’. So, I have the box-set in the van, I’m probably not going to listen to it anytime soon, obviously, because I’ve heard it all a billion times. But for me, it sounds awesome, it’s a great format, and I think that it’s kinda sad that everybody is forgetting what they are. There are probably kids that listen to your radio station that have never actually owned a cassette. It really is an amazing format, they don’t last forever, there is a definite time limit on them, but they sound infinitely better than like, and mp3 or a CD. They have a warmth and a personality to them.

WVAU: Going off of that, do you think that cassettes are going to have some kind of resurgence like vinyl has had recently?

Nah, I doubt it. There are people like me that love them for what they are because they were a huge part of my childhood. I remember trading mixtapes, and going out and buying, like Pavement, Slanted and Enchanted, on cassette, and it was like an amazing thing for me. So it’s more nostalgia, I don’t even think they make cassette players anymore, do they?

WVAU: I think it’s mostly specialty stuff at this point, I think.

DP: Yeah, you can probably still find like, an audiophile, Nakamichi set deck thing, but nobody is going to spend $700 on a cassette deck. So, I doubt it. I really don’t see there being a huge resurgence of cassettes, but I’ll probably still buy them if people keep putting them out.

WVAU: When you guys recorded Paralytic Stalks, you used studio musicians for the first time in your history as a band. Did this have a noticeable effect on the record, or was this just another tool that you all used?

DP: I think it’s more just another tool. Matt Chamberlin played drums on False Priest, and Kishi Bashi, our violinist, did all the orchestral stuff. For the most part, if you add in our saxophonist that tours with us now, Zac Colwell, that’s really the only studio musicians he used. There was a bassist that did stand up bass on one song, and that’s pretty much it. For the most part 99% Kevin. It’s just the things that he physically doesn’t know how to play that he gets somebody to do.

WVAU: Again, you guys have a tour coming up and you have one stretch that’s going to have you perform 12 concerts in 12 nights. How do you start prepping for something that’s going to be that arduous?

DP: The funny thing is, it seem like 12 shows in 12 nights is going to be a pretty long stretch and a pretty big deal, but at the same time, that’s what we do. My other band, we were out on the road, we actually did more shows than Of Montreal did this year, almost double them. We would go 35 nights in a row, and it’s fun. It doesn’t feel like a job. It doesn’t feel like something where you have to get up and be like “Oh, I have to go play another show.” You get excited about it because that’s your whole day, that’s what you look forward to in the morning. That’s what you’re working towards all day. So, it’s not really that arduous, and the prepping is really just practicing and just jamming. It’s more just that our band works as a unit, so it’s not just that we have to get in there and simply learn all the songs.

WVAU: Do you have any albums that you’re looking forward to being released anytime soon?

DP: Funny thing is, I have been so out of it lately, I have no idea what’s coming up for release. I’ve just been told that Dr. Dog is apparently putting out more records that I didn’t know about, so that shows you how out I am from the modern release schedule these days. We all have just been so busy getting ready and prepping for this, getting ready and building stuff. I haven’t been able to really pay attention to anything recently.