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Divide and Conquer

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A 2009 Lollapalooza performance.  

And this is where things get interesting. “Having a child made me depressed,” says Barnes. “I felt like I had to become responsible, but I didn’t want to become responsible. When you’re faced with a dilemma that has no resolution, it causes a split in your head, because you can’t do one without abandoning the other and you can’t abandon either.” He and Grøttland separated and he “went crazy for a couple of months,” taking anti-anxiety meds and “getting really really wasted,” to the point where “I would take off my clothes at parties and try to make out with, like, everyone.”

The end of Barnes’s marriage unleashed two things: His now-signature sound, a patchwork quilt of jittery psychedelia, straight-up pop, indie folk, and soul first heard on 2007’s Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?; and Georgie Fruit, an aging black, transsexual, ex-con soul singer who became Barnes’s stage alter-ego. “Georgie is a wizard,” he says. “He helped me cope when I was suffering. I like the idea of a person that goes back and forth between male and female experiences. He offers an escape from any perceived perceptions of self.”

Turns out performing in lamé hot pants was just the thing Barnes needed to be a family guy again. He and Grøttland reconciled. And in 2008, Of Montreal put out Skeletal Lamping, the sexed-up psychedelic funk album that led to Letterman, radio success, and high-profile slots at Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo. “On earlier records I wrote songs that were the opposite of what I was feeling,” says Barnes. “I was rebelling against douche-baggery, so I kept the testosterone out of the music by making something feminine and sexually removed. These songs are easier to sing because they’re in line with where I’m actually at. The music sort of fixed me.”

False Priest
Of Montreal.
Polyvinyl. Sept. 14.


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