Of Montreal is back on tour behind its latest album “Lousy with Sylvianbriar,” a project that marked major changes for the Athens, Ga.-based musical force.
Frontman Kevin Barnes parted ways with musicians he’d recorded with for years. “We reached a point where the project was needing new spirit, something new injected into it,” he says. “And (the new lineup) hit it off right away. It could have gone bad, but luckily everyone turned out to be cool. There was no drama — no stress.
“Inevitably, there will be resentment issues and baggage the way it was set up with me being the captain of the ship. I would decide we were going to do this tour for this period, and in that sense it’s tough to be the king. You’re going to have issues over the years. It was wonderful to start fresh again — start from zero.”
Of Montreal’s tour brings it to the Columbia Museum of Art tonight as part of the Indie Grits Film Festival.
Veteran fans of the group will recognize differences deeper than the players themselves. For previous records, Barnes pieced together songs part by part in the studio himself. This time, he went to San Francisco for three weeks for a self-imposed writing retreat.
“I did lots of wandering around, observing, reading and writing,” he says. “When I got back to the band, I gave them the direction I wanted to go and let them go with it and create their own parts. In that sense, it’s more collaborative.”
It was important for Barnes that the new album had more personalities involved.
“We were lucky everyone was on the same page and really excited about the project and committed to it,” Barnes says. “It went really fast. We were able to make a lot of progress in a short period of time. We made creative decisions on the fly without second-guessing anything. We wanted to make something that felt spontaneous and raw, that captured a mood for this period.”
This album was recorded to a 24-track tape machine rather than on a computer.
“There’s a lot of interesting things that happen when you work on tape that don’t happen on computer,” Barnes says. “On the computer, you can polish things up; on tape, you can’t do that.”
He laments that more artists aren’t doing it this way. Technology is empowering, but a level of artistry is lost and music is becoming more vacant, he says.
In the days before music technology was prevalent, Barnes says there was no doubt a Nina Simone or a Sly Stone could sing, and they sounded the same live as they did on record.
“Nowadays, you can create this false world for yourself,” he says. “It allows you to be creative, but it’s very false. Some artists are superfamous and make lots of moments but can’t do it live. The computer does the work for them.”
A track left off of “Lousy with Sylvianbriar,” “Jigsaw Puzzle,” will surface on Record Store Day on April 19 as a single, backed by an alternative version of “Triumph of Disintegration.”
The band also will reissue its early album “Satanic Panic in the Attic” for Record Store Day.
“That album is special to me,” Barnes says. “The band had been together for six years or something and hadn’t had any commercial success. People were leaving the group, and everything was in limbo. That album was the beginning of a new chapter for me.”