Of Montreal are determined to remain unpredictable.
OF MONTREAL with GANG GANG DANCE at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre (Exhibition Place), Tuesday (October 28), 7 pm. $25. 416-870-8000.
Maybe it's the wonky phone connection between here and the Barcelona hotel room where Kevin Barnes is currently holed up between shows, but our conversation feels awkward.
Barnes is the brains behind the enticingly bizarre Athens, Georgia-based experimental indie pop act Of Montreal. As I toss out the requisite queries, his reserved phone demeanor doesn't match up with his fantastically erratic and evolving music, which often twists and morphs faster than you can keep up.
When I ditch the lame questions about how he (almost) single-handedly wrote, performed and recorded his band's latest, Skeletal Lamping (in a tiny 6-foot-high attic, mind you) and instead ask what this mammoth beast is all about, he finally drops his guard and open up.
"Anxiety, confusion and paranoia; just all those dark words. It's probably the closest thing I've done in terms of capturing my consciousness.
It's sometimes sweet and sometimes gnarly chaos.
"I wanted to make a really fragmented record, basically a bunch of sound segments that were unpredictable, exciting and catchy."
The one element that appears again and again on the record is the theme of sexuality, something Barnes admits he was interested in unpacking at the time, although he's not entirely sure why.
"It's not where I'm at right now. Sexuality isn't confusing, it's just interesting. I got to this state of mind where I didn't want to define myself sexually. There are pitfalls in saying I'm straight, gay or bi. My mind isn't consistent like that.
"It's sad that we put this kind of structure on it, or else you're phony. You should be free and open to [pursue] whatever organic direction."
For now Barnes is done reflecting on what inspired his latest, a patchwork record that bounces from dance-infused pop to angelic choral arrangements to punk-rock noise freak-outs with an almost insatiable volatility.
What he's more concerned about is how his touring band will perform the music live. To put the Of Montreal concert experience into context, MTV recently called the band's show fiercer than Madonna's, which is almost impossible to imagine. But considering Barnes regularly dresses like a minotaur, covers himself in fake blood, theatrically hangs from a gallows and even rode a real white horse - majestically, I'm certain - onstage at a recent gig in NYC, the comparison isn't so far-fetched. For Barnes, it's about cramming in as many ideas as possible.
"We just want to do something unpredictable that defeats the static image you get at a lot of shows. I find that, even if you like a band, by seven or eight songs it gets a bit same-y. We try to have a complex show visually and musically.
"Almost like when you see a really killer movie and you're stunned, remembering different moments and visuals afterwards - that's what we're trying to create with the live show. We're willing to sacrifice financially to do what we're doing.
"Obviously it would be way cheaper to pile into a van and not worry about bringing a gallows."