Everybody’s kind of roleplaying all day long: Kevin Barnes interview pt. 2

Part 1

Do you think it limited you in any way not trying… have you been courted by major labels even?

Yeah we have, but I would never do that because they just want too much. That’s the great thing about being on Polyvinyl, they are so artist-friendly that they’re willing to lose money to help you realise your vision. The whole Skeletal Lamping collection was so risky. Most independent labels wouldn’t do that either, and no major label would do it. So they’re willing to take chances just to be a part of something cool. Which is really all you can ask of your label. It’s amazing. I feel lucky to have them on my side.

Is there any reason you didn’t release False Priest on t-shirt or whatever? I got a pretty good t-shirt last time.

I think we did that on some level but we didn’t create anything exceptional as far as the lantern or the wall decals. We actually have this really great idea that we’re going to use for the next record, the next EP that’s coming out. It’s gonna be a board game. We’re really excited about that. That was actually the plan for False Priest, that it was gonna be a board game, but we just ran out of time, so we had to do it for the next release which is gonna come out in spring.

So, in older interviews I read, you talked about retreating into fiction after the first few records, criticism got to you almost, and I wanted to talk about your return to fiction again with Skeletal Lamping and to a certain extent this record. Why do you think this is?

What do you mean by fiction? Personal?

Well it seems to me that Hissing Fauna is more…


Autobiographical… maybe not autobiographical but…

Well yeah it is. I would say that Skeletal Lamping and False Priest are just as autobiographical, but maybe it’s a little bit more murky. It’s not just straight up, I had this real experience that other people can see with their own eyes and I’m gonna write about it. It’s like, a combination of real life experiences, fantasy, dreams… so the inspiration lyrically, it’s coming from inside of me obviously, it’s not straight fiction, it’s all based on real feelings, real fantasies, real life experiences or whatever. With Skeletal Lamping I was doing a little bit more roleplaying. Well there’s definitely roleplaying on all my records. I mean, everybody’s kind of roleplaying all day long with different people. You know how you are. If you have a number of different friends, a number of different relationships, you’re going to be a different person with each one of them. Maybe not a completely different person, but there are going to be elements of your personality that are going to be in the foreground or background depending on who you’re hanging around with.

So has the character changed between Skeletal Lamping and False Priest, such that there is one?

I think that really the major difference is, with Skeletal Lamping… you know, the Georgie Fruit character established around Hissing Fauna? On Skeletal Lamping I felt like Georgie Fruit was more of an outside character, and now I feel like in False Priest, it’s been integrated into my psyche in a way that it doesn’t feel like an alien force. It just feels straight from my heart in a way.

Do you do the show as Georgie Fruit then?

No, like now it’s…

You are Georgie Fruit?

There’s no distinction. It’s just right there. Same person, same entity.

The thing that struck me about False Priest being less of a character thing, or the character changing was the verse in Godly Intersex, it seems really confrontationally personal, about the uncle dying and being the golden child. I mean… how did writing like that come about?

Yeah, that’s all personal.

So there’s obviously a lot of personal stuff in this comparable to or even beyond what was on Hissing Fauna.


Sorry, I don’t really know where I was going with that.

It’s okay.

Is there any kind of logic to Janelle Monae’s parts, or what parts you give her. On Our Riotous Defects, you sing the chorus and tell the story, but then her couple of lines are more metaphorical. Is there any logic to why she got that part?

Well, people can be very critical of other people, especially in relationships. So she’s representing the voice that never gets heard. You might just be fighting back and forth and creating a caricature of your lover or whatever you want to call them. So she’s speaking in more abstract terms, like, this is the real reason why we can’t get along, but not saying it in the same style as the verses.

Are you interested in going further down that route with different singers? It almost seems like it could be a…

Yeah, definitely. I was thinking about that, I was thinking about this band called Sa-Ra Creative Partners, I’ve been listening to them a lot. They always have multiple vocalists singing on every song. It’s really interesting in that way because as long as each voice has a really strong identity, a really strong character, it becomes less homogenous. You know, if you listen to a record and it’s the same singer the whole way through, it feels kind of samey. But if there’s all these different elements you can put into it… that’s why I was happy putting Solange and Janelle on the record, because it just shakes it up a bit and adds depth to it so it’s not just the same thing all the way through. I’d definitely like to do that more. And actually on the tour we’re doing with Janelle Monae, one of the guys who’s part of her crew, he’s part of the Wondaland Arts Collective, which is her art collective or the art collective she’s a part of. We’ve been collaborating a lot, and he actually comes on stage and sings one of our songs. That’s the first time we’ve ever had that, like a guest vocalist or whatever singing one of the songs. I definitely want to get into that more.

It’s great to collaborate in that way, to allow other people to come out on stage and do their thing. I’m very influenced by Parliament and what they did. George Clinton wasn’t the front man in a traditional sense where he’s at the front of the stage singing every single song. He’d sing, do his thing, do his raps, whatever, and then he’d go off stage, and someone else would come on and sing. There’s always this incredible thing where all these vocalists come out, like, ‘that guy could be the lead singer, but that guy could too, or so could that guy’. All those guys were so talented, and so were those girls. It should be a celebration, it shouldn’t be an ego-trip, like ‘these are my songs, these are my lyrics, I’m the only person who can do it justice’ or whatever. I like the idea of other people interpreting it.

It’s almost most authorial or something.


Are you going to go down a Mothership Connection route?

Well we sort of are. We sort of have been.

Like a movie extravaganza type thing?

Well our live show over here unfortunately isn’t as elaborate as it is in the States. Everything we do is self-financed, we don’t get tour support, so it’s our own investment. We come over here, the place we’re playing is a nice place, but we would never play a place this small in the US, so we haven’t really established ourselves over here. We’re not making the money that would support a major production. So we’re already losing money just to come over here even on this level, but if we were to come over here the way we really want to, it would totally fuck us.

That’s unfortunate.

Part 3 // Part 4


4 responses to “Everybody’s kind of roleplaying all day long: Kevin Barnes interview pt. 2

  1. this is more epic than LOTR trilogy. Go Karl.

  2. Pingback: Oh man, do I really have to go to that place again?: Kevin Barnes interview pt. 4 | Those Geese Were Stupefied

  3. Pingback: Things that were done in the name of some ancient text: Kevin Barnes interview pt. 3 | Those Geese Were Stupefied

  4. Pingback: Don’t Do Anything That’s Going To Confuse People: Kevin Barnes interview pt. 1 | Those Geese Were Stupefied

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