Of Montreal debuts in Lincoln Friday night
Of Montreal plays in Lincoln for the first time Friday night at Knickerbockers. (Courtesy photo)

Get ready for a dance party. That’s what Of Montreal frontman Kevin Barnes said he’s bringing to Lincoln tonight, when his psychedelic, vaudevillian pop group hits Knickerbockers for the band’s first concert here.

Known in the past for injecting a bit of theatrical production into its shows, Of Montreal might not be doing as much of that this time around, Barnes said.

Instead, he’s focusing on the music of his dance-pop, electronic-noise-heavy past two albums, “The Sunlandic Twins” and “Satanic Panic in the Attic.”

Since Barnes prides himself on changing styles between records, it’s safe to say those recent records will be known as his dance phase.

Kind of unexpected from a guy who started out playing lo-fi indie pop.

“It’s pretty strange,” Barnes said in a phone interview from a recent tour stop in Iowa City. “There’s no way I would have been able to predict what the band would have been like all these years later. It’s kind of exciting because (our music) changes every time, and I really hope it keeps evolving like that.”

It’s been a long ride for Of Montreal, one of indie music’s most consistent groups. But it’s hardly been predictable.

The group was born and raised in 1997 in the musical incubator of Athens, Ga.  Yes, Of Montreal comes from Georgia — the name came from a failed relationship Barnes had with a girl who was of Montreal, or so the story goes.

They’re often associated with the area’s Elephant Six Collective, which spawned groups such as Beulah, The Apples in Stereo and Neutral Milk Hotel.

Barnes doesn’t deny the connections, but he’s previously called it overblown, comparing the Collective to Nebraska’s respective music scene — a loose group of musicians in a fertile music environment who become associated by geography.

The band’s early work sounded much like other bands in the Collective — ’60s influenced acid-trip pop songs. But as the band progressed, recordings became more conceptual and theatrical, telling short stories of fictional characters in whimsical situations, in the tradition of Mean Mr. Mustard and Polythene Pam.

Barnes’ music continued in that tradition until 2004’s “Satanic Panic,” when the dance-pop inspiration struck. Suddenly Of Montreal’s indie pop was filled with drum loops and synthesizers.

And that’s where the band will be tonight, but it might be one of the last chances to catch this particular phase.

In July, Barnes and Of Montreal finished recording their next album, “Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?” It’s not due out until January, but Barnes is already switching mindsets.

In other words, a new phase is coming soon.

“This album, it’s kind of emotional and personal and confessional than the last two, because I kind of went through this crazy dark period, like nothing I had ever gone through before,” he said.

The character vignettes were traded for a chronicle of Barnes’ recent life, which included marriage and the birth of his daughter, a period during which he feared his artistic side would disappear, but one he came through with what he called “a big, emotional release.”

“(The record) was just so organic,” he said. “Maybe for the first time it wasn’t really mapped out in any way. It’s just like entries out of my diary.”

The subject matter might be darker, but Barnes promised he’s retained his pop sensibilities.

“Even the songs that are me freaking out and trying to get it together are still dancy and upbeat,” he said. “I never thought it was really helpful to make sad music when I’m like that. I want to make poppier music to break out of it.”

The mood change could affect live shows as well. But instead of getting less theatrical, Barnes said he envisions more production than ever before.

“What I want to do is take it a step further with the theatrical art side and try to be a little more ambitious,” he said.

It sounds a little artsy and pretentious, but at the same time, Barnes believes in the entertainment value.

“I think what I do anyway is pretty poppy, so if it’s theatrical it becomes pretty poppy theater,” he said. “I really want to entertain the people. That’s the whole point.”

Of course, that will all wait until 2007. In the meantime, Barnes is slowly introducing his new songs into the dance party. He’ll play four new tunes tonight, since he’s tired of sitting on brand new material.

And for those who can’t wait for the new material, Of Montreal offers an appetizer later this month — “The Satanic Twins,” an album of songs from the last two albums remixed by a cast of known indie-electronic artists, including Omaha’s Joel Petersen of The Faint and Broken Spindles.

“It was kind of interesting to see what other people do to the songs,” Barnes said. “Most people didn’t do anything that far out, they just kind of rearranged it differently.”

In the meantime, Barnes and Co. will finish this tour and prepare for the release of “Hissing Fauna.” After that, who knows? Maybe the next phase is just around the corner.

“It’s kind of like the unknown,” Barnes said. “I didn’t know I was going to get into dance music, and there’s something else after this to do, I just don’t know what it is.”

If you go

What: Of Montreal with The Minders

Where: Knickerbockers, 901 O St.

When: 9 tonight

Admission: $10, 18 and older

Reach Joel Gehringer at 473-7254 or jgehringer@journalstar.com.

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